Rumors spread Kim Jong-nam defects to South
Experts on North Korea in Seoul said Wednesday afternoon that “Kim Jong-nam has recently sought asylum through our domestic intelligence while residing in a third country,” and that “[South Korean-related] authorities have safely secured him.”
The experts also said, “An important figure from North Korea has crossed [the boundary] and it will be big news soon.”
Immediately after the comments, South Korean media outlets requested that the Blue House, Ministry of Unification, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and military officials verify the facts. They, however, played down the rumors.
Another high-level official from the Blue House said, “[Kim seeking asylum] isn’t true.”
Saenuri Party lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun, a member of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee, however, said, “On Oct. 29, when there was a legislative audit on the NIS, we [lawmakers] asked if the spy agency knew anything about Kim Jong-nam’s whereabouts and NIS chief Won Sei-hoon answered, ‘It’s difficult to comment on that.’?”
Yoon added that “I got the feeling that the NIS seemed to know where Kim Jong-nam is right now.”
The lawmaker also said that when he asked the NIS about the rumors later on, the NIS said, “We know there are rumors but they cannot be confirmed.”
Kim Jong-nam is the half-brother of Kim Jong-un, the North’s current leader who took over the communist regime after his father Jong-il’s death in December of last year. Jong-nam’s mother, also wife of Jong-il, was Song Hye-rim, who passed away in May 2002 in Moscow due to a heart attack after suffering from depression.
Jong-nam was once referred to as a strong candidate to succeed Jong-il but he fell out of favor when he was caught entering Japan’s Narita Airport with a fake passport in May 2001, which is thought to have internationally embarrassed Pyongyang.
Jong-nam has been squeezed out from the succession race ever since and he was hardly able to visit Pyongyang. Rather, he was most often seen in Macau, enjoying the casino.
When Jong-un was introduced as successor of Jong-il in September 2010, Jong-nam met with the foreign media and expressed dissatisfaction over North Korea’s hereditary succession of power.
Coincidently, Kim Han-sol, Jong-nam’s eldest son, appeared on a Finnish television talk show recently and gave a rare interview, describing Jong-un’s rule as a “dictatorship.”
After Kim Jong-il’s death, Jong-nam disappeared from the scene in Macau. Speculations rose then that he was being threatened by North Korea based on the conflict he has had with his country.
By Lee Young-jong, Lee Eun-joo [email@example.com]