Where is Kim Kyong Hui?
Depending on who you believe, the sister of Kim Jong Il and aunt of Kim Jong Un has been hanging out in Switzerland, hanging on “in a vegetative state after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor,” still very much in power or dead.
One thing is for sure: Ms. Kim hasn’t been seen in public since at least September 2013, leaving unanswered one of the great mysteries following the execution last December of Jang Song Thaek, Ms. Kim’s husband and the man once regarded as Kim Jong Un’s regent.
Now, one prominent defector says he has the answer: Ms. Kim committed suicide by poisoning herself on Dec. 17 last year — just five days after Mr. Jang’s execution, and on the second anniversary of her brother Kim Jong Il’s death.
The defector, Kim Heung-kwang, has been proved right before. A graduate of Pyongyang’s elite Kim Chaek University of Technology and a former computer science professor, Mr. Kim defected to South Korea in 2004.
Mr. Kim won plaudits for being the first to report on North Korea’s currency revaluation in late 2009.
Now, Mr. Kim says, his sources inside the country — whom he says he pays for information — are saying that Ms. Kim has been dead for nearly a year. That would explain why she hasn’t been seen publicly in North Korea’s official press. It would also explain, he says, why Ms. Kim was edited out of reruns of an official documentary in April — only to reappear in reruns two weeks later.
“They would never do that to somebody who was still alive,” Mr. Kim said in an interview.
Mr. Kim, who credits his sources with the information, says that Ms. Kim killed herself in anger. “She didn’t have the will to live,” he said.
According to the account, Ms. Kim was found in her residence on the morning of the second anniversary of her older brother’s death — a symbolic day usually accompanied by a high-level visit to the Dear Leader’s mausoleum. After Ms. Kim was found poisoned, she was immediately rushed to the hospital, where doctors tried to save her.
Even more dramatically, Ms. Kim, in a testament that she left behind, cursed Kim Jong Un for the savage execution of her husband — part of the reason why Ms. Kim never got a funeral of her own, nor any acknowledgment in Pyongyang’s official media of Ms. Kim’s death, the story goes.
If that’s the case, it would complicate a belief among some North Korea analysts that Mr. Jang and Ms. Kim were estranged. It would also contradict a report by South Korea’s spy agency last December that asserted Ms. Kim was “alive and in good health.” Immediately after Mr. Jang’s execution, Ms. Kim was included on a list of senior officials, suggesting she remained a part of the regime’s inner circle.
If Ms. Kim indeed killed herself last year, it still likely wouldn’t settle an ongoing debate among North Korea watchers about whether or not Kim Jong Un has solidified his grip over the levers of power. One school of thought argues that Mr. Jang’s execution — if it was indeed ordered by the youngest Mr. Kim — was his way of shoring up power.