Kim Jong Il, the former leader of North Korea, planned to end the hereditary system of rule that handed power to his son Kim Jong Un, says a top South Korean spy.

In a move that could have put the hermit nation on a radically different course, the elder Kim planned to create a 10 strong-committee that would run the country, according to Ra Jong Yil, the former head of South Korea's national intelligence service. Ra, who also served as Seoul's ambassador to both London and Tokyo, said Kim Jong Il's plans were thwarted by a combination of his sudden death in 2011, jostling for influence among the 10 chosen members of his committee and the determination of Kim Jong Un to seize power.

"Even when he was in good health, some of those close to Kim Jong Il suggested that he should name one of his children as his successor, but he brushed those suggestions aside on at least two occasions. He said the most rational solution was a 10-strong leadership committee and for the Kim family to become [just] the figurehead."

But those who were selected to serve on the committee "would not trust each other". Kim Jong Un also put up a stronger-than-anticipated fight for the dictatorship.


Ra's insights are in The Path Taken by Jang Song-thaek: A Rebellious Outsider. The book focuses on the life of Jang Song Thaek, the uncle who guided Kim Jong Un through the difficult first months of his dictatorship. For his troubles, Jang was executed in December 2013. In effect, according to Ra's account, Jang was executed because Kim Jong Un regarded his former mentor as a threat. "My main objective with the book is to give a voice to a dead man," said Ra. "It was murder carried out by an unchecked political power."