Kim Jong-il, left, poses with his son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un during a massive military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang in this Oct. 10, 2010 file photo. / Korea Times
By Kang Hyun-kyung
In the wake of the announcement of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, speculation has mushroomed over the cause, mainly because of the extreme secrecy in the Stalinist state.
North Korea’s Central News Agency reported Monday that Kim died of a heart attack last Saturday on a train while heading to an unidentified destination.
Previously, the late North Korean leader had suffered two strokes; and his declining health had spurred speculation among those outside the North that his death was near.
Given this, the announcement wasn’t unexpected.
However, there are some North Korean defectors here who remain suspicious of the state-controlled media’s report on the cause of his death, raising very cautiously the possibility of Kim having been murdered.
An Chan-il, a political scientist, didn’t rule out the possibility that the North Korean leader might have been killed by those harboring discontent with the way he ruled the country.
“After his third son Jung-un was named for a dynastic leadership succession, many military officers, especially those in their 50s, were dismissed. I think these people could have held deep resentment about Kim and North Korea’s next leader,” he said.
“A rumor is circulating that earlier a high-ranking North Korean official was shot dead. This has yet to be confirmed, but such talk is evidence that discontent was brewing among some people in the North.”
An, 57, speculated the North Korean military’s dwindling power could have spurred brewing displeasure among some military officers, especially those eliminated from power.
Under the Kim Jong-il regime, the political scientist said, they had complained about their status as the military-first policy showed signs of retreating.
“As their vested interests were hurt due to Kim Jong-il, I would not rule out the possibility that some military officers, who believed their clout and influence had been damaged, could have played a role in his death,” An said.
Rep Chun Yo-ok of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) also raised the possibility that Kim might have been killed as a result of a power struggle inside the North.
Another North Korean defector, however, remained cautious about this.
Kim Seong-min, the representative of Free North Korea Radio based in Seoul, said he believed the North’s announcement on Kim’s death as there was no evidence backing foul play.
North Korea said that the cause of Kim’s death was confirmed after the authorities there carried out an autopsy Sunday, the day after he died.
북한 매체가 김정일 위원장 사망을 보도한 가운데 일각에서는 권력투쟁에서 비롯된 타살 개연성을 제기하고 있어 눈길을 끈다. 북한이라는 사회가 외부세계와 차단된 특수한 사회라는 점에서 이 같은 주장이 제기되는 것으로 보인다.
탈북자 정치학 박사 1호인 안찬일 박사는 북한이 발표한 바와 같이 심근경색에 의한 사망 개연성과 더불어 북한 군부 내 불만세력에 의한 암살 가능성도 배제할 수 없다고 밝혔다.
안 박사는 김정은이 권력을 승계하는 과정에서 50대 중반의 군부 장성들이 많이 축출이 되었으며 이들 중 일부가 이 같은 일에 가담했을 가능성이 있다고 주장했다. 또한 김정일 위원장이 집권한 이후 김일성 정권하에서 보다 군의 영향력이 많이 약화 되었던 점도 군부내 불만세력에 의한 일일 개연성을 뒷받침한다고 주장했다.
그러나 다른 탈북자는 현재로서는 북한 매체가 발표하는대로 믿는 것이 더 정확할 수 있다고 주장한다. 권력투쟁에 희생되었다는 것을 뒷받침할 만한 증거가 현재로서는 없다는 것이다.