Graveyard sheds light on Kim Jong Un’s South Korean heritage

JEJU: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has threatened Seoul with fiery destruction, but as a remote graveyard on a resort island shows, he has closer links to the South than he might like to admit.

At a cemetery in a hard-to-find corner of South Korea’s Jeju island, there are 13 tombstones bearing the Ko family name – Kim’s relatives through his mother, Ko Yong Hui.

Jong Un is the third member of the Kim family to rule North Korea, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather – what official hagiography calls the “Paektu bloodline”.

But the Jeju graves tell a wider story.

Kim’s mother was born in Osaka in 1952 to a native Jeju islander who emigrated to Japan in 1929, when the Korean peninsula was under Tokyo’s colonial rule.

Many of her family, including Kim’s maternal great-grandfather, are buried on Jeju, their overgrown graves a stark contrast to Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the embalmed bodies of Kim’s father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung lie in state.

After Kim came to power in 2011 following the death of his father, many experts highlighted his mother’s South Korean and Japanese heritage. Pyongyang has never confirmed it.

The regime “must have feared confirmation would undermine its legitimacy”, Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute, told AFP.

The Kim dynasty bases its claim to power on Kim Il Sung’s role as a guerrilla fighter driving out Japan and winning Korea its independence in 1945.

“Korea-Japan heritage runs directly counter to the North Korean myth of its leadership,” Cheong said.

Source: Channel News Asia

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