Kim Pyong-il, born 10 August 1954) is the younger paternal half-brother of the former leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, and the only surviving son of former leader and president of North Korea Kim Il-sung. Kim Pyong-il resembles so much his father that it's almost scary. No wonder his older half-brother doesn't want to have him around, if that talk is true. Kim Pyong-il’s father is the same person as Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. Kim Pyong-il served as North Korean ambassador in a succession of eastern European embassies. Kim Jong Un's uncle returned to North Korea after quitting his job as the isolated nation's ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Kim Pyong-il was born to Kim Il-sung and Kim Song-ae, Kim Il-sung's former secretary, on 10 August 1954. Kim had one younger brother, Yong-il, and one older half-sister, Kyong-hui, who would go on to marry senior official Chang Sung-taek. He was named after another son with the same name, who was born in Vyatskoye in 1944; that son, also known as Shura Kim, allegedly drowned in Pyongyang in 1947. Kim Il-sung had three sons and two daughters from his two wives. His first wife, Kim Jong-sok, bore Kim Jong-il and daughter Kim Kyong-hui before she died. His second wife had Kim Kyong-jin—the wife of former North Korean Ambassador to Austria Kim Kwang-sop— and sons Pyong-il and Yong-il, a former councilor at the North Korean Embassy in Germany who died of liver cancer in 2000. He graduated from Kim Il-sung University with a major in economics, and later attended the Kim Il-sung National War College, following which he was appointed a battalion commander.
Kim Jong-il discriminated against his half-siblings and prevented their entry into the core elite. In 1976, Kim Pyong-il took over as armored truck battalion commander of the General Bureau of Security Guards. Six years later, he was appointed military attaché to Yugoslavia.
For a time, he and half-brother Pyong-il fought over the right to succeed their father. Kim Pyong-il's rivalry with half-brother Kim Jong-il goes back to the 1970s. Pyong-il, studied at a military academy, had more personal popularity than his older half brother and worked as one of his father's bodyguards. What is more, his mother, Kim Sung-ae, was the country's first lady and installed her own family members into the power structure to provide the support and push the succession claim for her son. It didn't work.
In those days, Kim Pyong-il was known as a womaniser who threw raucous parties; sometimes, attendees at these parties would shout, "Long live Kim Pyong-il!". Kim Jong-il knew that this could be portrayed as a threat to the cult of personality surrounding their father Kim Il-sung, and reported the matter; Kim Il-sung was reportedly infuriated, and thus Kim Pyong-il fell out of favor with his father while Kim Jong-il strengthened his position. Jong-il eventually won and has since had Pyong-il wander from one ambassadorial position to another.
Kim Pyong-il spent decades overseas, to avoid politics in his home country, beginning with the ambassadorship in Hungary in 1988. He was assigned as ambassador to Bulgaria in 1988, to Finland in 1994 and to Poland in 1998. Kim Pyong-il almost never made public statements or appearances. Some of the only photographs of him and his children, who were educated in Poland, dated from his visit to a small Polish town in 2007, which were published on the town's website. He was rarely seen at diplomatic soirées in Warsaw, putting in only occasional appearances at the Algerian, Russian and Syrian embassies.
In July 2015, he returned to Pyongyang to attend an ambassador meeting and met his nephew Kim Jong-un. Kim moved his uncle from Poland in early 2015 — where he was the North’s ambassador — to the Czech Republic after he was set to become dean of the diplomatic corps in Warsaw in 2014. Kim Pyong Il reportedly had a network of diplomatic connections in Poland after being North Korea’s envoy there for 16 years.
Lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee told reporters after a parliamentary audit of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) on 06 NOvember 2019 in western Seoul that NIS officials said North Korea’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, Kim Pyong-il, and the ambassador to Austria, Kim Kwang-sop, will probably return to the North “soon.” It appeared North Korean leader Kim was summoning them back into the North to keep closer tabs on them, part of ongoing efforts to solidify his reign. The North usually changes ambassadors every three to four years, but Kim Pyong-il and Kim Kwang-sop have been ambassadors in Europe for decades, implying their moves are highly unusual.
It seemed that Kim has decided to summon all the “royal family” members back to Pyongyang. Kim Jong-un is known to have ordered the killings of his uncle Jang Song-thaek in 2013 and his half brother Kim Jong-nam in 2017. He and his wife have two children.
Even with Kim Pyong Il’s high profile, experts said that his chances of becoming the next leader of North Korea are not high. “I consider that Kim Pyong Il cannot be the next leader of North Korea. He has no network, in North Korea, of people who are able to support him in being the leader,” Nicolas Levi of the Polish Academy of Sciences told RFA Thursday. Levi and other experts on North Korea’s elite met with Kim Pyong Il when he was the ambassador to Poland. “He was removed from the DPRK already in the very late ’70s. We must take into account that he spent more than 60 percent of his life being abroad,” said Levi, adding, “All his friends were all killed or are deceased or committed suicide, and that’s why he cannot be the next leader.” “Kim Pyong Il cannot have a good understanding of internal affairs,” said Levi, pointing out that the former ambassador only returned to North Korea one month out of every year while he was in Europe. Jiro Ishimaru, head of Asia Press, was doubtful about Kim Pyong Il’s prospects because of his lack of connection to the Mount Baekdu line. “I think the possibility of Kim Pyong Il becoming the successor of Kim Jong Un is zero, not one percent,” he said. “Under Kim Jong Un's rule, in June 2013, North Korea revised the '10 Principles on the Establishing of the Monolithic Ideology of the Party'. These principles are above the North Korean constitution, the party regulations in North Korea,” Ishimaru said. “The revision included an addition of a sentence which emphasized the importance of keeping the spirit of the Party and Revolution forever with the bloodline of Mt. Baekdu, and stick to the purity of the bloodline. Kim Pyong Il [as Kim Jong Il’s half-brother] is what they call an 'offshoot', not the main trunk,” he added.
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