Yoji Gomi, a senior reporter at the Tokyo Shimbun who extensively interviewed the late Kim Jong Nam, on Friday said he was personally very shocked at his assassination and that he hoped people would learn more about his life and public statements criticizing North Korea’s government.
“I went through considerable risks to meeting with him, but what I’d like to do now is to praise his courage,” Gomi told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
“Even if he may have sent a letter (to Kim Jong Un) to plead for his life, I believe there was determination on his part to criticize the system in place within North Korea.”
In January 2012, Gomi published a book entitled “Kim Jong Nam: My Father, Kim Jong Il and Me,” which is based on more than 150 email exchanges and seven hours of interviews conducted in both Beijing and Macao.
“There are many rumors such as he is a playboy, he has complicated female relations and he is addicted to gambling, but in fact he was very intellectual, polite and humorous, so there was a huge gap,” Gomi said.
Gomi said he became interested in Kim Jong Nam when he happened to meet him by coincidence in 2004 at Beijing Capital International Airport. They then began an email correspondence.
Gomi said his Chinese wife was also deeply shocked to learn of Kim’s death, as she had accompanied him to interview Kim in Macao in January 2011.
“She cried several times last night,” he said, adding that his wife had been strongly opposed to his publishing a book on Kim.
On Kim’s views on politics, Gomi said: “He was critical of the North Korean regime. He said that the hereditary succession of power is ill-suited to socialism and that a leader should be selected through a democratic process. He also said the only way for North Korea could survive is to introduce Chinese’s style policy of reform and of opening doors.”
“If you think he was assassinated because he made such statements and the book was published, rather, the focus should be made on the fact that such comments could lead to the extermination of a human being,” Gomi said.
Gomi said Kim had visited Japan at least five times.
Gomi told reporters what he believed to be the most memorable quotes by Kim.
“Kim said he likes to drink sake in luxurious restaurants in Tokyo,” Gomi said. “In there, ethnic South Koreans, ethnic North Koreans as well as ordinary Japanese sing and drink sake all together. He said he wished to have a world without any borders in such a way. I write articles related to foreign diplomacy, and I sometimes do so by recalling his words…”
“I hope many people learn to know his words, and then it will… become a force to change North Korea.”
Featured image: Kosuke Takahashi
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