(Photo: Reuters/KRT via Reuters TV)
The eldest brother of North Korea's new "supreme leader" believes that the leadership of Kim Jong-un is doomed to "fail," according to a new book released in Japan last Wednesday.
It is unclear what a failed state would mean for the citizens of North Korea and the nation's Christian population specifically, but indications point to massive upheavals and large-scale problems for the country as a whole.
"(Kim Jong-nam is) not comfortable that his younger brother is succeeding the power of Kim Jong-il. He sees his brother failing. He thinks he has a lack of experience, he's too young and he didn't have enough time to be groomed," Yoji Gomi, author of the new book told CNN last week.
The new book titled, My Father, Kim Jong Il, and Me, follows seven years of lengthy email discussions and interviews between the author and Kim Jong-nam, who lives in semi-exile in China.
In the book, Gomi stresses that Kim Jong-nam feels that his younger brother lacks the vision, power, and backbone necessary to press for the desperately needed reforms that would open the reclusive state and transform decades of social, economic, and political mismanagement – reforms that could possibly make North Korea a sustainable state.
The new comments stemming from Kim Jong-il's eldest son come only weeks after the brutal leader's death, and emerge at a time when significant questions loom about the leadership potential of the young and relatively inexperienced Kim Jong-un and his potential impact on human rights in the country.
North Korea serves as one of the most reclusive states on earth and North Koreans have been living for decades under oppressive social, political, religious and economic regulations that have turned mere survival into a key tenant of daily life.
Religious persecution in the country has been rife for ages and, following the death of Kim Jong-il, global Christian persecution organizations expressed grave concern that religious insecurity in the country would only get worse with the sudden and unexpected shift of power.
In fact, Christian persecution group Release International predicted that North Koreans would face the worst levels of Christian persecution in the world in 2012 and argue that since the death of Kim Jong-il, Christians in the country have already faced increased levels of suspicion by government forces.
North Korea has held the title for worst Christian persecutor in the world for nine consecutive years and Christians routinely face punishment, death, torture, imprisonment, and even more egregious human rights violations if discovered practicing their faith.
Thus, when it comes to leading one of the most repressive and tight-lidded countries in the world, Kim Jong-nam's questioning of the experience and capability of his younger brother is not without merit. How an inexperienced 28-year-old will chief the nuclear-armed nation is indeed a question of grave concern, not only for the 24 million North Koreas who live in unconscionable circumstances, but for the future of global security.
Several factors indicate that Kim Jong-nam's assessment is valid, whether or not the eldest son of Kim Jong-il made his comments out of spite over his brother's newly found responsibility or if he was genuinely expressing his concern for the future of his native homeland.
Even within in the tightly controlled and carefully orchestrated succession process, cracks have managed to emerge that illustrate that the comments stemming from Kim Jong-nam are grounded.
First, two of Kim Jong Il's three sons were not present at the funeral of their father, indicating a divide between the family that is sure to have future implications on the leadership of Kim Jong-un.
Second, despite North Korea's efforts to bolster their new "supreme leader," Kim Jong-un lacks the same decades of grooming and practice his father had prior to becoming the "dear leader," a reality likely to serve as an outside challenge to the viability of his new leadership for years to come.
"I have my doubts about whether a person with only two years of grooming as a leader can govern," Kim Jong-nam is quoted as saying in Gomni's new book.
Scott Snyder, a North Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations believes that the new criticism stemming from Kim Jong-un's brother might symbolize a sign of discord within Pyongyang's political elite and also holds that the commentary could possibly result in action from the young leader to silence both his brother and outside critics who perceive him as a "puppet" of the North Korean state machinery.
"This forthright public assessment of North Korea's succession makes Kim Jong-nam the foremost external critic of Kim Jong-un's succession and a direct challenger to the viability of Kim Jong-un's leadership," Snyder wrote in a piece he shared with The Christian Post regarding Kim Jong-nam's comments.
Although North Korea has used every opportunity to bolster the young man as a "military genius" and sell his credibility to the public and the global community, there is no certainty that the economically and socially unsustainable state machinery in North Korea will be able to survive another brutal dictatorship without making changes to the system.
Indeed, Kim Jong-nam's comments offer some rational perspective with regards to the sustainability of the repressive state. Nevertheless, many experts believe that things are not likely to change anytime soon and for now it appears that the next generation of North Koreans will be forced to endure the same oppression as their elders, Kim Jong-un or not.