Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, communicates by e-mail with a mystery contact in South Korea, according to a new book by a Japanese journalist. "I asked an acquaintance in [South] Korea to send [a cartoon depicting new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] and already read it," Kim Jong-nam writes in the collection of over 100 e-mails exchanged over seven years with Yoji Komi.
Kim sent his messages to Komi using a Korean Yahoo e-mail account. "I don't think there are any problems with me using a Yahoo Korea account," Kim said. "Anyone used to be able to sign up" without the peculiar requirement of many South Korean websites to submit a resident registration number.
Kim and Komi met in Macau in January 2011. Kim at the time told him, "I have a couple of close Japanese and [South] Korean friends" and was close to Japanese, Americans and South Koreans at boarding school in Switzerland. "I was able to get back in touch with a lot of friends through Twitter and Facebook. I have reunions with them several times a year in Europe and Southeast Asia."
◆ Offer of Help
While Kim expressed misgivings about his younger brother Jong-un's ability to rule North Korea he also said, "As an older brother, I want to cooperate with my younger brother Jong-un. But only if he wants to. And I would like to help him while staying abroad."
Kim Jong-nam said reports claiming Kim Jong-un accompanied his father on his trip to China last year were incorrect. "I believe Kim Jong-un will visit China by himself next year after he is appointed to a higher position," Kim said. The e-mails were exchanged before Kim Jong-il's death.
◆ Attacks on South Korea
In an e-mail from Nov. 25, 2010, two days after North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island, Kim said South Korea "cannot mount an adequate response even if it is attacked" because it fears economic repercussions. "I believe the inadequate response also encouraged North Korea's attack. North Korea is aware of this weakness and can launch a similar attack at any time and any place." Kim said the North "is extremely unstable internally." He predicted the military will continue to wield tremendous power in the North, and if the dynastic succession fails, the military will gain control.
Kim said the U.S. and other countries should seek dialogue with North Korea. "Once the impetus for dialogue is found, don't you think people in North Korea who favor dialogue will be able to strengthen their position? Don't you think that pushing North Korea to the brink will only give more power to hardliners who favor provocations?"
Kim said what North Korea wants most is to normalize relations with the U.S., followed by a permanent peace treaty, and it is therefore "not realistic to seek reforms at this point."
But he found the regime's unwillingness to reform as puzzling as any outsider. "If North Korea continues to show its ignorance by unilaterally cancelling the exclusive [South Korean] rights to tours to Mt. Kumgang or confiscate facilities Hyundai built on Mt. Kumgang, no foreigner would want to invest in North Korea. I wish North Korea would realize that building trust with the international community will help its economy recover."