Grafs from the new Kim Jong Nam book
Rather than spoon-feed you the parts that interest me, I’ll just link to this, this, and this and let you read and judge for yourself. You may also find this related article by Scott Snyder interesting.
My reaction on reading these excerpts? Disappointment, mostly. Few of Jong Nam’s broader conclusions about North Korea are surprising or even divergent from the consensus of outside speculators. Most are either obvious, unsupported by any credible new revelations of fact, or both. An exception is his intriguing assertion that North Korea is “extremely unstable internally,” but the grafs offer no details to support this, and Jong Nam doesn’t seem to have spent much time in the more fly-blown parts of North Korea where that instability might be (barely) visible. The personal details were interesting — he never met Kim Jong Eun, had a close emotional relationship with his father, and has a Chinese “protection” detail. Like Jong Nam himself, Jong Eun has traveled to Japan under a fake passport. Oh, and Jong Nam says never really wanted to succeed his father, before or after that whole Disney thing, which might just be true. Jong Nam gives the impression of astounding naivete given his background, in both his personal habits and in some of his political thinking.
Even chewing on these small slices, I found myself struggling to separate truth from self-serving pap (Was Jong-Nam really not involved in North Korea’s business activities in Macau, previously the center of its money laundering activities? What an interesting extradition request that would be!). My guess is that like me, you’ll fail at this task because of the short supply of known facts to compare to Jong Nam’s account. I still want to read the book. I even find myself feeling disturbingly sympathetic to someone who grew so fat on the misfortune of others. This account does conform to what I’ve heard third- and fourth-hand about Jong Nam, which is that he just never had the mean streak he needed to fit in in Pyongyang. He probably never had the gravitas to make much of a positive impact there. I’m afraid he’ll soon find himself the target of withering pressure from his homeland. I wouldn’t even rule out a brush with a stranger with a poisoned needle, although the more likely outcome for Jong Nam is that his Chinese minders will soon whisk him away from the bacchanalian fleshpot where he lives now for a more austere, less accessible part of China.