The relatives of Kim Il Sung’s first wife Kim Jong Suk are living in a small village some distance away from Chongjin in North Hamgyong Province, report sources in North Korea.
“Seven generations of the Kim Jong Suk family are living in Sinjin-dong, Sinam District, in Chongjin,” said a North Korean source based in North Hamgyong Province on January 11. “They are treated like prime ministers and live in two-story houses of around 3,500 square feet.”
“The houses have four rooms each with heating, electricity and gas for cooking,” he noted, adding that “there’s also a store in the area exclusively for the relatives to use.”
According to the Korea Institute for National Unification’s 2017 report “Welfare and Marketization in North Korea,” all personnel ranked cabinet deputy minister or higher receive a single-story or two-story luxury house with a yard, while also receiving 700 grams of food, three kinds of grains, meat, vegetables, cigarettes and beer each week.
The North Korean authorities refer to Kim Jong Suk (who is Kim Jong Il’s mother) as “the Great Mother of Chosun (North Korea)”. The North Korean media also contends that Kim Jong Suk’s greatest achievement was the birth of Kim Jong Il. The regime’s propaganda machine has sought to idolize the entire Kim family since 1997, calling Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Suk the “Three Great Generals of Mount Paektu.” However, according to the “2017 Mt. Paektu Declaration,” Kim Jong Un has been promoted to “Third General,” replacing his grandmother.
Security in the area near Kim Jong Suk’s relatives is tight, according a separate source in North Hamgyong Province, who said that even local residents know very little about them, given the secrecy surrounding their presence.”
“There are many local residents who don’t even know that the relatives live here. Most Chongjin residents are only aware that provincial Party officials are living in the area,” he explained.
“The area is under the protection of the provincial police and armed guards are on the road leading up to the houses. Ordinary residents can’t enter the premises, and those that have a reason to enter need to be met outside by the person they plan to meet.”
“I never heard that Kim Jong Suk’s relatives lived in Sinjin-dong,” said a defector from Chongjin who defected in 2010. “But I did hear that high-level officials including Party officials lived there.”
According to the Korean Institute for National Unification’s 2016 report ‘North Korea’s National Market Information: Focused on the Current Status of Official Markets’, there are no major markets near Sinjin-dong, but it is nonetheless a residential area preferred by the wealthy and powerful. The report states that Party officials and donju prefer the area specifically because there are no busy markets.
There are still questions remaining, however, about why Kim Jong Suk’s relatives are not living in Hoeryong, Kim Jong Suk’s hometown. Hoeryong is relatively more modernized in comparison to other areas and the North Korean authorities have long made efforts to develop the city into a pilgrimage site.
“Six degrees of kinship live in North Korea, from what I’ve heard,” said Seo Jae Pyong, secretary general of the North Korean Defectors Association.
“If that’s true, then relatives who never personally knew Kim Jong Suk would be living together [in Sinjindong] […] There’s a possibility that the regime put them all in one remote place to make it easier for them to receive special treatment.”