A N.Korean life shattered by Kim Jong-il's secret

Wed Feb 3, 2010 12:24pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jon Herskovitz and Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Kim Young-soon was a celebrated dancer who moved among North Korea's elite before she was sent to prison for nine years. Her crime? Knowing a secret about the private life of heir apparent Kim Jong-il.

It was the secret of an affair Kim Jong-il began in the 1960s with a married actress that he wanted kept from his father and founder of North Korea's ruling dynasty, Kim Il-sung, which even now is so sensitive it remains air-brushed from the reclusive state's official history.

Kim Jong-il would eventually father a son with the actress, a star of her time called Sung Hye-rim, or Song Hye-rim, who died in exile in Russia in 2002.

"I have lived a life that cannot be told without tears," Kim Young-soon, 72, told Reuters in Seoul, where she now works as a dance instructor after escaping to South Korea in 2003. "This is just the frightening way in which North Korea works."

Much of the story of Kim Young-soon, whose book "I was Sung Hye-rim's Friend" was published two years ago, have been verified by North Korean defectors, including former high-ranking officials in the secretive state.

Intelligence sources have also verified reports of Kim Jong-il's liaisons with Sung, whom is believed to have been one of his wives and the mother of Kim Jong-nam, who was born in 1971.

Sung, a school friend of Kim Young-soon, was one of the country's first big movie stars, with legions of fans including film buff Kim Jong-il.

Kim Young-soon was herself a well-known dancer who met the leader and his son at performances. Her family lived among the elite and her brother was a general who had helped capture Seoul in the early stages of the 1950-53 Korean War.   Continued...

<p>Former North Korean defector Kim Young-soon speaks during an interview with Reuters at her dancing institute in Seoul February 2, 2010. Kim was a celebrated dancer who rubbed elbows with North Korea's elite before she was sent to political prison for nine years because she knew a dirty little secret about the private life of leader Kim Jong-il. Picture taken February 2, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won</p>