Slow, green and armored: how is the train in which the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, made his historic visit to China

Slow, green and armored: how is the train in which the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, made his historic visit to China


A mysterious green train arrived Monday night at the central station in Beijing, China.

Only days later, when the formation returned to his hometown, Pyongyang, it was confirmed that inside had traveled the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. It was his first trip abroad.

Kim’s meeting with the Chinese authorities is little known, but we can provide more information about the characteristics of the train that took him to Beijing.

Several reports of South Korean intelligence talk about him, there are testimonies of diplomats who have traveled there and some images that have been broadcasted by the state communications agency of North Korea.

Kim Jon-un and his wife in Beijing.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption According to images released by the North Korean KCNA agency, Kim Jong-un traveled to Beijing with his wife Ri Sol-ju.

Slow and heavy

The train that traveled to China this week had 21 wagons with tinted windows and the characteristic seal used by the armored vehicles of the regime to certify that they are made of bulletproof .

According to the same reports, the Pyongyang government has up to 90 armored cars available to its leader. This makes them much heavier than a normal carriage and, therefore, the rail is considerably slower.

It is estimated that the maximum speed reached is 60 kilometers per hour .

Kim Jon-un in a picture with the president of China Xi Jinping.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES Image caption The visit, described as “unofficial”, served for Kim Jong-un to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the eve of the meetings that are expected in Seoul and Washington.


Classified information revealed by the South Korean press speaks of three trains traveling at the same time on any of the trips made by the South Korean leader.

One is a security convoy that goes in front of the principal, in which the leader goes, and a third in which the bodyguards and some supplies move.

The security train carries up to a hundred agents on board who are in charge of inspecting the tracks and stations through which the railway passes. This way they can detect bombs and prevent explosions and other types of threats.


On the inside it is more difficult to have reliable information, but the few images broadcast by North Korean television, which show meeting rooms , flat screen televisions and laptops, can be described .

There are also testimonies from people who have been inside.

The Russian officer Konstantin Pulikovsky, who made a trip through Russia with Kim Jong-il in 2011 aboard the train, said that the options for eating were endless.

Image of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il boarding the train on a trip he made for Russia in 2011.
Copyright of the AFP imageImage caption Image of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il boarding the train on a trip he made for Russia in 2011.

Remember that he could take any dish from Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or French cuisine and that there was a great variety of wines brought directly from Paris.

Kim Jong-il, father of the current leader, went on to say that inside you could taste from a fresh lobster and even the most varied delicacies anywhere in the world.

But … why travel by train?

While most of the world leaders make their official visits in private planes, as for example with the US President on board the Air Force One , Kim Jon-il used a much less conventional means for such purposes.

Kim Jon-un and his wife on arrival at Beijing Central Station.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption The arrival of the North Korean leader came before strong security measures.

The exact reasons are unknown, but North Korean leaders have used the railway for their journeys in the traditional way.

According to the American newspaper The New York Times , Kim Jong-il was afraid of flying and therefore made his few official visits in a train very similar to the one recently used by his son.

Also the grandfather of Kim Jong-un and founder of the country, Kim Il-sung , used the railroad to travel outside and inside the country.

According to The New York Times , the central car in which the meetings were held is in the mausoleum where the remains of Kim Jon-il rest in the Sun Palace in Kumsusan, Pyongyang.

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