01/17/2012, 00.00
KOREA
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Pyongyang needs reforms right away or “will not last long”, says Kim Jong-nam

The eldest son and former long time heir apparent to the late dictator Kim Jong-il tells his version of North Korea’s succession story. Even though he is powerless, he tells the regime to change. He “uses money taken from North Koreans to play in the casino” and to “live like a king”, source tells AsiaNews.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – If North Korea does not implement a serious reform plan it “will not last long”; even “China is less than enamoured of the situation.” It is also doubtful that Kim Jong-un “will be able to satisfy the needs of North Koreans” because he is “just a nominal figure and the members of the power elite will be the ones in actual power,” this according to Kim Jong-nam, who is not a dissident but the eldest son of Kim Jong-il. Groomed for many years to be the heir of the late North Korean dictator, he spoke to a Japanese journalist. However, “as much as he may try to play the democrat now,” a source told AsiaNews, “he went along with his father’s crazy ideas for a long time.” Likewise, “he may want to appear wiser, but he has no power.”

In his exchanges with Yoji Komi, editor at the Tokyo Shimbun, Kim Jong-nam explains his point of view on North Korea and its military ambitions. For him, Pyongyang’s deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 “was a provocation [. . .] to justify their [the military’s] status and existence and the possession of nuclear weapons”.

When asked about his thoughts on the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan, Kim said, "From North Korea's perspective, there was a need to stress that the area surrounding [the five northernmost South Korean islands in the West Sea] is a war zone” because “That is how the songun (military first) doctrine and the development and possession of nuclear weapons are justified."

Since he was arrested in 2001 trying to enter Japan with a forged passport, Kim Jong-nam has lived abroad. Now he lives in exile in Macau with his wife and two children, but his playboy lifestyle, courtesy of the regime, has drawn fire from both Koreas.

For Jong-nam, his brother does not have what it takes to be ‘supreme” leader. He is “just a nominal figure”. The “members of the power elite will be the ones in actual power”.

Speaking about his own case, he said that his fall from grace began “because I insisted on reform and market opening" to save the country.

“Remarks such as these, which also appeared in a Korean-language magazine, are almost offensive,” said a source in South Korea’s Interior Ministry. “Kim Jong-nam has used and still uses money taken from North Koreans to play in casinos. Now he wants to portray himself as a democrat, the right man to pull North Korea out of its mess. However, he is just a puppet without a role or importance. When he had a role, he did nothing to improve the situation.”
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