According to a Japanese daily newspaper, Sankei Shimbun, in April Kim Jong Il’s eldest son Jong Nam asked for political asylum in the Macau Special Administrative Region of China.
The report claims that North Korea’s National Security Agency (NSA) arrested several of Jong Nam’s closest associates in Pyongyang on April 3rd, and apparently on April 4th his wife Choi Hye Ri called him from Beijing to report their detention the night before.
On the 7th Jong Nam is reported to have called one of his associates in a foreign country and told him that looming affairs meant he could not go back to Pyongyang.
Jong Nam is said to have asked the Macau authorities for asylum because he believed he was at risk of being purged.
A source in the South Korean intelligence authorities was non-committal, “Were Jong Woon to have been confirmed as the successor, such a scenario would be feasible, but we have not heard any confirmation of the story.”
The newspaper explained that Kim Jong Il’s brother-in law, Jang Sung Taek, started establishing the succession around the military after conducting interviews with Jong Nam, Jong Cheol and Jong Woon in early March, which may have triggered events.
Jong Nam is the only son of the late Sung Hye Rim. Since he was young, Jong Nam has witnessed how Kim Jong Il’s uncle Kim Hyung Ju, stepmother Kim Sung Ae and half brother Kim Pyong Il have tended to be treated as a “side-branch” of the family, politically impotent. He travels by commercial airlines and with a meager security detail, which some experts view as reflecting his standing in the North Korean ruling family.