Long-held grudges, executions, an Eric Clapton concert—it's all there in a new 542-page memoir by a man the Wall Street Journal calls "North Korea's most high-profile defector in two decades." The New York Times reports on Thae Yong Ho's Cryptography From the Third-Floor Secretariat, which documents Thae's experiences as a diplomat for the North, a post he held until he escaped the country in 2016. Among the biggest Freudian-style revelations Thae offers in the book is the "tightly guarded secret" of Kim's mother, Ko Young Hee, a Japanese-born dancer shunned by Kim's grandfather, Kim Il Sung. Thae writes that Kim Jong Un's 2013 execution of his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was driven by animosity he'd had toward Jang since childhood because he blamed his uncle for driving a wedge between his mother and grandfather.
Even more intriguing are Thae's details on Kim's reclusive older brother Kim Jong Chul, who was reportedly passed over to take the North's reins because dad Kim Jong Il thought he was too "effeminate." Kim Jong Chul, said to be an "avid guitarist," apparently lives a high life courtesy of his powerful brother. Thae says that included a 2015 trip to London to see an Eric Clapton concert—a trip filled with unreasonable demands (Thae said he had to talk the brother out of forcing a London music store to open after hours), McDonald's runs, and a fanboy presence at the Clapton show. The Times notes Kim Jong Chul "was completely taken over by the music, standing up, wildly clapping and raising his fist." Thae's distaste for the Kim family solidified after seeing how they lived it up while North Koreans starved during the '90s famine. (Read more Kim Jong Un stories.)