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From the Archives - an Interview with Kim Jong Il  

For the last nine months Jonathan Dimbleby has been spending every waking moment in the company of Kim Jong Il, the natural heir to the throne in North Korea, in order to make a TV documentary on him. They quickly established a working relationship, says Dimbleby: one  talked, the other listened. And now, as Kim Jong Il is on the verge of stepping into his late father's shoes, we bring you some extracts from their conversation to give you some idea of what this shadowy character is like, this far-off ruler who could have such an effect on all our lives.

A Korean garden at cherry blossom time. Casually, informally, Kim Jon Il is sitting on a bench. Casually, yet formally, Dimbleby is standing, asking him questions.

Dimbleby: There is one thing I should like to clear up at the outset, your Mightiness. Kim Jong Il is a funny sort of name. What does it mean?

Kim Jong: Actually, my name is just Kim Jong, like my grandfather, so my father called me Kim Jong the second, or Kim Jong II, but everyone has misread this as Kim Jong Il.

Dimbleby: Your radiance, when did you first realise that you would one day become ruler of this land?

Kim Jong: It was on my fifth birthday. My father had asked me what I wanted as a present, and I had said I wanted some toys. He smiled and shook his head and said he had something very special for me. He was going to make me the Deputy Chairman of the North Korean Communist party.

Dimbleby: Not many 5-year-olds have been offered that.

Kim: No.

Dim: What did you do?

Kim: I burst into tears.

Dim: Why?

Kim: Because I wanted toys.

Dim: What did your father say?

Kim: He explained that it was my destiny to rule this country when he had died, and I had better start learning soon.

Dim: Did this make for a difficult childhood?

Kim: It certainly did. I wasn't allowed to mix with any other boys.

Dim: Why not?

Kim: Because I kept stealing their toys.

Dim: How have you seen your role as heir apparent?

Kim: As an envoy for my country, and as a sort of super-salesman for our products.

Dim: But you haven't got any products.

Kim: This is true. As a boy I had no toys and as a salesman I had no products. This may explain why I have gone off the rails at times.

Dim: Is this a reference to your life of fast cars, booze and women?

Kim: You bet.

Dim: As you must be aware, there have been rumours that your marriage has not always been monogamous....

Kim: You mean, I have tried to sleep with every North Korean woman of marriageable age? This is true.

Dim: What does your wife think of this?

Kim: She gets her turn. She cannot grumble.

Dim: Well, perhaps we should move on to how you see your role as the new ruler. When you take office, you will swear a solemn and binding oath to serve your country well. How do you see that duty?

Kim: As a clear obligation to drop nuclear bombs on Japan.

Dim: What will that achieve?

Kim: Peace of mind.

Dim: In what sense?

Kim: For thousands of years we have been persecuted and enslaved and beaten by the Japanese. It will be nice to get our own back.

Dim: You're not serious about bombing Japan, are you?

Kim: No, but they don't know that.

At this point there is a huge explosion somewhere near by. Dimbleby looks alarmed but Kim Song Il shows no reactions.

Dim: What on earth was that?

Kim: Oh, just a routine test. Or maybe they are clearing the roads in preparation for my outing by car.

Dim: Why do they clear the roads when you go out?

Kim: You obviously haven't seen me driving.

Dim: May I ask what your relationship with your father has been like?

Kim: I never forgave him for not giving me toys and I hate him more than I can say. On the other hand, I have done everything I can to make his life longer.

Dim: Why?

Kim: The longer he lives, the less chance there is that I will have to take over.

Dim: Don't you want to take over?

Kim: No. It's a hard act to follow.

Dim: But one day your father must die, and then you must take over, your Mighty Fragrance.

Kim: If that happens, I shall bomb Japan, and then abdicate.

Dim: Isn't that a touch irresponsible, your Immaculateness?

Kim: If you'd had Kim Il Sung as your father all your life, you'd behave a touch irresponsibly when you got the chance...

The Independent Tuesday July 12 1994



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