There seems to have been no brotherly love lost between North Korean autocrat Kim Jong-un and his now dearly departed half-sibling, Kim Jong-nam.
Jong-nam, who died “mysteriously” in Malaysia last month after somehow clumsily bumping into two innocent by-standing ladies who just coincidentally were carrying poisoned facecloths doused in chemical weapons and who later fled the scene in a taxi, was not his late father’s favorite, even though he was older than the precarious Jong-un.
His chief crime, it seems, was having been born the illegitimate son of Song Hye-rim, a North Korean actress who was among Papa Kim Jong-il’s long list of mistresses.
Then, of course, there was that notorious little incident in which the once-heir apparent was caught brandishing a forged Dominican Republic passport back in 2001, allegedly so he could visit Tokyo Disneyland (blame it on Mickey).
And Jong-nam’s penchant for running around with a three-day beard and his shirttails sticking out (not exactly a presidential look).
But whatever the true cause of Jong-nam’s fall from North Korean dynastical grace, he had the good sense to skedaddle his way out of Pyongyang as soon as his father died in 2011 and his younger sib started terrifying the international community with his penis-substitute shows of phallic — oops, I meant ballistic — missiles and intermittent threats to drop nuclear bombs on Seoul.
And for the last six years, Jong-nam’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind strategy seemed to work, keeping him out of the crosshairs of the less-than-stable Jong-un (who knocked off his own uncle — once considered to be the second-most-powerful man in North Korea — in 2013, an ex-girlfriend and her beau in 2014, and his vice minister of education for slumping during a meeting in 2016).
But then Beijing started getting antsy about its uncontrollable YSL-smoking, Johnnie Walker-guzzling, Mecedes-Benz-racing puppet in Pyongyang, and the scruffy but relatively saner Jong-nam began to look like a viable option.
The thought of his brother threatening his infallible claim to the North Korean throne was more than Jong-un could handle, and so a dispatch of poison-needle-wheeling debutants was sent off to Kuala Lumpur to handle the situation.
Long story short, Kim Jong-nam is dead and Kim Jong-un’s position as North Korea’s dictator and chief is once again secure.
But then, there is always Jung-chul, Jung-un’s other older brother, who previously served as Jong-il’s deputy chief of the Worker’s Party of Korea and who, after Jong-un’s rise to power, has maintained a low profile in Pyongyang.
The 35-year-old Jong-chul was last spotted at an Eric Clapton concert in London in May of 2015. (Clapton is his favorite artist.)
Given recent events, the best advice for Jong-chul may be to keep his head down and stay out of brother Jong-un’s line of sight, or else, he too, may soon be shedding “Tears in Heaven.”
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]