The late Kim Jong-il, who according to news reports will be embalmed and placed on permanent display like his father, has a family from three different women. His eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was the result of an affair he had with the North Korean actress Song Hye-rim. In order to keep this liason a secret from his father, Kim Jong-nam spent some of his childhood growing up in the home of Song Hye-rang, sister of Song Hye-rim. For a while, Kim Jong-nam was the favoured successor to Kim Jong-il. That is, until 2001, when on a forged passport, he tried to visit Japan. The Japanese officials deported him. Since then, he’s been more or less outside of the family circle. He currently lives in China. He has a home in the Macau Special Administrative Region, China’s Las Vegas and until 1999 part of the Republic of Portugal. He also has a home and another family in Beijing. China is protecting him for the present and it’s a good thing, too. Kim Jong-nam has made comments to the media before (he speaks fluent English) that perhaps its now time for someone outside of his family to run the country.
Kim Jong-il married Kim Young-sook, who was apparently hand picked by Kim Il-sung to be Kim Jong-il’s bride. That union produced a daughter. Kim Jong-il later took up with the late Ko Young-hee, a former dancer in the Mansudae Art Troupe who caught his fancy. He had two more sons from this affair, Kim Jong-chol, the poetry-writing Eric Clapton-loving son who Kim Jong-il thought to be too girlish and too nice to run the country and Kim Jong-un, the current leader.
Kim Jong-nam has appeared in the Japanese media again, this time hinting that his half-brother’s hold on power isn’t that strong and that he will basically be a figurehead while the ruling elite continue to follow in Kim Jong-il’s footsteps. You can read more about this by clicking here.
Hereditary succession is not typical in Communist countries. The children of the “Great Helmsman” Mao Zedong had pretty tragic lives. The Kim family is something of an exception. In fact, just about anybody who was a member of Mao’s family faced tragedy someway or another. His first wife was married to him when he was 14. He never acknowledged the marriage and it quickly broke up. His second wife was executed by the Kuomintang, the party of Chiang Kai-shek which currently runs Taiwan for the moment. His third marriage broke up. His fourth wife, the infamous Madame Mao (Jiang Qing) was sentenced to death after Mao’s own death for treason for her role in the Cultural Revolution. Two of his brothers were executed by the Kuomintang, as was a sister. His eldest son, Mao Anying, volunteered to fight in the Korean War where he was killed. His son Mao Anqing, who died in 2007, suffered from mental illness off and on. Two other sons died fighting the Kuomintang during the Chinese civil war. Two of his daughters are still living, but they bear the family name of Li instead of Mao, because he had changed his name during the period they were born to avoid the Kuomintang. Mao’s grandson Mao Xinyu, son of Mao Anqing, has done pretty well for himself. He’s a general in the People’s Liberation Army and is a historian, something his grandfather would have definitely approved of. Despite his attempts at destroying China in order to rebuild it, Chairman Mao had an encyclopedic knowledge of China’s classical literature. His bed, when not occupied by various mistresses, was piled high with books of Chinese history and literature.