Kim Jong-il's elusive family was the subject of an article in World Affairs, a biweekly published under the Chinese Foreign Ministry, it emerged last week. Experts say it is unusual for an important official publication in China to dwell on the Kim dynasty.
World Affairs revealed that Kim Il-sung died of a heart attack upon hearing of the death of his old comrade Jo Myong-son on July 8, 1994. Jo was Kim's former subordinate in the partisan guerrilla and later head of Kang Gun Military Academy. The magazine reported that Kim Il-sung had tried to develop nuclear weapons since the 1950s.
Kim had three wives. Kim Jong-sook, a former partisan comrade now revered as the "Mother of the Nation," gave him two sons, Jong-il (born 1942) and Man-il (born 1944, drowned in 1947), as well as a daughter, Kyong-hui (born 1946, currently the light industry department head of the North Korean Workers' Party). But Kim Il-sung was apparently already married, to Han Song-hui. Born in Gangwon Province in 1914, Han moved to Northeast China, joined the Communist reading group organized by Kim Il-sung, and married him in 1937, the magazine said. "Further details are unfortunately hazy."
Kim married Kim Song-ae in 1953 and had two sons (Pyong-il and Yong-il) and a daughter (Kyong-jin). Kyong-jin married Kim Gwang-sop, the current ambassador to Austria, and Pyong-il, after losing a power struggle with Kim Jong-il, served as ambassador to Hungary, Bulgaria, Finland, and is now ambassador to Poland. Kim Yong-il died of liver disease after spending some time in Germany and Malta.
The magazine evaluated Kim Jong-il as an observant and analytical individual who learned from early age how to win the affections of his father. The official Rodong Sinmun in February 1974 reported that he effectively commanded the same authority as his father, meaning that Kim junior had consolidated his position as the heir apparent.
The biweekly also talks about Kim Jong-il's marriages. "There are different opinions on who exactly had been Kim's first wife: Hong Il-chon, a former high-ranking member in the ruling council, or Kim Yong-sook, a typist who worked in Kim Il-sung's office," it said. But according to a South Korean intelligence official, Kim Jong-il married Kim Yong-sook and had a daughter named Sol-song with her.
Kim Jong-il, in turn, divorced his first wife after three years and married Song Hye-rim, a famous actress of the 60s. Song gave birth to Kim's eldest son Jong-nam and led a secluded life because she was five years older and a divorcee. She died in Moscow in May 2002. Instead, Ko Yong-hui, a former dancer at Pyongyang Mansudae Art Troupe who had found Kim's favor, became North Korea's first lady and mother to two more sons, Jong-chol (born 1981) and Jong-un (born 1983). The magazine says that after her death in 1994, Kim Jong-il's secretary Kim Ok acted as his wife.
Kim Jong-nam, who had studied in Russia and Europe, is said to be a computer fan who served as a senior official in the intelligence service and chairman of the Computer Committee. In the 90s, he was thought to be the heir apparent, but he lost the position after he was arrested for trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in May 2001.
Jong-chol, who studied in Switzerland under the pseudonym "Park Chol," is said to have served as the head of the guidance division for the Workers' Party. Despite his introverted personality, he was keen on baseball. He never found much favor with his father due to his sickly disposition.
Jong-un, now apparently the designated heir, earned Kim Jong-il's favor because of his strong competitive streak as well as a strong resemblance to his father, the magazine said, adding that he is a rather mysterious figure. World Affairs called North Korea "the most enigmatic nation in the world."