October 24, 2020

The Kim family’s code of silence: Speaking up can be dangerous

Speaking out, as some of Kim Jong Un's family members recently did, can cost people their lives

The May 27 Washington Post article entitled “The secret life of Kim Jong Un’s aunt, who has lived in the U.S. since 1998” drew my startled attention. It also brought immediately to mind the sad end of another Kim family relative who, two decades ago, decided to go public with his own recollections of being a peripheral member of North Korea’s royal family.

That, of course, was Yi Han Yong, the nephew of a mistress of Kim Jong Il, who was gunned down on the streets of Seoul in February 1997. He reportedly screamed out bbalgaengyi! (“Reds!”) when he was shot, with what forensic evidence determined was a Belgian-made Browning pistol, indicating he knew full well who had been sent on the mission to assassinate him. The two assailants, suspected of being members of North Korean Special Forces specially trained to infiltrate the South, melted away and were never apprehended. Yi succumbed to his mortal wounds in a Seoul hospital less than two weeks later.