Kim Jong-il's Sushi Chef Slices into Jang Debate

Ex-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's former sushi chef believes it is "unbelievable and impossible" that current leader Kim Jong-un was behind the purge and execution of Jang Song-taek.

Kenji Fujimoto, who returned to Japan in 2011 after 13 years in the North, visited Pyongyang in July last year at the invitation of Kim Jong-un and was a guest at a banquet attended by Kim, his wife Ri Sol-ju and Kim's younger sister Yeo-jong.

Also present were Jang and former ambassador to Switzerland Ri Su-yong, who is also rumored to have been executed.

Late North Korean leader Kim Jong-ils former sushi chef Kenji Fujimoto shakes hands with Jang Song-taek during a visit to Pyongyang in July 2012. Late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's former sushi chef Kenji Fujimoto shakes hands with Jang Song-taek during a visit to Pyongyang in July 2012.

The garrulous chef said Jang showed "absolute respect" for Kim at dinner and that there was no sign that he presented a threat to the North Korean leader. Although Jang is not part of the Kim dynasty by blood, he was a central figure in the royal family and protected the North Korean leader along with military Politburo chief Choe Ryong-hae.

Fujimoto said Jang’s ouster was probably led by "unseen forces" and that Kim had no choice but to purge him. He said the old guard in North Korea's military and Workers Party may have "set a trap" for Jang. He said the eminence grise was probably the "biggest obstacle" for any faction opposed to Kim.

Claims that Choe led the purge against Jang are based on "ignorance" of the relationship between the two figures, Fujimoto said. He added Jang made every efforts to reinstate Choe when he was sacked, so such a scenario "could never happen."

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 13, 2013 12:07 KST

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