Killings within royal families was common before modern times, including in England (described by Shakespeare), and in China especially with the Jin and Liu-Song dynasties. It happened during power succession issues. Brothers were succession rivals where rule was hereditary. But when monarchies became a part of a modern world with political powers better distributed, royal family murdering ended. The British monarchy, for example, became a part of the new law-and-order civility that applied to everyone. Rather than concerned with political power and killing for the glory and power that go with the work of being king, the United Kingdom's royal family is primarily concerned with decorum and the family's wealth. So too the constitutional monarchies in The Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway.
China is now a republic, and North Korea is ruled by a family that is not a part of that modern world. One of its members, Kim Jong-nam, was murdered an airport in Malaysia on Feb 13 February 2017 by having a most toxic VX nerve agent put onto his face.
Kim Jong-nam wrote of his father, Kim Jong-il (who ruled from 1997 to December 2011) "keeping highly secret the fact that he was living with my mother, who was married, a famous movie actress, so I couldn’t get out of the house or make friends,” Kim Jong-nam complained “That solitude from childhood may have made me what I am now, preferring freedom.”
It is written that Kim Jong-il adored Kim Jong-nam, his first son, seated him at his desk and told him “This is the place where you will one day give orders.” But it would be Kim Jong-nam's younger half-brother Kim Jong-un who would win the monarchical succession game – in the so-called Democratic People's Republic.
According to Kim Jong-nam's aunt, in the year 2000 (when he was around the age of 29) he said that he wasn't interested in succeeding his father. He was interested in the arts and making movies. And in 2001 – ten years before the succession – he embarrassed his father. According to the NYT:
He was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport from the Dominican Republic. He told Japanese investigators that he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. (NYT, 15 Feb '17)
The New York Times describes a report that the director of South Korea's National Intelligence Service said in a closed-door briefing that since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father in 2011, “there has been a standing order” to assassinate his half-brother.
The NYT continues that Kim Jong-nam "lived much of his life wandering abroad, in Moscow, Geneva, Beijing, Paris and Macau, the Chinese gambling enclave," that there was an assassination attempt against him in 2012 and that he "was so afraid of assassins that he begged for his life in a letter to his half-brother in 2012.
“Please withdraw the order to punish me and my family,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying in the letter. “We have nowhere to hide. The only way to escape is to choose suicide.”
When assassinated he apparently had no security protection. Addicted to global wandering, he had chosen to leave the safety of China, in Macau, where his wife, daughter and son are under Chinese protection.
The New York Times reports today, March 2, that a North Korean diplomat in Malaysia – under instructions no doubt – suggested on Thursday that Kim Jong-nam died of heart failure. It must be the line that North Korea's regime has for home consumption at odds as it is with the contrary international story involving the attack with a nerve agent and the arrest of two women who had been paid paid to perform a television show prank, and the four North Korean men on camera watch and leaving the airport just afterwards.
Today the BBC reports an opinion that suggests Kim Jong-nam's existence had been kept a secret in North Korea, that "With the influx of information pouring into North Korea, more of its citizens are learning for the first time of Kim Jong-nam's existence." The kind of thing that can happen when there is no free press.
Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.