The elder brother of new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un says bribery and corruption will be the undoing of a country ruled by an inexperienced young man, e-mails published on Friday said.
Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of Kim Jong-un, who took control of the nation after the death of their father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il late last year, said corruption was so rampant that the country’s political system would not survive.
“The amount of bribery merchants have to offer to high-level officials in order to survive keeps rising,” Kim Jong-nam told Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi by e-mail.
“Such a corrupt system will inevitably collapse. It reminds me of the situation right before the USSR collapsed,” he added in a message dated Dec. 7.
The comments were published in Bungeishunju magazine and come just weeks after Gomi published a book of e-mail exchanges and interviews with Kim Jong-nam, who he first met in Beijing in 2004.
“North Korean youngsters are influenced by the winds of South Korean culture and capitalism and live their own lives ... seeking to dodge strict control. So I advised [Kim] Jong-un to offer a more abundant life through reform and opening,” he said in an e-mail dated Aug. 5 last year.
In a message sent on Dec. 13, six days before a tearful newsreader announced the death of his father, Kim Jong-nam said a disastrous attempt to control prices and clamp down on the black market had been pivotal in the breakdown of societal controls.
“People’s trust in the North’s leadership has been broken because of the aftermath of the currency revaluation,” he said, referring to a widely unpopular move to swap hyper-inflated notes. “Ageing leader, inexperienced successor, tattered economy ... It is seen that the political situation in the North is dangerous.”
The currency revaluation in late 2009 ended in failure, and a senior official believed to be in charge of the project was reportedly executed.
Kim Jong-nam said his younger brother was not really old enough to become leader of North Korea.
“I can’t see on the kid’s [Kim Jong-un’s] face any sense of duty or seriousness as the next leader of such a complicated country as North Korea, and any deep thoughts on the future of the country,” he said in an e-mail sent on Nov. 4.
In his commentary on the e-mails, Gomi said Kim Jong-nam’s criticism of the North became even harsher after the bombing of Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, in November 2010, which killed four people.
In an e-mail sent on Nov. 27, four days after the attack, Kim Jong-nam said: “The North’s military carried out the attack to prove the reason for their existence and their status, and to legitimize the country’s nuclear weapons program.”
Referring to Jang Song-thaek, the husband of Kim Jong-il’s younger sister, who is seen by many analysts as the power behind the throne, Kim Jong-nam said even he could not rein in the powerful armed forces.
“The father is old, the successor is young, the uncle has no military experience, so there’s practically no one who can control the military,” he said.
Gomi said he had originally chosen not to include these e-mails in his book because he was worried that they might be misinterpreted and lead to tighter controls on the flow of information into North Korea.
However, he said he had decided to publish them now because he believed he had a duty “to convey in an accurate and straightforward manner [Kim] Jong-nam’s true intentions at a time when the world’s focus is on North Korea.”
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