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Despite the North's warm welcome, only two South Korean widows look likely to attend Kim Jong Il's funeral.
coffers to grease the way to Pyongyang, and Hyundai Asan was the principal conduit.
Chung Mong Hun, committed suicide in August 2003 two months after his indictment for his role in the payoff. His father, Chung Ju Yung, who had died in March 2001, had presumably urged him to assist in expediting the bribe.
The widow Hyun Jeong Un's misfortunes were far from over after she inherited what was left of the Hyundai group after Chung Ju Yung left the most prosperous entities, including Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Heavy Industries, the ship-builder, to Mong Hun's brothers.
Hyundai Asan lost its billion-dollar investment in the Kumkang tourist zone after the North took it over this year and asked the Chinese to operate the tours.
The reason was that President Lee had cut off all tours to the zone after a North Korean guard three years earlier shot and killed a South Korean woman who had wandered outside the carefully designated tourist area to look at the sunrise. Lee adamantly refused to countenance resumption of tours until the North agreed to permit the South to investigate the tragedy — something the North was not about to do.
For Hyun Jong Un, a show of mourning at Kim Jong Il’s funeral is to be a public relations gesture in support her dream of recovering the Mt. Kumkang tourist complex.
In any case, she has another reason for courting North Korea — Hyundai Asan still operates the industrial zone at Kaesong just across the line in North Korea next to Panmunjom. Nearly 100 small and medium South Korean enterprises now run factories in Kaesong staffed by about 50,000 North Koreans — the harbinger perhaps of more operations in the North and more business for Hyundai Asan.
What about Kim Jong Un's siblings?
Quite aside from the question of condolences from South Korea, the greatest question surrounding the mourning will be the roles of Kim Jong Il’s offspring other than his anointed heir, Kim Jong Un.
The eldest playboy son
His playboy eldest son Kim Jong Nam has been living it up in Macao for years. Once a likely successor, Jong Nam lost out after he was nailed by Japanese immigration officials in 2001 trying to get through Tokyo's Narita airport on a fake Dominican passport. All Kim Jong Nam, wanted to do, he said, was take his son to Tokyo Disneyland.
Jong Nam, the son of the Dear Leader’s first wife, and his two younger half-brothers had reportedly been to Disneyland as kids. All of them were traveling to Japan on phony foreign passports with the mother of the younger brothers, Kim Young Hee, whom Kim never married before she died in 2004.
Just how Jong Nam, now 40, got along with them isn't clear, but it seems certain that the inner cricle in Pyongyang deosn’t want him getting close to Kim Jong Un. Attendance at the funeral would be not so much an embarrassment as a potential threat to Jong Un’s new role.
The forgotten middle son
It’s not clear whether the middle of the three brothers, Kim Jong Chol, will be visible at the funeral either. Jong Chol, now 30, has been living quietly in Pyongyang, not viewed as real competition since his father passed him over as effete, possibly effeminate.
He will probably remain unseen on television even if he’s somewhere close by.
The lone daughter and mysterious son
As for the daughter whom Kim Jong Il had by his second wife, and a much younger son he’s also rumored to have had, it’s assumed they won’t be visible either.
The non-role of the siblings, however, may be less significant than the roles of all the other power players.
Who goes to the funeral, where they're placed and what they do in the ceremony remains to be seen.
Kim Jong Un nominally heads the funeral committee, but it’s not at all likely he had much to do with the selection of its 230 or so members.
All one knows is that Jang Song Taek, a vice chairman of the national defense commission that Kim Jong Il chaired, seems to be the regent. That has a lot to do with the influence of his wife, Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Jong Il’s sister.
No one is likely to know where they really stand, however, until the transition shakes out — and other faces possibly emerge as contenders.