November 05, 2019 12:31
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle Kim Pyong-il, who has spent decades in virtual exile as the country's perpetual ambassador in Eastern Europe, is expected to return to Pyongyang soon, South Korea's spy agency said Monday.
In a report to the National Assembly Intelligence Committee, the National Intelligence Service also predicted that the North's ambassador to Austria Kim Kwang-sop, the husband of Kim Pyong-il's elder sister Kyong-jin, will be recalled.
Kim Pyong-il (65) has been drifting abroad for over 40 years since he was ousted in power struggle with his half-brother Kim Jong-il in the 1970s.
The inference is that Kim Jong-un has decided to contain any potential challengers to his authority as North Koreans become disaffected amid harsh international sanctions.
The leader already executed another uncle by marriage, Jang Song-taek, in 2013 and had his own half-brother Kim Jong-nam assassinated four years later.
It remains to be seen what fate awaits his two elderly relatives. Kim Pyong-il was born in 1954 to former leader Kim Il-sung and his second wife Kim Song-ae.
After being ousted in the power struggle, he became military attaché at the North Korean Embassy in former Yugoslavia in 1979. He drifted around eastern Europe, including Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland and ended up in the Czech Republic in 2015.
"His transfer to the Czech Republic was probably an attempt to prevent him from becoming dean of the diplomatic corps in Poland after spending 17 years as ambassador there," an informed source speculated.
He was effectively banned from North Korea while Kim Jong-il was alive. In July 2015, four years after his half-brother's death, he met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang at an ambassadors conference.
As a son of the regime founder, he has sometimes been mentioned as a potential leader of a government-in-exile alongside Kim Jong-nam. He hosted a memorial ceremony for the seventh anniversary of Kim Jong-il's death in Prague last December, perhaps in an effort to dispel any suspicions of disloyalty.
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