In January 2003, the world focused its attention on Korea, again, after it took the resolute step of withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in order to cope with the grave situation created by the US attempts to isolate and suffocate it.
Around this time, Russian President Putin sent Kim Jong Il a congratulatory message and horses as presents in congratulation of his birth anniversary. For the Russian leader to send horses to the Korean leader was the first time such a thing had happened in the history of relations between the two countries spanning several decades.
On February 12, 2003, a ceremony to hand the congratulatory message and horses over to the Korean side was held at the Russian embassy in Korea, attended by Kim Jong Il in person.
After reading the message from his president, the Russian ambassador said to Kim Jong Il that the pair of white Orlov trotters bore Putin’s wish for Kim Jong Il’s victory and success in his work, adding that it is customary in Russia for a triumphant general to ride a white horse.
The Russians who had escorted the horses said that on their president’s order, they had tried very hard to select the finest pure Orlov trotters, which is a breed unique to Russia, and those of an age most suitable for acclimatizing to a new environment and that, after selecting them, they had tended them as best they could. They continued that they had long been engaged in tending horses, but it was the first time they had carried out such an order.