The lavish spending of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, is even putting the excesses of his late father in the shade, according to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into Pyongyang's human rights record.
Spending on luxury goods by the North Korean regime climbed to $645.8 million in 2012, the year after Mr Kim assumed control after the death of Kim Jong-il, the commission's report stated. Records show that Kim Jong-il had treated himself to luxuries adding up to an average of $300 million a year.
The imports included dozens of high-end Mercedes-Benz vehicles and musical instruments, including dozens of top-quality pianos. The report did not examine how the items were imported into North Korea, which is ostensibly under strict UN sanctions designed to halt the transfer of "luxury goods" to the regime.
Mr Kim also reportedly spent a sizeable sum on a private theatre for 1,000 of his closest allies. Analysts say the dictator is attempting to buy the loyalty of key members of the regime in an effort to secure his power base.
In testimony before the UN commission, a former official of the regime who managed to escape said Mr Kim was acquiring the hard currency required for his spending spree through the underground sale of alcohol in Islamic nations and through trafficking in ivory from Africa to China.
The claims of the commission are backed up by comments by Dennis Rodman, the former US basketball player, who visited Pyongyang in October described the lifestyle of Mr Kim as a "seven-star" party with free-flowing cocktails, jet-skis at his private island and luxury yachts.
In its most recent report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said in November that North Korea remains one of the 34 nations in the world that require external aid to feed its people. The agency estimates that around 2.8 million "vulnerable" people in the North face an "ongoing struggle with undernutrition and a lack of vital protein and fat in the diet."
The UN commission released its 374-page report in Geneva on Monday, detailing the systematic abuses of the North Korean people by the government, including allegations of murder, rape used as an instrument of torture, abductions, enslavement and starvation.
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