Elder Kim slams N. Korea’s leader, military and future

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SEOUL — The eldest half brother of North Korea’s new leader says Kim Jong-un is unprepared for command, the totalitarian regime will collapse and the military has become too strong for the impoverished nation to support.

Kim Jong-nam, who lives in apparent exile in China, issues those opinions in a book about his life as the eldest son of North Korea’s longtime dictator Kim Jong-il, who died in December.

The book, titled “My Father Kim Jong-il and Me,” by Japanese reporter Yoji Gumi, is to be published Friday in Japan. Excerpts were obtained and reproduced Tuesday by South Korean magazine Monthly Chosun.

“Without reforms, North Korea will collapse, and when such changes take place, the regime will collapse. The Kim Jong-un regime will not last long,” an excerpt says.

“I am concerned how Jong-un, who merely resembles my grandfather, will be able to satisfy the needs of North Koreans,” Kim Jong-nam says, referring to the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung.

Kim Jong-nam’s statements about his homeland and its future were reported just after a senior North Korean party official said in a rare interview with the Associated Press in Pyongyang that all is well in the secretive, isolated nation.

Yang Hyong-sop, a Politburo member and Kim family confidante, said North Koreans are in good hands with Kim Jong-un, stressing an unbroken continuity from father to son that suggests a continuation of Kim Jong-il’s key policies.

“We suffered the greatest loss in the history of our nation as a result of the sudden, unexpected and tragic loss of the great leader Kim Jong-il,” Mr. Yang said in the interview Monday at Mansudae Assembly Hall, the seat of the North Korean legislature, the AP reported.

“But still, we are not worried a bit,” he added, “because we know that we are being led by comrade Kim Jong-un, who is fully prepared to carry on the heritage created by the great Gen. Kim Jong-il.”

Kim Jong-nam was educated in Switzerland and is thought to have been passed over for leadership sometime after 2001, when he was caught visiting Japan on a false passport, presumably so he could go to Tokyo’s Disneyland.

In recent years, the often sloppily attired Mr. Kim has been spotted in casinos and nightclubs in Macau and Beijing. He occasionally speaks to international media and has criticized the succession of Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-nam, 40, says he has never met his 20-something half brother.

He also says he has enjoyed a good relationship with his uncle Jang Song-thaek and his aunt Kim Kyong-hui, sister of Kim Jong-il. Mr. Jang and Mrs. Kim are seen as the most powerful figures guiding the new leader.

In his book, Kim Jong-nam says North Korean attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans in separate torpedo and artillery strikes were instigated by the state’s privileged armed forces, which benefited from the “Songeun,” or “military first,” policy of Kim Jong-il.

“It was a provocation by North Korea’s military to justify their status and the possession of nuclear weapons,” he says.

Regional analysts in Seoul said the book’s claims could well be genuine, given Kim Jong-nam’s openness to media. But they are not convinced that he is a reliable source, given his distance from Pyongyang and the suggestion of sibling rivalry.

“I think Kim Jong-nam has been out of the loop for so long that he is out of touch with what is going on inside North Korea and the leadership,” said Peter Beck, Korea representative of the Asia Foundation. “If he was a serious concern to the North Korean leadership, they would have silenced him long ago.”

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