- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
South Korea’s KBS television is reporting, via Chosun Ilbo, that the Kim Jong Il’s oldest son Kim Jong Nam may be speaking out against his increasingly belligerent little brother. (The running caveat emptor warning for unsubstantiated Kim family news in the South Korean media applies here.)
The broadcaster cited a close associate of Kim Jong-nam’s in China as saying when Kim Jong-il visited China, Kim Jong-nam went to his hotel room and told him Jong-un was behind the Cheonan incident to make up for a botched currency reform late last year he had also pushed. "Why are you condoning this when nobody even knows who Jong-un is?" the associate quoted Kim Jong-nam as saying.
He said Kim Jong-nam told his father to stop condoning Jong-un’s behavior and warned if the 27-year-old heir apparent keeps misbehaving, then Jong-nam would go his own way too. He added the mysterious delay of an extraordinary Workers Party congress in September was due to Kim Jong-nam’s protest. "There are many supporters of Kim Jong-nam in China and North Korea," the associate said.
The associate also claimed that Kim Jong-il worries about a brewing feud between the two sons. Kim Jong-un tried to assassinate Kim Jong-nam in Macau but failed when Chinese authorities found out. "Later, Kim Jong-il personally asked Chinese President Hu Jintao to ensure Jong-nam’s safety and got the promise," he said.
Kim Jong Nam, who was North Korea’s heir apparent until an ill-fated trip to Disneyland in 2001, certainly has reason to resent his little brother. But all indications so far have been that the first son prefers gambling and partying in Macau to Pyongyang power politics.
But who knows? Maybe "Fat Bear" has more bite than we thought.