MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.
Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.
State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.
North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a horse during snowfall in Mount Paektu in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 16, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS
According to customs data reviewed by Reuters, Russia exported 12 horses worth a total of $75,509 to North Korea last year.
It was the biggest buy since 2015, when North Korea spent $192,204 on 61 horses from Russia. Altogether, North Korea has imported at least 138 horses between 2010 and 2019, at a cost of $584,302, according to the Russian data.
The imagery of Kim astride a white stallion was designed to instill confidence in North Koreans that they have a man of strength and destiny holding the reins of power, analysts said.
The horse purchases also came as North Korea is under strict international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programers.