Why Did Kim Jong-nam Open Up to Japanese Reporter?

      January 18, 2012 09:55

      Why did former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's eldest son Jong-nam share his views about the Stalinist country with a Japanese journalist over seven years?

      Yoji Komi

      In October 2010, Kim promised to "answer all questions" and even asked Yoji Komi, an editor at the Tokyo Shimbun, to "get my thoughts in good order and publish them at a suitable time."

      Kim Jong-nam met six Japanese correspondents including Komi at Beijing Capital International Airport in 2004. He sent e-mails to all of them in December that year. But it was Komi with whom he kept up the correspondence. North Korean sources say Kim was apparently intrigued that Komi is a Korea expert who was stationed in Beijing after a stint in Seoul and has significant connections in South Korea.

      Komi's 464 Facebook friends include former Grand National Party chairman Chung Mong-joon; Kim Choong-hwan, the chairman of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee; Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University; and Lee Ae-ran, a North Korean defector and the director of the North Korean Food Institute in Seoul.

      When he went to meet Kim in Macau in January 2011, Komi for security reasons posed as a tourist and brought his wife along. He won Kim's trust by using North Korean-style terminology in e-mails and by keeping to himself what he had promised not to make public.

      Some pundits speculate that Kim has been communicating with Komi in case he wants to move to Japan, because he believes that China, where he spends most of his time, is not safe.

      In his e-mails, Kim expressed his complex feelings about China, saying, "The Chinese government is protecting me, as well as watching me. It's my unavoidable fate."

      He said the Japanese people "are polite and diligent, and make efforts about anything. I believe that it's that passion that made it possible for Japan to achieve the high economic growth it enjoys today."

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