SEOUL (Reuters) - A train packed with birthday gifts for North Korea’s leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-un derailed this month in a possible act of sabotage, a Seoul-based radio station which broadcasts across the border reported on Monday.
Open Radio for North Korea, a non-profit station which often cites sources in the reclusive, impoverished North, said the train laden with gifts including televisions and watches came off the rails on December 11 near North Korea’s border with China.
“The security service has been in an emergency situation because a train departing Sinuiju and headed for Pyongyang derailed on December 11,” the radio station quoted a source in the security service in North Phyongan province as saying.
The city of Sinuiju is a North Korean trading gateway.
“The tracks and rail beds are so old it is possible there was decay in the wood or nails that secured the tracks could have been dislodged but the extent of damage to the tracks and the timing of the incident points to a chance that someone intentionally damaged the tracks,” the source said.
“It’s highly likely that it was someone who is opposed to succession to Kim Jong-un,” the source said, according to the radio station.
Very little is known about Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of ailing leader Kim Jong-il. In his mid-20s, he was appointed to key military and government positions this year, suggesting that he is the chosen successor. His birthday is believed to be January 8.
His father appears to have lavish tastes. This month a Viennese court found an Austrian man guilty of selling luxury goods believed to be destined for Kim Jong-il in a yacht deal worth 3.3 million euros ($4.3 million).
The deal included several top-end Mercedes-Benz S-Class cars and musical instruments such as a Steinway grand piano, the court heard.
The sale of luxury goods to North Korea is banned under a U.N. resolution in response to the country’s nuclear testing programme but Kim is said to hold opulent receptions where he displays yachts and other expensive items procured abroad.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel