A Japanese sushi chef who served the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and his family for 13 years, writing books about their secretive lives, was seen on his way to revisit the country on Friday.
The author, who goes by the pseudonym of Kenji Fujimoto, told Japanese media at Tokyo's Narita airport that he had been invited to visit North Korea by its new leader Kim Jong-Un, whom he had served when the Korean leader was a boy.
"I was invited by Marshal Kim Jong-Un himself, and there is no reason to say no," he was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying as he headed to Pyongyang via Beijing.
"I have never bad-mouthed (North Korea), and I don't think it will work against me," Fujimoto said when asked about comments he had made on North Korea.
Fujimoto, who has often talked about risks to his personal safety because of his knowledge of the Kim family, did not elaborate on the purpose of his first trip to the communist nation since his escape back to Japan in 2001.
Fujimoto, believed to be 65 years old, became a special chef for the late Kim in 1989 after serving him sushi on an earlier trip to Pyongyang, according to his books.
He settled back in Japan in 2001 after leaving Pyongyang on a mission to buy sushi materials for the late Kim.
He has become an inside source on North Korean affairs, correctly predicting Jong-Un, the youngest of Kim's three sons, would take power following his father's death last December.
Fujimoto has written four books on the Kim family and appeared on Japanese television, disguising himself with a thick beard, a pair of dark glasses and a bandana, to comment on North Korean affairs.
He said he had personally served Kim Jong-Il's second and third sons, Jong-Chul and Jong-Un. But Fujimoto has not met the eldest son, Jong-Nam, from the senior Kim's earlier marriage, he said.
In his first book, "Kim Jong-Il's Chef" (2003), Fujimoto said the late leader favoured Jong-Un because he was dynamic and not shy.
Jong-Un "resembled his father in every way, including his physical frame", the author wrote, adding Jong-Chul was labelled by the late leader as effeminate.
Jong-Un, believed to be in his late 20s, was made "marshal" and reshuffled North Korea's military leadership this week, in what was seen by analysts as an attempt to curb the military's power and potentially open the way for economic reforms.
Fujimoto, who was married to a North Korean folk singer while in North Korea, said he will visit his family in North Korea before returning to Japan in early August.