Dear Leader’s Exiled Son Surfaces in Macau

Chosun ilbo

A man presumed to be North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s eldest son Kim Jong-nam appeared in Macau on Tuesday, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. A South Korean government official confirmed the report on Wednesday. It seems Kim Jong-nam has not been allowed to return to North Korea and been wandering the globe for six years.

Once heir apparent of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-nam first grabbed international headlines when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport with his wife and son in May 2001. The reasons for his departure from North Korea are unclear. According to former high-ranking North Korean officials who defected, Kim junior was branded a traitor to the revolution by his father after he talked about a Chinese-style reform and opening policy at a private gathering in 2000. They say he was forced to leave the country over a power struggle with his stepmother Ko Young-hee, the mother of his younger half-brothers Jong-chul and Jung-woon.

Since then, he has reportedly been staying in China. He was spotted at expensive restaurants in Beijing several times in January last year. Kim contacted an ethnic Chinese trader who was arrested on charges of espionage in South Korea in April 2006, a government official said. He gets along with members of the so-called Taizidang or princes’ club comprising children of prominent Chinese leaders like former president Jiang Zemin.

Kim is said to have made money from a trade business, which he set up with the Taizidang group. He has shown interest in the IT sector since his Pyongyang days and now is in touch with IT experts he met when he visited Hong Kong and Macau to gather information. Despite being a stateless refugee, Kim does not appear restrained either socially or financially.

Analysts say China does not treat him as an unwelcome guest. Kim Jong-nam tried to return to Pyongyang after his stepmother died in June 2004, but to no avail. Security strategy specialist Lee Ki-dong says anti-Kim Jong-nam forces remain strong in North Korea, adding the fact that Kim junior has not returned proves that the North’s succession structure remains unstable.


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