Kim Pyong Il: North Korea’s Man in Poland

[imText1]In February 2005, when I met Kim Pyong Il in Poland for the first time, he told me that he favored ameliorating the human consequences of the division of Korea.

Afterwards he started to talk to the other people present there in a room at the North Korean embassy; one of them later told me that Kim Pyong Il is usually very discrete, and is rarely present at receptions in other embassies in Warsaw. He generally only goes to the Chinese and Russian embassies, and sometimes to the Romanian and Algerian ones as well. North Korea was a model for both communist Romania under Ceaucescu and Algeria, that’s why the North Korean ambassador has special ties with those countries. In addition, Shaif Badr Abdullah Qaid, the last Yemeni ambassador in Warsaw studied in Pyongyang in the 70’s and became Kim’s good friend; their conversations dealt with life in North Korea, but never about the private life of half brother of Kim Jong Il.

In February 2006, I had occasion to talk with Kim Pyong Il again during a reception on Kim Jong Il’s birthday. During this meeting I saw a confident Kim Pyong Il, happy in Poland. However our conversation remained very diplomatic; Kim agreed that Korea should be reunified peacefully.

I never talked with Kim In Kang (26), Kim Pyong Il’s son, but I did have the chance to meet his daughter Kim Eung Song (28) some 10 times, both with her friends and face to face. She was a very open person. She was not only a nice girl; she also had impressive languages-skills (she is fluent in English, Polish, French and presumably Russian). She had a great social life in Poland with many friends. However, her father ordered her to return to Pyongyang in 2007, where she was supposed to marry the son of a North Korean General. She refused for a time, but finally went back to the North Korean capital.

Kim Sun Gum (56), the wife of Kim Pyong Il is a very discreet person, and rarely talks to others. Theirs was an arranged marriage. The wedding was personally organized by Kim Il Sung. It is said that she has a political background; her family apparently comes from the special services.

The last time I met Kim Pyong Il, in February 2009, I told him that I was preparing a doctoral thesis about his extended family (Kim Il Sung has two official wives: Kim Jong Suk, the mother of Kim Jong Il and Kim Sung Ae who is Kim Pyong Il’s mother). He reacted violently, telling me it was too dangerous.

That was my last contact with Kim Pyong Il; we haven’t met again since.

Kim Jong Il has a younger sister called Kim Kyung Hee (married to Jang Sung Taek) as well as half-brothers Kim Pyong Il (55) and Kim Yong Il (deceased in 2000), and half-sister Kim Kyung Jin (51), who is married to Kim Kwang Sop, Ambassador to Austria. After being appointed successor to his father in 1974, Kim Jong Il sent his half-brothers and sisters to work in overseas missions so that they could not interfere with his power. Kim Pyong Il started out in Yugoslavia, before moving to Hungary in 1988. However, he was swiftly relocated to Bulgaria as part of a protest over the opening of diplomatic relations between Hungary and South Korea. He then went on to work in Finland, but since January 1998 has resided in Warsaw.

Nicolas Levi is a Polish free publisher whose interests are mainly connected with the Korean Peninsula.

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