“Kim Jung-un prefers playing 15-ball pool over basketball”, said an anonymous high-ranking source from North Korea on December 27, 2010. According to Fujimoto Genji, basketball was once Kim’s favorite sports activity, but as Kim got older and gained weight he has been spending more time playing pool than basketball.
“The game of pool has become increasingly popular among N. Koreans in past five years, in large part thanks to Kim Jung-un being an avid player. He even installed four Chinese brand-name pool tables in his grand mansion which is still under construction,” said the source.
This same source said that in N. Korea the game of pool has become the equivalent of a game of golf in South Korea; you are “required” to play pool to have a word with member of upper class or government officials. Agents of the National Security Agency have been known to openly advise one another “to learn to play pool” to be promoted. As a result, pool halls and businesses related to the game of pool have sprung up all over North Korea.
The source continued, "About the time of currency reform at the end of November 2009, gambling, use of methamphetamine (meth), and use of young women in their 20’s for sexual services have become rampant in pool halls, and the state suspended all businesses related to the game of pool. The exception was one hotel in Pyongyang, which was exclusively for foreigners. The ban lasted less than a year. At the end of December 2010, pool halls were permitted to reopen, though it was limited to hotels in designated cities. Since then, more have opened and now there are more pool halls than were in 2009 when the ban took effect."
In North Korea shooting a game of pool is limited to the upper class as it costs about $3 per game. Usually there are three players playing five games at a time. The source said, "They play five or six hours a day and each person spends about $300."
The source jokingly added, "When Kim Jung-Il emerged as Kim Il-Sung's successor, girls had to be beautiful, because he was into art. It's a good thing that now, they just need to be good at shooting pool."
Translation by Hoyeon Choi Supervised by Stella Cho
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