They've never met, but Kim Jong Un's brother, who lives a life of exile in Macau, thinks the new leader of North Korea is too inexperienced and will wind up the victim of a military coup. And that may be a sign of hope for North Korea. In his new book My Father, Kim Jong Il, and Me, about Kim Jong Il's eldest son Kim Jong Nam, Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi paints a portrait of a "smart, overweight playboy" (as one professor described Jong Nam) who has little faith in the future of the land of his birth. Gomi told CNN that Jong Nam "thinks he (Kim Jong Un) has a lack of experience, he's too young, and he didn't have enough time to be groomed." Agence France-Press, which previewed the book, quoted Jong Nam: "My father governed the country with the backing of the military, but the power of the military has become too strong," Jong Nam reportedly told Gomi in one of many interviews. "If the succession ends in failure, the military will wield the real power for sure."
But according to analysis in The Atlantic on Tuesday, Jong Un's weak hold on power could be the first step toward an open North Korea. Jonathan Levine, a lecturer in American Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, made the comparison between the death of Kim Jong Il and that of Mao Zedong, whose successor couldn't hold power and was shortly replaced by the pragmatic Deng Xiaoping, who "would go on to usher in China's storied economic opening and transform the country." In order for Deng to successfully open China's economy, Mao's successor Hua Guofeng had to fail and a new leader who actually held sway had to replace him. With China's example to follow, and pressure from the world's second-largest economy across its border, "A North Korean opening in the near future is probable," Levine writes. From what Jong Nam says, he may be right.