According to the Korean Times, “The half-brother of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was recently appointed Pyongyang’s top envoy to the Czech Republic after serving 17 years as ambassador to Poland, a South Korean government official said Wednesday.

Kim Pyong-il is a younger brother of Kim Jong-il, the father of current leader Kim Jong-un. He will be replaced in Warsaw by Ri Gun, the director general for North American affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry, the official said on condition of anonymity. The sister of Kim Pyong Il, Kim Kyung Jin, already lived in the Czech Republic, with her husband Kim Kwang Sop, a current DPRK ambassador to Austria.

Kim Pyong Il (circled in red)
Kim Pyong Il (circled in red)

“It has been determined that Kim Pyong-il recently took office as ambassador to the Czech Republic and Ri Gun has received (Poland’s) agrement to become ambassador to Poland,” the official said, referring to diplomatic protocol in which a host country endorses a candidate for ambassador.

Cheong Seong-jang, a senior researcher at Seoul’s Sejong Institute, said the new assignment appears to be a move to prevent Kim Pyong-il from building a power base around him as he has held one position for 17 years.”Kim Pyong-il has been under Pyongyang’s watch and held in check all his life,” he said.”

Very early on Kim Jong Il disliked Kim Pyong Il due to his mother Kim Sung Ae. Kim Jong Il hated his stepmother because she was indirectly involved in the death of his natural mother, KimJong Suk, who died in 1949 from a hemorrhage during childbirth. Kim Jong Suk was jealous of Kim Sung Ae. She preferred to die than watching betrayals of her husband. 20 years later, when the succession topic emerged in the mind of Kim Il Sung, Kim Sung Ae proposed her husband that KimJong Il would be at the head of North Korea, Kim Pyong Il at the head of the army and Kim Yong Il at the head of the economy. Kim Jong Il, who was already a growing star of the Korean Workers’ Party, was against this idea. He fears that Kim Pyong Il would be too powerful. Kim Jong Il defined then KimSung Ae and her family (including her brothers) and children as “lateral branch” of the Kim Il Sung family. He wanted to legitimate that he was the only who could carry the fate of North Korea.According to defectors, Kim Pyong Il was unsatisfied of this treatment – being considered as a member of the side branch family. Kim Pyong Il wanted to be at the head of the KPA. Kim Jong Il refused it and tried to find a reason for expelling Kim Pyong Il from North Korea. Differences between Kim Jong Il and Kim Pyong Il really started when he entered the Security Guard Bureau following the Panmunjon axe incident on 18th July 1976. According to Bradley J. Martin, the Author of Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, during these times, Kim Pyong Il started to lead a dissolute life with his friends, Kim Pyong Ha and Kim Chang Ha in his residence in the Taesong district or at his father’s house in Amisan. He used to have some entertainment with female members of thePeople’s Army ensembles, offering gifts including watches with his name-engraved. His supporters started to scream all over the country „long live to Kim Pyong Il”. These acts were of course totally prohibited in the North Korean monolithic system. Kim Jong Il was informed about these events by 15 members of the older generation of the political department, and told Kim Chang Ha to be careful. Kim Jong Il gave also an order to Chon Mun Sop, a director of the Security Department, tolaunch an investigation on Kim Pyong Il. All material collected was then shown to Kim Il Sung who was angered by the reports. His reaction was immediate. Kim Pyong Il’s removal demission was ordered, and Kim Pyong Il was for a time discharged from the army.
After these events, Kim Pyong Il was no longer able to maintain his dignity and authority in the army and probably since this moment his army’s support for him was at least partially reduced. He was then sent to Moscow and to East Germany on the pretext of pursuing academic studies. Next step was Yugoslavia where he was sent as a military attaché in 1980. He was then an ambassador of North Korea to Hungary, Bulgaria,Finland, Poland and now Czech Reublic. In these case and being far away, he was not able to coordinate actions against Kim Jong Il.However, in the 90’s, some of Kim Pyong Il’s supporters conducted demonstrations on his behalf. In December 1994, fire was exchanged between the followers of Kim Jong Il and the followers of Kim Pyong Il in which eight major figures died and Kim Pyong Il’s followers were repressed.
In April 1995 there was a rumor which was sent from Seoul, in which Kim Pyong Il was summoned to North Korea because more than 50 of his followers were confined to their houses. Kim Pyong Il may be under the protection of the Polish government, like the eldest son of KimJong Il, Kim Jong Nam, who is actually living between France and China and rumored to be under French protection. . The whole  shows us, how Kim Pyong Il is far away from the North Korean Political Drama in spite of the unconfirmed diplomatic scandals involving the DPRK embassy in Poland.
Christopher Hill (left) and Ri Gun (right)
Christopher Hill (left) and Ri Gun (right)

According to the Korean Times, “A government official said Ri Gun’s appointment appears to be part of a generation change in the lineup of North Korean diplomats handling North American affairs”. Interestingly Ri Gun has often been in touch with Christopher Hill, a former US ambassador to Poland and the Head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis (Yonhap)

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