Kim Jong Un Gifted Russian-Made Luxury Car From Pal Putin

Gifting car nut Kim an Aurus is clearly in thanks for providing scores of weapons to Russia for its fight in Ukraine.

byOliver Parken|
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured emerging from Russian President Putin's armored limo
North Korean state media


Kim Jong Un's luxury car collection has a new vehicle in its ranks, thanks to the transfer of a Russian-made Aurus as a gift from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The offering, which is widely considered a violation of United Nations (U.N.) sanctions against North Korea, comes as the two countries have moved closer together — spurred by Russia’s urgent need for weaponry and North Korea’s demand for, well, nearly everything.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) was the first to highlight the news that Kim was "presented with a car made in Russia for his personal use" by Russian representatives in Pyongyang on February 18, but did not identify the make or model of said vehicle. It was later reported by the Russian state media outlet TASS that this was a "Russian Aurus executive car." While the exact sort remains unclear, this could be a reference to the Aurus Senat Limousine model.

Aurus, which is headquartered in Moscow, has supplied Putin with armored limousines since 2018. Like Kim, before then, Putin used armored Mercedes S-class Pullman Guard limousines to get around, although Kim is also now using Maybach and Mercedes Maybach limos. When initial production of the entry-level, civilian version of the Aurus Senat began in 2021, the estimated cost of it new was $245,000, However, the armored limousine versions are reserved for Russian state officials and possibly other Russian VVIPs with very deep pockets.

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According to KCNA's statements, the vehicle was received by Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), and Kim Yo Jong, vice department director of the WPK Central Committee and sister of the North Korean premier, on Kim Jong Un’s behalf. Kim Yo Jong, it should be noted, is a very close confidant of Kim Jong Un, and has been described as North Korea's de facto second in command in the past.

"Kim Yo Jong courteously conveyed Kim Jong Un's thanks to Putin to the Russian side, saying that the gift serves as a clear demonstration of the special personal relations between the top leaders of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] and Russia and as the best one," KCNA says.

Side-profile of Aurus' Senat Limousine model. Aurus

Kim's affinity for luxury vehicles — and luxury travel in general, for that matter — goes way back. High-end armored cars and limos have been a staple of his collection, as they were for his father, Kim Jong Il, and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. The North Korean premier has been drawn to European luxury cars and limos made by Rolls Royce and Mercedes.

Kim's interest in all types of vehicles is well documented. This has led to something of a custom with world leaders as of late where he checks out their executive limos. In 2018, Trump famously provided Kim a tour of "the Beast" — the Presidential Limousines operated by the Secret Service — when the two leaders met in Singapore. 

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The same thing happened with Putin when the leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East last September. During his week-long visit to Russia at that time, the North Korean leader endorsed Russia's war against Ukraine, and key arms deals were discussed between Kim and Putin. The fact that the two met face-to-face underscored just how important the North Korean-Russian relationship is now to both countries.

Following a tour of the space launch facilities at Vostochny, Putin offered Kim the experience of viewing his custom-made, armored Aurus Senat limousine, footage of which can be seen below.

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Kim was clearly quite taken with the vehicle — so much so that it was decided to gift him one. As Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently confirmed to reporters:

"When the head of the DPRK was at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, he looked at this car, Putin showed it to him personally, and like many people, Kim liked this car," he said. "So this decision [of gifting a vehicle] was made… North Korea is our neighbor, our close neighbor, and we intend, and will continue, to develop our relations with all neighbors, including North Korea."

Blurred KCTV imagery of Kim and Putin inside the Aurus Senat limousine. KCTV

Providing North Korea with luxury vehicles — which violates U.N. and European Union sanctions in place banning their export to the country in light of its nuclear weapons program, ballistic missile developments, and human rights record, among other things — is something Russia is known for. Russia has also helped North Korea with the import of other sanctioned products in the recent past, too. Getting around these sanctions is critical to Pyongyang's survival, and the regime has developed extensive and complex sanctions-busting pipelines of its own to acquire all sorts of items, including, but also beyond, luxury cars.

Russia's desperate need for weaponry, especially artillery shells and missiles, to sustain its war against Ukraine has provided North Korea with a major opportunity to get around sanctions of many types. Gifting an Aurus to Kim as a thank you for the stream of arms is obviously in Russia's interests.

In November last year, South Korea’s intelligence agency disclosed that North Korea has so far sent more than 10 shipments of munitions to Russia for use in the war against Ukraine, including more than one million artillery rounds. Then, in January this year, the U.S. government confirmed that Russia had begun firing North Korean ballistic missiles at targets in Ukraine.

The North Korean KN-23 short-range ballistic missile seen here may be among the types that Russia has received. North Korean State Media

In return, John Kirby, the top spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council (NSC), indicated earlier this year that North Korea will receive fighters, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, and other materiel and technology transfers from Russia, circumnavigating existing U.N. sanctions. There have also been reports that Russia has provided North Korea with satellite launch technology in order to help it pursue its space and missile ambitions in exchange for arms. Even assistance to North Korea in creating its own airborne warning and control aircraft is an ongoing possibility.

But the relationship between the two countries goes deeper than just the exchange of material assets. A strategic partnership could see the two powers in a unique position to better antagonize the U.S. and its regional allies.

In the meantime, we will have to wait to see Kim's new ride, including exactly what model the Russian president bestowed upon him.

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