Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un appeared in a luxury crossover SUV in images aired Friday, when state media reported the North Korean leader visited a village damaged by widespread flooding.
Kim, who has mostly stayed out of the public eye since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, was seen in state-sanctioned photographs in the driver's seat of the vehicle believed to be a Lexus LX 570, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
The export of luxury items to North Korea is banned under United Nations Security Council sanctions, but Kim has appeared in luxury vehicles, including Mercedes-Benzes and a Rolls Royce. The Lexus SUV was previously spotted during the September 2018 inter-Korea summit in Pyongyang, according to Yonhap.
The images also show for the first time Kim in the driver's seat of a passenger vehicle. In 2015, a North Korean textbook obtained by a South Korean television network claimed the North Korean leader learned to drive when he was 3, but Kim has appeared at summits in chauffeured vehicles since that time.
On Friday, North Korean state media said Kim visited North Hwanghae Province and ordered the delivery of essential supplies and food.
According to KCTV, the village Kim visited is in Taechongri, Unpa County, not far from the Hwanggang Dam that was opened without prior notice, affecting areas downstream in the South.
KCTV said 740 North Korean single-story homes were flooded and miles of farmland have been submerged following weeks of torrential rain. Footage from North Korea television showed collapsed row houses buried in mud.
Kim has rarely appeared at disaster sites despite increasingly frequent floods in North Korea. In 2015, Kim provided field guidance at a disaster site in North Hamgyong Province.