TOKYO (AFP) - The older brother of Kim Jong-Un has reportedly told a Japanese newspaper that he believes North Korea's new leader is likely to be merely a symbol used by ruling elites to maintain their grip on power.
The Tokyo Shimbun, which has interviewed Kim Jong-Nam in the past, said Thursday it had received an email from the exiled son of the secretive state's late strongman in which he opposed the notion of inherited power.
"Anyone with normal thinking would find it difficult to tolerate three generations of hereditary succession," said the email, which the paper said was sent on January 3.
"I question how a young heir with two years (of training as a successor) would be able to inherit... absolute power," he said, according to the paper's Japanese translation of the message.
"It is likely that the existing power elites will succeed my father by keeping the young successor as a symbol."
The article was bylined Yoji Gomi, who next week publishes a book based on his extensive interviews with Kim Jong-Nam and e-mail exchanges between them.
Kyodo news agency has previously reported that Gomi became acquainted with Kim Jong-Nam after the pair met in Beijing in 2004.
The reporter interviewed Kim in Macao and Beijing last year for a total of around seven hours, the agency said.
Jong-Un was propelled to power by the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, which was announced on December 19.
His half-brother Jong-Nam has lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau, for many years after falling out of favour with his father, who in turn inherited the rule of the impoverished country from his own father.
Two years ago and with his health rapidly deteriorating, Kim Jong-Il moved Jong-Un -- believed to be in his late 20s -- into the position of designated successor, giving him military posts and raising his profile.
Jong-Nam last year gave an interview to the Tokyo Shimbun in which he said he opposed the idea of a power transfer within North Korea's first family.
"Hereditary succession did not happen even under Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong," he said at the time. "(Hereditary succession) does not fit socialism and my father was against it."
Tokyo Shimbun said Jong-Nam did not directly respond to questions over whether he attended the elaborate funeral and memorial ceremony for his father in North Korea.
Earlier this month, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported Jong-Nam secretly visited Pyongyang after learning about his father's death, and before it was publicly announced two days later.
김정남 "김정은 권력 유지 의문"
"정상적 사고라면 3대세습 용인 어려워"
북한 고(故) 김정일 국방위원장의 장남인 김정남이 북한의 3대 세습을 비판했다고 도쿄신문이 12일 보도했다.
이 신문은 김정남이 지난 3일 자사에 보낸 이메일에서 "정상적인 사고를 갖고 있다면 3대 세습을 용인하기 어렵다"면서 (부친에 의한) 37년간의 절대권력을 (후계자 교육이) 2년 정도인 젊은 세습 후계자가 어떻게 이어나갈 것인지는 의문이다"라고 밝혔다고 전했다.
김정남은 또 "젊은 후계자를 상징으로 존재시키면서 기존의 파워엘리트가 아버지의 뒤를 이어나갈 것으로 보인다"고 전망했다.
김정남이 부친 사망 이후 북한 체제와 후계에 대해 심경을 밝힌 것은 이번이 처음이다.
그는 작년 1월 중국 국내에서 있었던 도쿄신문 기자와 인터뷰에서도 "중국의 마오쩌둥 주석조차 세습을 행하지않았다"고 북한의 3대 권력세습을 비판하면서도 "내부적 사정이 있다면 따르겠다"고 밝힌 바 있다.
이 신문은 김정남이 작년 12월 19일 부친의 사망 발표 직후 이메일 인터뷰에서 "신변에 위험한 일이 일어날 가능성이 있어 기본적으로 취재에 응하지 않겠다"고 말했다고 전했다.
김정남은 작년 말 있었던 부친의 영결식 참여 여부에 대해서는 언급을 하지 않 았다. (연합뉴스)