- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

TOKYO (Agence France-Presse) — A man believed to be the mysterious eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il this week broke off e-mail communication with Japanese reporters who had run into him in Beijing, a press report said.

“There is a tendency to suspect my identity, and I notify you that I am ending on-line dialogue with you reporters with this one,” the man said in an e-mail message to the journalists based in Beijing, the Jiji Press said Tuesday.

The episode came at a time when speculation was rife about Kim Jong-il after the reported disappearance of some of his portraits in the Stalinist state.

Last Friday, the Japanese reporters received seasonal greetings from the man whom they saw at Beijing airport in September when they were waiting for the arrival of a North Korean diplomat for talks with his Japanese counterpart.

The man resembled and admitted to be Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s 33-year-old son.

E-mail correspondence continued last weekend, but the latest message said: “Although I am not in a position to answer questions from you reporters, I have been responding to your questions with sincerity.”

It was signed in Korean as “the person who is presumed to be Kim Jong-nam whose identity is suspected by reporters.” It concluded: “I pray for your healthy and fruitful year-end and New Year holidays.”

There is little information about Kim Jong-nam, who was deported from Tokyo’s Narita Airport in May 2001 along with two women and a 4-year-old boy for trying to enter Japan with forged passports.

Mr. Kim purportedly told authorities he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

His father, Kim Jong-il, 62, inherited the mantle of his father, Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, creating the communist world’s first dynasty.

According to unconfirmed media reports, Kim Jong-nam has traveled widely, including to Beijing, Moscow, Hong Kong and Macau since the Tokyo flap. He also is said to be in charge of Internet-related projects in his secretive country.

Kim Jong-nam, born to movie star Sung Hae-rim, who died in a Moscow hospital in 2002, reportedly fell out of favor with his father after the deportation incident.

South Korean media have reported that the senior Mr. Kim’s latest wife, Ko Yong-hui, 51, died this year after a long battle with cancer.

Mrs. Ko reportedly had campaigned to have one of her two sons, rather than Kim Jong-nam, groomed as heir-apparent to their father. She gave birth to Mr. Kim’s second son, Kim Jong-chul, 23, and third son Kim Jong-woon, 18.

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