Political intrigue part of relationship between Kim Jong-un and siblings

(AP File Photo)

(CNN) — A look at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s siblings shows that his sister may be on the political rise, while one of his brothers was supposedly spotted at an Eric Clapton concert in London recently, and another one is said to be a heavy gambler.

Kim Jong-chul, older brother of the North Korean dictator, has gone to Clapton concerts all over the world and has plenty of time and money on his hands since analysts say he was passed over for the leadership position in favor of his younger brother.

“Kim Jong-chul was not seen as being capable of dealing with the blood-sport which is North Korean politics,” says Ken Gause of the Center for Naval Analyses, “especially as you move from succession period to consolidation period. And unlike his brother Kim Jong-un, he was seen as being potentially too weak.”

Analysts say Kim Jong-chul is in a network of children of the elites who allegedly bring in money for the regime from black market deals.

Another brother who was passed over is Kim Jong-un’s oldest, Kim Jong-nam. He reportedly embarrassed the family in 2001 when he was caught trying to get to Tokyo’s Disneyland on a fake Dominican passport. Kim Jong-nam is said to spend his days traveling and gambling.

So which sibling has real influence? Gause says it’s not Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, though she is on the political rise.

Gause says there’s another, shadowy older sister: Kim Sol-song. She’s the “purest of the pure,” he says, because she’s the only one among Kim and his siblings ever officially recognized by their grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung.

“She is a person who has her finger on the pulse of the regime,” Gause says, “and she is probably helping Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong in mentoring them in the relationship-building that needs to be done for Kim Jong-un to be able to consolidate his power.”

And to help consolidate that power, Kim and his family run a ruthless network of spies. One former spy told CNN that North Korea has legions of operatives inside the U.S. and South Korea to keep them from defecting. Kim’s regime is said to use what they call “anchor children.”

“Certainly an agent would be operating by him or herself in South Korea would have their family left behind, and North Korea would use that as leverage,” says Bruce Klinger of the Heritage Foundation.

Another former North Korean spy told CNN that his entire family was executed back in North Korea to punish him for not fulfilling his mission. Agents who’ve defected have consistently said if they’re caught, they’re under orders to commit suicide, rather than fall into enemy hands.

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