Kim Jong-Il's Rogue Chef Gloomy on Future

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Just about everyone else with any connection to the Korean peninsula has weighed in on North Korea's succession drama and unprovoked artillery attack on South Korea, so it was probably only a matter of time until former personal chef to Kim Jong-Il and four-time author Kenji Fujimoto shared his views. Fujimoto, who spent years as the dictator's cook before fleeing, left behind his wife and two children but gained what has become a lucrative career writing autobiographies as one of the few men outside North Korea who knows Kim personally.

So what does Fujimoto think about the future of North Korea as Kim Jong-Il recedes and Kim Jong-Un, the 26-year-old heir apparent, steps up? The Wall Street Journal's Jaeyeon Woo reports from Fujimoto's press conference that the chef-in-exile suspects the awful status quo will continue.

In a meeting with a group of reporters in Seoul last week, he said he doubted a recent change in North Korea’s leadership is going to lead to positive policy changes any time soon.

Kim Jong Eun, the dictator’s third son who’s emerged as his likely successor, will ultimately have to open up the country, above all, to feed people, Mr. Fujimoto said. But the younger Kim won’t be able to do so in the near term because of his fragile standing in the party.

“He will have no choice but to continue policies set by his father at least for several years,” Mr. Fujimoto said. “So it’s not until a decade later when a policy change, if any, would materialize.”

The Journal's Woo adds that Fujimoto is still discovering the outside world that he knew so little about while living in the hermit kingdom. "The regime’s tight grip on the spread of information was reinforced during the presser when he said he never knew the existence of prison camps while he was there," Woo writes.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.