News / Asia

New Book Sheds Light on North Korea Dynasty

Kim Jong Nam, eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, shown on cover of a Japanese book by journalist Yoji Gomi to be published Jan. 20 by Bungei Shunju.
Kim Jong Nam, eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, shown on cover of a Japanese book by journalist Yoji Gomi to be published Jan. 20 by Bungei Shunju.

Analysts who follow North Korea are awaiting publication of a Japanese book promising to give a rare glimpse into thoughts of the hereditary dynasty ruling the reclusive country.

In a book to be published next week Kim Jong Il's eldest son is quoted as saying he has little confidence in his younger half-brother, Kim Jong Un, to turn around impoverished and isolated North Korea.

That is according to the author, Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi.

"I feel that he has some jealousy about Kim Jong Un because his father, Kim Jong Il, selected him as the next leader," noted Gomi. "Sometimes he said to me that Kim Jong Un has no vision to rule North Korea, how to enrich North Korean people."

Gomi says he interviewed Kim Jong Nam for a total of seven hours last year in Beijing and Macao and has also corresponded with him several times since Kim Jong Il's death last month.

"He said to me many times he has no intention to go back to North Korea. But many people, including North Korean people and Chinese people, expect him to go back to North Korea as a kind of leader," Gomi said.

The author describes the 40-year old Kim Jong Nam as a true socialist despite his opulent lifestyle in exile, mainly in Macau.  He desires the transformation of North Korea and wants it to emulate China's state-managed economic reforms.  But Gomi says the eldest son is still contemplating just how much of a role he wants to take to bring about change in his homeland.

"I've encouraged to him to be more talkative about North Korea and sometimes criticize North Korean policy, but he has not decided," Gomi stated.

Gomi also quotes Kim Jong Nam saying his late father was reluctant to have any of his sons assume power. The North Korean also commented that the new leader, Kim Jong Il's third son, will be used as a symbol, ensuring continuing of the military-first system and the closed economy.

The author, a writer for the daily Tokyo Shimbun, says Kim did not want the book released at this sensitive time, so soon after the death of his father. But the publishing company (Bungei Shunju) plans to distribute the book on January 20.

Gomi says Kim expressed concern authorities in Pyongyang will do "something dangerous" if the Japanese book is issued. However, the author says Beijing will ensure Kim is not harmed because he has been living under its protection for years and strongly supports the Chinese system.

In the late 1990s, Kim Jong Nam  was apparently being groomed to succeed his father, but fell out of favor. Reports say that happened after his arrest in 2001 at Narita International Airport when he tried to enter Japan on a forged Dominican Republic passport, accompanied by a woman and a small boy.  Kim is reported to have told Japanese investigators the trio planned to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Since the death of their father, Kim's half brother has been touted as North Korea's new "supreme commander" and "great successor."

Another book, published in 2003 by a Japanese man claiming to have been the family's chef characterized Kim Jong Un as his father's favorite child and described the middle son (Kim Jong Chol) as "unmanly" and dismissed as a potential successor.

Some analysts say, despite the North Korean media's increasing descriptions of Kim Jong Un as an experienced leader, the real control of the country is in the hands of one or more senior figures, including a vice chairman of the national defense commission, Jang Song Thaek, the husband of Kim Jong Il's sister.

A South Korean institute, affiliated with the country's foreign ministry has released a report predicting it is likely this year North Korea will launch a long-range missile and detonate a third nuclear test, to consolidate Kim Jong Un's military credentials.

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