8:11 pm - 01/07/2013

Who are Kim Jong Il's six other children?

The Washington Post published the article Brothers of North Korea’s Kim Jong Eun notably absent on the North Korean leader's siblings. The full article is also at the source. I broke up the article according to the author's sections.

SEOUL — Kim Jong Eun is portrayed in North Korea’s official state media as a leader without comparison, blessed with a supreme bloodline, flanked by a supportive wife and endowed with the “brilliant” ability to revamp the economy, command an army and guide the space program.

But one thing is notably absent from these descriptions: any mention of his two brothers, both of whom were once rumored to be heirs to the family-run empire.

As Kim prepares for his nationally celebrated birthday on Tuesday, thought to be his 30th, his brothers are far away from the state-sanctioned spotlight, one living in secrecy in North Korea, the other apparently moving between China and Singapore.

Their absence, North Korea watchers say, is integral to the personality cult that emphasizes Kim Jong Eun’s unique suitability to run the nuclear-armed nation. In state propaganda, Kim Jong Eun is depicted as an only son, his inheritance predetermined and uncontested.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, front left, poses with his first-born son Kim Jong Nam, front right, and his relatives in Pyongyang in this Aug. 19, 1981 photo.
Others are Sung Hye Ryang, back left, elder sister of Kim's former wife Sung Hye Rim and Sung's two children Lee Nam Ok, center back, and Lee Il Nam, right back.

In this photo taken June 4, 2010, Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, waves after his first-ever interview with South Korean media in Macau.

North Korea has had just three leaders in six decades — Kim Jong Eun, his father and his grandfather — but the hereditary handoffs, in reality, have always caused bitter behind-the-scenes competition.

Kim Jong Eun was chosen by his father, Kim Jong Il, over his older male siblings, Kim Jong Nam, now 41, and Kim Jong Chul, 31. Kim Jong Il also had four daughters.

As the young leader now tries to consolidate power, he has no apparent plans for his brothers, who represent potential rivals whom “other elites could coalesce around,” said Ken Gause, an expert on North Korean leadership at CNA, an Alexandria-based analysis organization.

But Kim is believed to be grooming his youngest sister as an aide. That mirrors the strategy once used by his father, who gave his own younger sister considerable power but banished his half-brother into diplomatic exile. These days, Kim Jong Il’s younger sister — Kim Kyong Hui — remains a major figure in North Korea, part of an inner leadership circle that also includes her husband.</i>

Secretive lives

Even before Kim Jong Il died 13 months ago, Kim Jong Eun’s brothers led secretive lives — particularly Jong Chul, who has been photographed only a few times and has never spoken publicly. But after Kim Jong Eun ascended to power, both brothers withdrew almost entirely from public view, though experts emphasize that it’s unclear whether they are acting under orders.

Jong Chul, who is thought to live in North Korea, was last seen in public at a 2011 Eric Clapton concert in Singapore.

As for Jong Nam, he once led a lavish but secluded lifestyle in Macau, Asia’s gambling capital, where he wore European designer brands and gave occasional doorstep interviews to Japanese and South Korean media. But he hasn’t spoken to the press since January 2012, when he criticized North Korea’s hereditary power transfer and predicted trouble ahead for his half-brother. Yoji Gomi, a Japanese journalist, said Jong Nam also cut off contact with him after exchanging e-mails for several years.

In October, a man claiming to be a North Korean agent said he had been ordered to kill or injure Kim Jong Nam by staging a car accident in China. The allegation came after the man was arrested in South Korea for unrelated activities — he said he had been sent there to monitor defector groups. The man, whose name was not given in court documents, said his orders to harm Kim Jong Nam came from North Korea’s state security agency in 2010, the year Kim Jong Eun was officially anointed as successor.

The plan unraveled, court documents said, because the agent said he couldn’t track down Jong Nam in China.

‘Zero power, zero influence’

Little is known about the true relationships between Kim Jong Eun and his brothers. Kim Jong Il’s seven children — born to one official wife and a series of mistresses — were raised in separate households across the country. A former Kim family sushi chef, Kenji Fujimoto, said last month in Tokyo that Jong Nam and Jong Eun have never even met.

Jong Nam — Kim Jong Il’s child from an illicit relationship with an actress — was raised in near-isolation, according to the memoir of an aunt who helped raise the boy and later defected. Jong Nam had a massive playroom of toys, re-stocked annually by a team of globe-trotting purchasers. But Jong Nam felt he was living in a “luxury prison,” according to the memoir. When, as a teenager, he had an unsanctioned relationship of his own, his father threatened to send him to the coal mines.

Still, analysts presumed that Jong Nam, as the oldest son, was the heir apparent. But his chances probably evaporated in 2001, when he tried to enter Japan — with the hopes of visiting Disneyland — with a fake Dominican Republic passport. Jong Nam has since lived overseas.

Kenji Fujimoto, the former Kim family chef who briefly returned to Pyongyang last summer, meeting with Kim Jong Eun, said that “at present, in North Korea, Mr. Kim Jong Nam possesses zero power, zero influence.”

Experts say Jong Chul and Jong Eun, born to the same mother, might be closer. They attended the same international school in Bern, Switzerland, with several years of overlap, and later the same military university in Pyongyang.

Their mother, Ko Young Hui, was neither Kim Jong Il’s first love nor his official wife — he met her when she was performing in a state dance troupe — but many researchers say she was his favorite. Almost 10 years ago, state media began referring to her as the nation’s “respected mother.” North Korea watchers say the designation was significant: They thought her oldest boy, Jong Chul, was being groomed as successor.

Experts think that Kim Jong Il remained married to his official wife — Kim Young Sook — throughout his relationship with Ko Young Hui. Young Sook had only one child, a daughter.

How Kim Jong Eun outmaneuvered his brother to gain control of the country is unclear, with speculation based on the frailest of character sketches because North Korea has managed to keep a near-perfect seal on biographical information about Jong Chul.

Fujimoto, in a 2003 tell-all book about life with the Kims, described the young Jong Chul as effeminate and uninterested in politics. Chinese experts and visitors to North Korea have also been quoted — in State Department cables released by WikiLeaks and in the Japanese press — as describing Jong Chul as a video game devotee who was often sick.

Beginning around 2005, experts began to say that Jong Eun was favored by his father.

Some experts say that Jong Chul could have an unlisted position in the Workers’ Party, based on rumors from high-level defectors, and that he could one day emerge publicly.

“But right now,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an expert on North Korean leadership at the Seoul-based Sejong Institute, on the outskirts of Seoul, “he is supporting his brother by staying silent and keeping out of the public eye.”

Source: Washington Post
shanny_w 8th-Jan-2013 05:28 am (UTC)
lol Who just recognizes Jong Chul at an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore? Or were they North Korean spies?

Jong Nam had a massive playroom of toys, re-stocked annually by a team of globe-trotting purchasers.

How much does that job pay? Maybe that's just what they told him but really they were using the sears christmas wish book.
markthatcoin 8th-Jan-2013 05:47 am (UTC)
Maybe that's just what they told him but really they were using the sears christmas wish book

(no subject) - Anonymous
pamuya 8th-Jan-2013 07:50 am (UTC)
i know in the 90s when i used to get toys for xmas, they had a whole section for them. i got my snes from there LOL.
falling_empress 8th-Jan-2013 11:04 am (UTC)
that's so gross >....>
markthatcoin 8th-Jan-2013 11:22 am (UTC)
jw which part you find gross?
falling_empress 8th-Jan-2013 10:49 pm (UTC)
the fact that he fathered so many children with different women and stayed with the original wife...idk it's something about korean culture that pisses me off a lot--that society encourages women to stay with men who don't give a shit about them etc.
markthatcoin 9th-Jan-2013 12:32 am (UTC)
i agree, i can't think of many positive representations of women off the top of my head. even the SK president has a history i don't know well. it felt like NK had gone back to an era where someone like Henry VIII took on mistresses and worked to make his affairs somewhat legal for the sake of an heir. and surprisingly (to me, as an American), the propaganda machine actually references the mistresses.
lysblack 8th-Jan-2013 03:06 pm (UTC)
This was super interesting, thank you OP!
markthatcoin 8th-Jan-2013 04:03 pm (UTC)
you're welcome! i found it very interesting myself, i didn't know any of that stuff about the other siblings (or all of Kim Jong Il's affairs, wtf!)
lysblack 8th-Jan-2013 04:13 pm (UTC)
I love reading and watching documentaries about north korea, everything is so fascinating.
markthatcoin 8th-Jan-2013 04:15 pm (UTC)
did you see the one about the gymnasts, A State of Mind? terrifying yet enthralling

Two young North Korean gymnasts prepare for an unprecedented competition in this documentary that offers a rare look into the communist society and the daily lives of North Korean families. For more than eight months, film crews follow 13-year-old Pak Hyon Sun and 11-year-old Kim Song Yun and their families as the girls train for the Mass Games, a spectacular nationalist celebration involving thousands of performers.
lysblack 8th-Jan-2013 04:23 pm (UTC)
No i didnt, but it sou ds so interesting, i'll def search for it when i'm on my computer.
krobwell 8th-Jan-2013 04:52 pm (UTC)
A good morning read~ Interesting...I'm curious as to what the rest of the daughters are doing...
odd_fish_stick 8th-Jan-2013 09:02 pm (UTC)
That part with the dominican passport always trips me out, that was never publicized in our local media. How random.
markthatcoin 8th-Jan-2013 10:15 pm (UTC)
i agree, that detail is so crazy. it's a much more tangled web than we already assume......
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