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A leading North Korea researcher and adviser to South Korea's president says the North is experiencing some friction at the very top of the ruling Kim family. The North's leader may have temporarily halted a succession process to calm his son's ambitions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il appears to have been having disagreements with the son he hand picked to replace him one day, according to one of South Korea's most respected analysts of intelligence about the North.
Nam Sung-wook heads the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul. He is a key adviser to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and is widely seen as one of the South's best informed individuals about developments inside North Korea.
Nam told a forum this week, Kim Jong Il has not been pleased with his son, Kim Jong Eun.
During June and July, says Nam, Kim Jong Il has been arguing with his son about issues related to managing the country's military. He says the elder Kim has been exerting pressure on his son as well as senior North Korean official Jang Son-taek, a relative believed to be grooming him. That is why, says Nam, internal North Korean talk about the succession issue has been quiet since August.
Kim Jong Il is believed to have designated Kim Jong Eun, his youngest son, as an eventual successor earlier this year. Mr. Kim suffered an apparent stroke last summer, which may have fueled the urgency of establishing a succession process.
Nam's lecture this week offered a rare glimpse into North Korean behavior, as well as its interaction with the South. He says in August, when senior North Korean officials visited the South to pay respects to deceased President Kim Dae-jung, President Lee spoke to them in stern tones.
"We are living in the 21st century", Nam says Mr. Lee told the North Korean visitors, adding, this is not the old days, do not try to solve everything with military provocations. The South Korean president also apparently warned the envoys that it would be the North's "attitude" that determines the future of economic cooperation projects like a tourism resort at the North's Mount Kumgang. Nam says at that point, one of the North Korean visitors vowed to "do his best," and bowed to the South's president.
Nam says President Lee went on to tell the North Korean visitors Pyongyang should not think it can misbehave and then expect rewards for correcting its behavior. Mr. Lee told the visitors, according to Nam, those kind of tactics will not be tolerated by his administration.
President Lee ended 10 years of relatively uncritical South Korean handouts of publicly funded aid and investment in the North when he took office early last year. The North initially responded by cutting off dialogue and referring to Mr. Lee repeatedly as a "traitor."
In recent months, the North has made several concessions to the South, including permitting a reunion of families separated by the 1950s Korean War.