It hardly comes as a surprise that the passed-over eldest son of Kim Jong Il has been criticizing hereditary succession.
In a soon-to-be-published book, “My father Kim Jong Il and Me,” Kim Jong Nam reportedly rails against the system in North Korea and calls his half-brother and current ruler, Kim Jong Un, a pawn of the ruling elite.
The book is based on a collection of interviews and emails between Jong Nam and Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi, who told the Telegraph that he built a relationship with Jong Nam after the pair met in Beijing in 2004.
GlobalPost in-depth series: After Kim Jong Il
Jong Nam has been spotted from time to time in Macau, where he lives in exile, and elsewhere in China. Usually, his name appears in the press next to the word "playboy."
Jong Nam reportedly told Gomi before Kim Jong Il passed away that North Korea was stuck. It needed economic reforms to survive. But those very reforms would lead to the collapse of the Kim dynasty.
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He wrote to Gomi on Dec. 17:
It is obvious that [the] economy will collapse without reforms, but the reforms will lead to a crisis of the collapse of the regime.
On Jan. 3, Jong Nam wrote more specifically about Kim Jong Un, who he said was merely a figurehead.
I question how a young heir with two years [of training as a successor] would be able to inherit ... absolute power. It is likely that the existing power elites will succeed my father by keeping the young successor as a symbol.
Word on the street is that Kim Jong Nam was once first in line to succeed his father, as birth order would suggest. But it wasn't meant to be.
In 2001, Jong Nam fell out with his father following an incident at Tokyo's Narita airport, where he was nailed for trying to get through on a fake Dominican passport. Jong Nam fled to Macau and has been living it up ever since.