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January 17, 2012

Kim Jong Il's Eldest Son Paints Grim Outlook for North Korea in New Book

A new book published in Japan says the eldest son of late North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il paints a grim outlook for North Korea under the leadership of his half-brother, Kim Jong Un.

Remarks attributed to Kim Jong Nam appear in a new book by Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi, titled My Father Kim Jong Il and I: Kim Jong Nam's Exclusive Confession. The late leader's first son is said to criticize the hereditary transition of power in the communist country, describing Kim Jong Un as a symbolic figurehead. As he put it, "the power elite that have ruled the country will continue to be in control."

It is believed that Kim Jong Num was groomed to succeed his father until he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001. Since then he has lived mostly in China.

Gomi, a journalist with the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, says he met the elder son by chance at the airport in Beijing and has remained in contact with him.  He says the book is based on several interviews in person and about 150 pieces of email.

Gomi also quotes Kim Jong Il's first son as saying North Korea's economy will collapse without reforms and liberalization, but that reforms and opening up are dangerous to the regime.  He also expressed a desire to return to North Korea.

The Associated Press quotes analysts as saying that Kim Jong Nam spends so much time outside his native land that his opinion carries little weight.

After the death of Kim Jong Il in December, North Korea's powerful military and its political leaders hastened to proclaim his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his successor.  The new leader is about 28-years-old and observers say he has not had enough time to prepare for a leadership role.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.