SEOUL--South Korean government officials are trying to piece together why Kim Kyong Hui, the powerful aunt and mentor of North Korea's youthful leader Kim Jong Un, likely met with Kim Jong Nam, her nephew and Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother, recently in Singapore.
Reports on Kim Kyong Hui's activities stopped appearing in the North Korean news media in early September. She was absent from a Sept. 25 session of the Supreme People's Assembly. Media silence on her activities was broken only on Oct. 7.
Knowledgeable sources in South Korea said Kim Kyong Hui returned to North Korea from Singapore on Oct. 4. Kim Jong Nam is also likely to have been in Singapore around the same time.
Kim Kyong Hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's father and predecessor, who died in December, is believed to have a strong say over personnel and other matters within the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
She was named a "general" of the Korean People's Army--a title rarely conferred on a woman--along with Kim Jong Un and others by Kim Jong Il in 2010. She was named a secretary of the WPK Central Committee in April this year.
It is believed that she and her husband, Jang Song Thaek, director of the Administration Department of the WPK Central Committee, looked after the young Kim Jong Nam like they were his parents.
After the death of Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Nam, his eldest son, was not selected as his successor. Instead it is believed that he is now based in Macao and elsewhere and is engaged in trade with North Korea and supports opening up the country's economy to the rest of the world.
Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Un are believed to be estranged from each other because they were raised separately.
Analysts have pointed out recently that Kim Kyong Hui has health concerns, including heart problems and is suffering from alcoholism. They therefore initially speculated that she visited Singapore for medical treatment.
But they later began to see that possibility as less likely, because no delegation of North Korean medical practitioners is known to have accompanied her on her trip, the sources said.
It was learned recently that a North Korean agent disguised as a defector, who was arrested and indicted by South Korean authorities, has told investigators that his superiors in North Korea ordered him in 2010 to assault and injure Kim Jong Nam, who has long been critical of the regime and its dynastic succession, in China.
While Seoul has yet to verify the credibility of that information, it likely has nothing to do with Kim Kyong Hui's latest Singapore trip, the sources said.
- « Prev
- Next »