Saturday, September 26, 2009
Koh Young Hee - Kim Jong - Chul
A Mystery about a Mistress in North Korea
By James Brooke
Koh Young Hee, third wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. She is said to be Kim's favorite companion. She is the mother of two of Kim's three sons.
South Korean government officials are struggling to confirm persistent reports from North Korea of the recent death of its leader Kim Jong Il's favorite mistress, a former dancer who was elevated in the Communist state's pantheon to the status of "respected mother." The woman, Koh Young Hee, a Japanese-born Korean dancer, was treated in Paris last spring for advanced cancer.
Over the summer, Ms. Koh, the 51-year-old mother of two of Mr. Kim's sons, was flown back to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, where she fell into a coma. The Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported recently that North Korean diplomats in Paris bought an "extremely expensive" coffin and shipped it to Pyongyang by charter flight.
Emblematic of a people who revere the turtle as a national symbol, North Korea two weeks ago unexpectedly closed its northern border to foreign tourists, a major source of foreign exchange.
Then on Sunday, Mr. Kim's National Defense Commission severely restricted the number of Pyongyang telephones that could be used to call foreign residents and embassies. The Russian news agency Tass said these restrictions were intended to prevent "possible leaks of information."
These measures are part of a tightening of controls in North Korea, including the banning of cellphones in May, the construction this summer of a wooden wall in the most traveled sections of the China border to discourage unauthorized travel there, and the reopening of militia checkpoints on roads leading into Pyongyang.
The photo, taken in 1981, shows Kim Jong-Il with his oldest son Kim Jong-Nam (front row). Three others (second row) Kim's sister in law Sung Hye-Rang and her daughter Lee Nam-Ock and son Lee Han-Young. Sung and her children defected to South Korea later. Sun Hye-Lim, Kim's wife, was in Moscow for medical treatment when this photo was taken.
"The intelligence sectors on North Korea in South Korea, the United States and Japan have shared a common assessment that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's wife has died of illness," Cho Gab Je, a South Korean journalist who specializes in the North, said on his Web site on Tuesday, referring to Mr. Kim's main partner of the last quarter-century. "Some say this death would have serious psychological effects on Kim. Kim, who has heart problems, had been refraining from drinking on Koh's advice."
Kim Duk Hong, a high-ranking North Korean defector who maintains a North Korean information network in China's border area, said in an interview on Thursday: "I am sure Koh Young Hee is now deceased. But since calls made and received by North Korea residents are cut off, I can only guess that North Korea is trying to block the news from spreading."
Mr. Kim speculated that the leadership of North Korea would close the country more than usual to announce the death in their own way and to maintain order during a time of uncertainty over which of the three sons of Kim Jong Il, 62, might be chosen as his successor.
Kim Jong-Nam, the oldest son of Kim Jong-Il
A delicate beauty, Ms. Koh caught the eye of Kim Jong Il when her dance troupe performed at one of his private parties. Enchanted, Mr. Kim, who already had a mistress and a wife at the time, installed her at one of his villas. "Koh Young Hee has his heart, he loves her very much," a Japanese sushi chef, who worked until 2001 for Kim Jong Il, said in an interview in Tokyo last month. "I don't think he has another woman."
"I once was walking on the beach and I saw him sitting on a chair, and Koh Young Hee was cutting his hair," said the chef, whose latest book, "Kim Jong Il's Private Life," was published last month in Japanese under a pseudonym, Kenji Fujimoto. "It was such a sweet scene that I asked my wife to cut my hair."
"She was the only one who could tell him 'no,' " continued the chef, who worked for 13 years for the North's ruling family. "I have never seen anyone say no to Kim Jong Il, not even high-ranking officials."
In addition to removing a brake on the mercurial leader's impulses, the death of North Korea's "great woman," as North Korean propaganda called her, complicates the succession issue in the Communist world's first dynasty.
Two years ago, North Korea's military propaganda machine started to promote Kim Jong Il's favorite mistress, prompting speculation that one of their two sons, Kim Jong Chul, 23, or Kim Jong Woon, 21, was being groomed as the North Korean leader's heir-apparent. In preparation for Mr. Kim's rise to power in 1994, he directed the state propaganda machine to publish articles praising his own mother, thus giving him legitimacy as his father's true political heir.
"If Koh Young Hee had not died at this moment, one of her two sons would be a high candidate for successor," said Kim Duk Hong, who defected in 1997. "But now that she is dead, all three sons are in the same position."
Sung Hye Lim
Kim Jong Il's other son is Kim Jong Nam, 34, who fell into disfavor in Pyongyang in 2001 when he was detained at Narita Airport trying to enter Japan on a fraudulent Dominican Republic passport. Accompanied by a 4-year-old boy and two women, he told the police he was planning to visit Disneyworld. A graduate of a Swiss boarding school, he is widely seen as too Westernized for the fiercely nationalistic North Korea.
Further eclipsing his chances in the succession race, his mother, Sung Hye Lim, never married Mr. Kim and fell out of favor two decades ago. She died two years ago in Moscow, where she had been living in self-imposed exile.
"Now Kim Jong Nam might be the best candidate," continued Mr. Kim, the defector, who once worked for the Central Committee of the Korean Worker's Party. "He was most loved by Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung" — Kim Jong Il's father and political predecessor — "and has the most international sense of the three."
But Korea has hundreds of years of history of brutal dynastic politics, in which male family members have frequently killed one another in fights over the throne.
"All during the Chosun dynasty, the succession struggles were very severe," Dae Sook Suh, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii, said of a five-century dynasty that ended in 1910. "There were uncles killing nephews, and brothers killing brothers, all to stay in the line of succession."
Wikipedia is sustained by people like you. Please donate today.
Help build the future of Wikipedia and its sister projects!
Read a letter from Jimmy Wales and Michael Snow. [Hide] [Help us with translations!]
Kim Jong-chul (political figure)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born September 25, 1981 (age 28)
Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Birth name Kim Jong-chul
Nationality North Korean
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Relations Kim Jong-il (father)
Ko Young-hee (mother)
Kim Il-sung (grandfather)
Residence Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea
McCune–Reischauer Kim Chŏngch'ŏl
Revised Romanization Gim Jeong-cheol
This is a Korean name; the family name is Kim.
Kim Jong-chul (born September 25, 1981) is the middle son of Kim Jong-il, leader of North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea). His older half-brother is Kim Jong-nam. His younger brother is Kim Jong-un, supposed heir-apparent to North Korea's de facto leadership.
In 2007, Jong-chul was appointed deputy chief of a leadership division of the Workers' Party. However, on January 15, 2009 the South Korean News Agency, reported that Kim Jong-il appointed his youngest son Jong-un to be his successor, passing over Jong-nam and Jong-chul.
These reports were supported in April 2009 when Kim Jong-un assumed a low-level position within the ruling Workers' Party of Korea as Kim Jong-il was groomed by his own father, Kim Il-sung, in a similar way before becoming North Korean leader in 1994.
1 DPRK leadership
2 Personal information
3 See also
5 Further reading
6 External links
Until 2001, it was assumed that Kim Jong-il's eventual heir would be his eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, whose mother was Song Hye-rim. But in May 2001 Kim Jong-nam was arrested at New Tokyo International Airport, Japan, travelling on a forged Dominican Republic passport. He was held and then deported to the People's Republic of China. The incident caused Kim Jong-il to cancel a planned visit to China because of the embarrassment to both countries. As a result of this incident, Kim Jong-nam has fallen from favour. He was later reported to be living in Macau, China.
In February 2003, moves began to raise the profile of Kim Jong-chul. The Korean People's Army began a propaganda campaign using the slogan "The Respected Mother is the Most Faithful and Loyal Subject to the Dear Leader Comrade Supreme Commander." Since the "Respected Mother" was described as "[devoting] herself to the personal safety of the comrade supreme commander," and "[assisting] the comrade supreme commander nearest to his body". Western analysts assume that the "Respected Mother" was Koh Young-hee, mother of Kim Jong-chul and Kim Jong-un. A similar campaign was launched in praise of Kim Jong-il's mother during the later years of Kim Il-sung's life. This suggested that Kim Jong-chul, despite his youth, had emerged with Army backing to be a serious contender to succeed his father.
However, Kenji Fujimoto, the personal sushi chef for Kim Jong-il's, wrote in his memoir, I Was Kim Jong Il's Cook, that Kim Jong Il thought Jong-chul was "no good because he is like a little girl". Fujimoto believed Kim Jong-il favored his youngest son, Kim Jong-un.
On June 1, 2009, it was reported that Kim Jong-chul had been passed over as his younger brother, Kim Jong-un, is to succeed his father as the head of the Korean Workers' Party and de-facto head of state of North Korea.
Kim Jong-chul was born in 1981. He is the first son of Kim Jong-il and companion Ko Young-hee, who died in 2004. Jong-chul was educated at the International School of Berne, Gümligen, Switzerland.