Is Kim Jong-nam mending ties with NK?
Speculation swirled Wednesday over the role of Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, following a report that he visited the Stalinist country last month.
Citing a source, a local daily reported that Kim Jong-nam, said to live in semi-exile due to his wayward lifestyle, visited the North for several days and held talks with close aides of his youngest brother Kim Jong-un, now leader of the nuclear-armed country.
Jong-nam has been the subject of much speculation since the death of his father in December. He did not appear during the subsequent mourning period, nor during milestone celebrations for the 100th birth anniversary of country founder Kim Il-sung in April, fueling speculation of a rivalry with his brother.
The report said he held talks with Jang Song-thaek, his uncle said to be one of Kim Jong-un’s closest aides.
“There are signs that the relationship between Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-un is improving,” Cheong Seong-chang, an expert at the Sejong Institute in Seoul was quoted as saying. “With Kim Jong-un’s power stabilizing, North Korea will give more freedom to Kim Jong-nam.”
Others suggested that Jong-nam may have opted to keep a low profile as his younger brother consolidated his power. Jong-un’s succession was completed in April when he secured top spots in the ruling Workers’ Party and National Defense Commission.
Jong-nam is said to have lived in Macau after being passed over for a hereditary transfer due to such transgressions as trying to visit Tokyo’s Disneyland using a fake passport in 2001.
He raised eyebrows after his father’s death for remarks critical of the hereditary transfer, which he called “difficult to tolerate” while warning of possible ambitions of the North’s powerful military. He made the remarks in a series of emails to a Japanese reporter who published the correspondence in a book. A powerful coterie of the elite said to be guiding his brother would make him a symbol of the leadership while steering the country by committee.
The report also said Jong-nam has visited Russia and Singapore, prompting some observers to say he could take a role in attracting foreign investment to North Korea. Experts say the regime is seeking to attract investment in the country especially in the special
economic zone of Rason.