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Kim leaves behind tangled family line

Kim Jong-il’s father Kim Il-sung and mother Kim Jong-suk established North Korea’s ruling ideology “Juche” (self-reliance) and played a leading role in shaping Kim Jong-il’s military-first policy.

Kim Il-sung, born in 1912, fought against the Japanese forces in China and Russia in the 1930s. He was installed by the Soviets in 1945 as head of the Provisional People’s Committee and ruled North Korea for 46 years from 1948 to 1994.

Jong-il’s mother, seven years younger than his father, started working at a guerrilla camp in China in 1935. After marrying Kim Il-sung in late 1940, she gave birth to Kim Jong-il in 1941. She died delivering a fourth child in 1949. Many analysts say the death of Kim’s mother when he was seven contributed to his reclusive personality.

Among the survivors of Kim Jong-il’s family, his younger sister Kyong-hui greatly influenced his life.

Kyong-hui began her political career in the mid-1970s by working in the Workers’ Party’s international affairs and light industry department. She was promoted to head of the department at the third Party Conference in September 2010.

Particularly after he suffered a stroke in August 2008, Kim’s reliance on his younger sister grew to the extent that she usually accompanied him on his field inspections.

Kyong-hui’s husband Jang Song-thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea, is a leading figure in the North Korean government.

On the back of Kim Jong-il’s trust, Jang has been at the center of power and been cited as the de-facto successor of Kim Jong-il.

When Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke, Jang managed the North Korean government almost like an acting leader. He was promoted to Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission in June 2010.

Kim Jong-il dispatched his siblings born from different mothers to overseas missions so that they could not interfere with his activities in North Korea.

Kim Jong-il’s stepmother Kim Song-ae, the second wife of Kim Il-sung, worked as chairwoman of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union until 1998. Since then, she has not appeared in public. Her son Kim Pyong-il is working as North Korean ambassador to Poland and her daughter Kim Kyung-jin is also overseas, married to Kim Kwang-sop, North Korean ambassador to Austria.

Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of Kim Jong-il and Sung Hye-rim, is not in Pyongyang either, after being purged through a power struggle. From the late 1990s to early 2000s, Jong-nam was considered to be the heir-apparent of Kim Jong-il. However, after he was caught trying to enter Japan using a fake passport to visit Disneyland in 2001, he was removed from the successor candidate list. Later, he told the media overseas that he was not interested in succeeding his father.

Jong-nam’s son Kim Han-sol, the grandson of Kim Jong-il, enrolled in a private international high school in Bosnia this year.

Besides Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-il had two other sons ― Kim Jong-chul and Kim Jong-un, born from his third wife Ko Young-hee. Jong-chul reportedly suffers from excessive secretion of hormones. Fond of Western culture, he was spotted at guitarist Eric Clapton’s concert in Singapore in February.

Kim Jong-il also had daughters Kim Sul-song and Kim Chun-song with his second wife Kim Young-suk but their activities have not been revealed to the outside world.

By Kim Yoon-mi