SEOUL, South Korea — The bloody purges by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, of his country’s elites and the execution of his uncle were driven in part by his feelings about his mother, whose background is a tightly guarded secret in the country, according to a new book by a senior diplomat who defected.
The author, Thae Yong-ho, recounts in the book that Mr. Kim’s mother, Ko Young-hee, was born in Japan — something that was considered a serious shortcoming by North Korea’s ruling elites. Her marriage to Mr. Kim’s father was never endorsed by his paternal grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the nation’s founder.
Mr. Thae writes that since childhood, Kim Jong-un appeared to have blamed the uncle he had executed in 2013, Jang Song-thaek, for preventing Ms. Ko from befriending his paternal grandfather.
The 542-page book, titled “Cryptography From the Third-Flood Secretariat,” recounts Mr. Thae’s life as a North Korean diplomat before he fled to South Korea in 2016, becoming one of the highest-profile defectors from the North in years. He does not spare criticism of the secretive Kim family, which has ruled North Korea since its founding in the late 1940s.