Revisiting the ‘will’ of Kim Jong-il

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Revisiting the ‘will’ of Kim Jong-il

A will, supposedly left by Kim Jong-il, was revealed in South Korea a while ago. Lee Yun-keol, a North Korean defector who operates the North Korea Strategic Information Service Center, reportedly obtained the document early last year after one year of hard work. Lee held several seminars based on the document and also published a book, titled “Kim Jong-il’s Will and Kim Jong-un’s Future,” in November. The JoongAng Ilbo reported twice about the contents of the will.

According to Lee, the will was created in October 2010, about a year and two months before Kim Jong-il died. The North Korean leader dictated it to his daughter, Sol-song, and the content was revealed first to Kim’s sister Kyong-hee. The will, according to Lee, was made public to a handful of top leaders, including Kim Jong-un, on Oct. 8, 2011. That is why the will is known as the “Oct. 8 document.”

The document made public by Lee had 44 numbered items. But the original text reportedly had no numbers. Lee said he numbered the sentences or phrases at his discretion, though the contents and the order of their appearance in the will are identical to the original text.

After Lee’s revelation, experts seriously debated over the authenticity of the document because it is extremely hard to obtain genuine information from the North. It was, therefore, natural that many were skeptical about Lee’s ability to obtain the full contents of Kim Jong-il’s secret will.

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank, judged the will as authentic. He stressed that the contents of the 44 items in the document were too difficult to have been fabricated. He also said that North Korea’s Workers’ Party held a meeting shortly after he was exposed to the document on April 12, 2012, and made decisions that corresponded to the contents of the will. “Other information obtained by Lee also was also highly credible,” he said.

Chon Hyun-jun and Jeung Young-tai, senior researchers at the Korea Institute for National Unification, also said the will was credible.

In contrast, intelligence authorities have offered mixed reactions. “The information obtained by Lee is half reliable and half unreliable,” one official said. “I am not sure about the authenticity of the will.” Others also said they do not trust Lee.

And yet, another intelligence official said he concluded the will is very likely genuine, although controversial.

Whether it is authentic or not is important because the North’s South Korea policy depicted in the will is very interesting. Eight of the 44 items are about the North’s South Korea policy, and they offer some hints to the back story of the North’s latest escalation of tension. Moreover, North Korea experts who question the authenticity of the will also said the contents are quiet viable.

“It is impossible to improve the North-South relationship or to reunify two Koreas with the current government (Lee Myung-bak administration) of the South. You should solve the reunification matter starting from the economic and cultural exchanges after you have secured military and ideology dominations in the relationship with the next government of the South,” the will said.

It also said there is no point in reunification by a war. “If the two Koreas went into war, Korea would fall centuries behind the other states. It means there would be nothing left for the next generation even if we won. Thus, we should reunify two Koreas peacefully according to the teachings left by Kim Il-sung,” the will said.

“Make the government people of the South understand that our military power has been a decisive force to stabilize the Korean peninsula and cooperate with the South for economic development. It is the best strategy I have ever pursued.”

The gist of the will is that the two Koreas must be unified peacefully and the North must borrow the South’s power for its economic development after subduing the South militarily.

Even if it is the will of Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un won’t follow it thoroughly. At the same time, however, it is hard to ignore it, because his position as “Kim Jong-il’s heir” is the decisive reason for Kim Jong-un’s power.

I have reserved judgment on the authenticity of the will, but I am seriously contemplating the contents. Could nuclear arsenals be the only means to subdue the South militarily? If Kim Jong-il really had no intention to go to war - and if Kim Jong-un shared that position thought - there could be a great way to improve inter-Korean relations.

Can this be the starting point of President Park Geun-hye’s trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula? And how long will the hostile mood between two Koreas continue? How long can the North endure the continuing tensions? Will it ever change its attitude all of a sudden?

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Kang Young-jin
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