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Jong-il's eldest son disapproves of younger brother's power

The eldest of Kim Jong-il’s three sons scorns the inevitable rise to power of the youngest son, Jong-un.

Kim Jong-nam pictured in 2001, when he was arrested for trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in order to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
Kim Jong-nam pictured in 2001, when he was arrested for trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in order to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

THE RENEGADE eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has publicly criticised the system of succession that is likely to see his younger half-brother ascend to power in the secretive state.

Kim Jong-nam (39), once considered a frontrunner to succeed his father as general secretary of the Workers Party of Korea and thus as the country’s de facto leader, told a Japanese TV station he was “personally against third-generation succession” – referring to the fact that his own father inherited power from his grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

Referring to the possibility that other senior figures in the party could be better suited to taking the reins of the country, he said: “If there were internal factors, [we] should abide by them.”

Jong-nam – seen as something of a wild boy in his home country where he rarely stays, instead choosing to spend most of his time in luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants elsewhere in Asia – fell out of favour with his father after being caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001. He had been trying to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Jong-un, the youngest of Jong-il’s three sons, was last month appointed to a senior role in the army – and appeared alongside his father at a Sunday celebration of the Workers Party’s 65 years in power – indicating that he is being groomed to take control of the state when the ailing Jong-il (69) eventually opts to step down.

Jong-nam’s comments were made before his brother’s appearance.

An expert in North Korean affairs at a university in Seoul told AP the remarks were “almost a challenge” but said there was little chance that the remarks would even gain coverage in North Korea, let alone be responded to.

“I don’t see [senior military figures] rallying to Kim Jong-nam,” said Andrei Lankov. Jong-nam had spent so long outside of the country that his influence was minimal at best, while new army general Jong-un (26) was seen as inexperienced and malleable by other leaders.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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