In North Korea, it is strictly forbidden to criticize the Supreme Leader. It's essentially akin to blasphemy, which could lead to life in prison.
That's exactly why when one South Korean envoy advised Kim Jong Un to quit smoking, one North Korean official reportedly "froze in terror."
The notorious North Korean leader has been photographed on multiple occasions while smoking. In fact, in June 2016, one photograph emerged amid a national anti-smoking campaign. Some unverified accounts even suggest he is a heavy smoker.
That explains why Chung Eui-yong, the director of the South Korean National Security Council, told Kim to kick the habit during a dinner, which was part of the landmark talks in Pyongyang last month, according to Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun.
Citing North and South Korean officials who attended the event, the newspaper stated Chung asked Kim: "How about stopping smoking? It's bad for your health."
The advice reportedly left Kim Yong-chol, the former North Korean intelligence chief, shocked since Kim is not exactly known for tolerating criticism. In fact, the reclusive state is notorious for its attacks on free speech, including any kind of speech critical of the leadership.
“Criticism of the regime or the leadership in North Korea, if reported, is enough to make you and your family ‘disappear’ from society and end up in a political prison camp,” states Liberty in North Korea, a nonprofit organization based both in the United States and South Korea, on its website.
Ri Sol Ju, Kim's wife, however, was reportedly amused by Chung's comment.
"I always ask him to quit smoking, but he won't listen to me," she responded, according to Asahi Shimbun.