What we know about Kim Jong Un's train — a slow-moving bulletproof fortress

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Kim Jong Un gets off his train ahead of the U.S. North Korea Summit in 2019.

Nhac Nguyen/AFP/Getty Images


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Nhac Nguyen/AFP/Getty Images


Kim Jung Un steps out of his train ahead of the U.S. – North Korea Summit in 2019.

Nhac Nguyen/AFP/Getty Images

It was identified by its distinctive coloring as a one-of-a kind vehicle that runs with only one passenger in mind: the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. The distinctive color of the train made it easy to identify as a unique vehicle, which was designed for one passenger: Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea. When he does leave North Korea, Kim rarely flies. He prefers to take an armored rail, like his father and grand-father did before him. Kim is reportedly on his way to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will be his first trip outside of North Korea for more than four year.

A bulletproof fortress that moves slowly

What do we know about Kim’s locomotive fortresses? It’s huge. In 2009, Chosun, a South Korean media outlet, published information about the train that Kim Jong Il used. It estimated the engine to have pulled 90 cars. Recent estimates suggest that the number of cars behind Kim Jong Un’s train may have decreased to 21. Some reports suggest that Kim’s train is accompanied by two other trains: one for checking the tracks in front, and the second to transport his security entourage.
A green train with yellow trim, similar to the one Kim Jong Un used on his previous trips, was seen on Monday steaming along with a slogan that read “towards new victory” at the North Korean border with Russia.

Ng Han Guan/AP

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Ng Han Guan/AP

The train has bedrooms and conference areas for state business. There are few images of the interior, but a video from 2018 shows Kim meeting with Chinese officials in an expansive train car with pink couches. The bulletproof siding slows the train down compared to modern trains. The train is estimated to move at only 28 miles per hours on North Korean tracks, but can reach higher speeds when operating on China’s railway network. Kim Jong Il was a famously fearful of flying and preferred to travel via train. His former bodyguard said to South Korean media in 2010 that Kim Jong Il was afraid of his enemies shooting him down if he flew. Kim died from heart failure in the following year. North Korean state media reported that he had been on a train at the time of his death.
This photo, released by the press office of the Administration of Primorsky Krei Region, shows North Korea’s Security Officers waiting for North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un as he departs Russia, at the main railway station in Vladivostok on April 26, 2019.

Alexander Safronov/AP

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Alexander Safronov/AP

Kim Jong Un has carried on the family tradition. The journey took two-and-a-half days. A repeat summit

This coming week, Kim is expected to arrive in a similar manner at his summit with Putin. South Korean media reported that Kim had left Pyongyang late Sunday night by train. A large security presence was present at the Vladivostok train station, anticipating Kim’s arrival.

This 2019 photo shows a train with Kim Jong Un arriving in Vladivostok for a meeting planned with President Vladimir Putin.

Alexander Khitrov/AP

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Alexander Khitrov/AP

The Kremlin confirmed that Kim would be visiting for an official visit. Jon Finer, chief deputy national-security advisor to President Joe Biden over the weekend, suggested that North Korea might be in a position to sell weapons and technology to Russia in order for them use it in their war in Ukraine. Kim could be seeking food aid or advanced military technology. Kim and Putin only met once before, in Vladivostok, Russia, four years earlier. Then, too, Kim arrived in his bulletproof trains.