The eldest son of the recently deceased dictator Kim Jong-il thinks that the North Korean regime will soon collapse, according to a book to be published later this week.
Kim Jong-nam, who was once thought to be his father's preferred successor as leader of the Communist state, also criticises the rule of his half-brother, Kim Jong-un, calling him a "nominal figure".
The book, which will be eagerly scrutinised by North Korea watchers starved of reliable information about the regime's inner circle in Pyongyang, is written by a Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi who says he carried out a lengthy email exchange with Kim Jong-nam over a period of several years. Its publication comes just a month after the death of Kim Jong-il, who had ruled the secretive country since 1994.
Kim Jong-nam spends most of his time in Macau after being banished from North Korea following an incident in 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport, allegedly to visit Disneyland.
In the forthcoming book, Kim Jong-nam says it is common practice for high-ranking North Koreans to travel using fake identities, and he also asserts that new leader Kim Jong-un has visited Japan on a forged Brazilian passport.
According to Kim Jong-nam, his father did not want a dynastic transition of power, but eventually came to believe it was the only way to ensure the stability of the regime. North Korean state media has gone to lengths to portray the chubby Kim Jong-un as a worthy successor to his father in the past month.
According to excerpts from the book published yesterday, Kim Jong-nam claims that part of the reason he fell out with his father was that after an education in Switzerland, he returned to North Korea bent on reform. "I grew further apart from my father because I insisted on reform and opening up the market, and was eventually viewed with suspicion," the book quotes the leader's son as writing.
Kim Jong-nam's words also suggest that the mischievous lament "I'm so lonely", sung by a Kim Jong-il puppet in the US satirical film Team America, may actually have been close to the truth. "My father felt very lonely after sending me to study abroad. Then my half brothers Jong-chol and Jong-un and half sister Yeo-jong were born and his adoration moved on to them."
His siblings were given less foreign education, says Kim Jong-nam, after his father became worried that he had "turned into a capitalist" after his time in the West.
Kim Jong-nam writes that he still has good relations with his aunt and uncle, who some see as the real power behind the new regime, but admits that he has never actually met his half brother Kim Jong-un. He predicts, however, that his brother's regime will "not last long", foreseeing a power struggle between different factions. He also suggests that the regime now finds itself in a lose-lose situation. "Without reforms, North Korea will collapse, and if such changes take place, the regime will collapse."
Kim Jong-nam, who has remained out of the limelight in recent years, apparently agreed that his interviews and email correspondence with the journalist could be published. It is perhaps a sign that the dictator's son is ready to become a more public figure. Japanese media also reported last week that Kim Jong-nam has set up a Facebook account under a pseudonym and has made posts mocking his half-brother.
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