Sat, Sep 18, 2010 - Page 9 News List

Kim Jong-il’s sister poised to be Pyongyang’s Lady Macbeth

By Yuriko Koike

North Korea’s communist regime is, by most accounts, set to complete its second dynastic transfer of power, this time from Kim Jong-il, who has ruled since 1994, to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un. The general assembly of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, now underway for the first time in 44 years, is the clearest sign yet that “Dear Leader” Kim, who is seriously ill, is passing the crown in the hermit kingdom founded by his father, Kim Il-sung.

One reason why a dynastic succession is taking place is that Kim Il-sung created a national ideology, Juche, which mixes communism and autarky with a heavy dose of Confucian values. Confucianism exalts an idealized bond between father and son as the model for all human relations, including between ruler and ruled. So, just as a Confucian son’s absolute duty is to revere his father, the absolute duty of a Confucian subject is to revere the ruler.

Moreover, Kim Jong-il, like his father, has consistently appointed members of his family to positions of power. Indeed, Kim Jong-un, the third son of Kim Jong-il and his late consort Ko Young-hee, was mooted as his father’s successor almost a year ago.

North Korean propagandists proclaim Kim Jong-un “the Young General,” but whether he will exercise the same absolutist authority as his father is an open question. Not only is he young and inexperienced, but his aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, Kim Jong-il’s sister and the wife of the second-ranking figure in North Korea’s hierarchy, Chang Song-taek, may balk at power slipping through her fingers.

Although rarely seen or heard, Kim Kyong-hui, born on May 30, 1946, to Kim Il-sung and his first wife, Kim Jong-suk, has served in a range of key Workers’ Party positions, including deputy director of the International Department and director of the Light Industry Department. She became a member of the all-powerful Central Committee in 1988 — a post she retains to this day.

Kim Kyong-hui’s birth mother died when she was four. After her father, Kim Il-sung, remarried, she was raised by various surrogates away from the family. Observing the relationship between her father and stepmother, and their ­affection toward her half-brothers, she is said to have become embittered and developed a fierce personality.

Indeed, Kim Jong-il is quoted as saying: “When my sister turns violent, no one can stop her. Even I can do nothing.”

When Kim Jong-il started living with his second wife, Kim Kyong-hui sought to incite trouble, driven by a sense of rivalry. After marrying Chang Song-taek, she began living something of a hedonistic life herself, but she scrutinized her husband’s conduct minutely, flying into a jealous rage over the slightest signs of infidelity.

Kim Jong-il has described his sister as “my only blood family whom I was asked to take care of by my mother till the moment she died.”

Their mother, Kim Jong-suk, is said to have died from hemorrhaging while giving premature birth caused by her distress over Kim Il-sung’s love affair with Kim Song-ae. Kim Il-sung reportedly rushed to the hospital, but the door to her room was locked. When she died, her doctor and Kim Jong-il were the only people present.

However, Chan Gir-yok, who was Kim Jong-suk’s primary doctor and is now a doctor at Nagoya University in Japan, tells a different story. According to Chan, Kim Jong-suk was at Kim Il-sung’s Pyongyang home near the Soviet Embassy, quarreling with him. Watching from afar, the doctor saw Kim Il-sung holding a pistol. The doctor, who was a surgeon, not an obstetrician, questioned the wisdom of summoning him to treat excessive bleeding from a premature delivery. He believes that he was summoned to treat bleeding caused by something else.

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