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Kim Jong-nam

Kim Jong-nam
Kim Jong-un's brother
Personal details
Born (1971-05-10) May 10, 1971
Pyongyang, North Korea
Nationality North Korean
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Spouse(s) Shin Jong-hui
Relations Kim Jong-il (father)
Song Hye-rim (mother)
Kim Il-sung (grandfather)
Kim Sul-Song (sister)
Kim Jong-un (half brother)
Kim Jong-chul (half brother)
Children Son (Kim Han-sol) (born c. 1995)
Son (Kim Jimmy) (born c. 1997)
Daughter (Kim Sol Hui) (born c. 1995)
Residence Macau
Alma mater Kim Il-sung university
Military service
Allegiance  North Korea
Service/branch Korean People's Army
Kim Jong-nam
Chosŏn'gŭl 김정남
Hancha 金正男
Revised Romanization Gim Jeong-nam
McCune–Reischauer Kim Chŏng-nam

Kim Jong-nam (Chosŏn'gŭl: 김정남; Hanja: 金正男; born May 10, 1971) is the eldest son of the late Kim Jong-il, former Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. From roughly 1994 to 2001, he was widely considered to be the heir apparent to his father and the next leader of North Korea. Following a much-publicized botched attempt to secretly enter Japan using a fake passport and visit Tokyo Disneyland in May 2001, he was thought to have fallen out of favor with his father.[1] Kim Jong-nam's younger paternal half-brother Kim Jong-un was named heir apparent in September 2010.[2] In exile, Jong-nam has become known as an occasional critic of his family's regime and an advocate for reform.[3]


  • Life and career 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • 1998–2001: Time as heir apparent 1.2
    • 2001 Tokyo Disneyland incident 1.3
    • 2001–2005: Loss of favor 1.4
    • 2005–present: Rise of Kim Jong-un 1.5
    • 2015 Foreign Ministry post 1.6
  • Personal life 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Life and career

Early life

Kim Jong-nam was born in Pyongyang, to Song Hye-rim, one of three women known to have had children with Kim Jong-il. Because Kim Jong-il aimed to keep his affair with Song a secret due to the disapproval of his father Kim Il-sung, he initially kept Jong-nam out of school, instead sending him to live with Song's older sister Song Hye-rang, who tutored him at home.[4]

Kim Jong-nam is reported to have a personality similar to that of his father, and has been described by his aunt as being "hot-tempered, sensitive, and gifted in the arts".[5] The same aunt also said in 2000 that Jong-nam "does not wish to succeed his father."[5] Like Kim Jong-il, he is interested in film: he has written scripts and short films since he was young.[5] His father also created a small movie set for him to use.[5]

According to the Japanese magazine Shukan Shincho, Kim Jong-nam has made several clandestine visits to Japan, starting as early as 1995.[5] A book about the Kim family, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin, reported that during the late 1990s, Kim Jong-nam became "a familiar figure" at a bathhouse in Yoshiwara, one of Tokyo's red light districts.[5]

1998–2001: Time as heir apparent

In 1998, Kim Jong-nam was appointed to a senior position in the Ministry of Public Security, the DPRK security apparatus, indicating that he was being promoted as a future leader. He was also reported to have been appointed head of the DPRK Computer Committee, in charge of developing an information technology (IT) industry. In January 2001, he accompanied his father to Shanghai, where he had talks with Chinese officials on the IT industry.

2001 Tokyo Disneyland incident

In May 2001, Kim was arrested on arrival at Dominican Republic passport using a Chinese alias, Pang Xiong,[6] which means "fat bear" in Mandarin Chinese.[7] Kim Jong-nam was reportedly wearing a white shirt and dark blazer along with sunglasses and a gold chain. After being detained for several days, he was deported, on the instructions of the Japanese government, to the People's Republic of China. Kim Jong-nam apparently told his questioners that he was in Japan to visit Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo. The incident caused Kim Jong-il to cancel a planned visit to China due to embarrassment.

2001–2005: Loss of favor

Until the Tokyo incident, Kim was expected to become leader of the country after his father. In February 2003, the Korean People's Army began a propaganda campaign under the slogan "The Respected Mother is the Most Faithful and Loyal Subject to the Dear Leader Comrade Supreme Commander." Since the "Respected Mother" was described as "[devoting] herself to the personal safety of the comrade supreme commander," and "[assisting] the comrade supreme commander nearest to his body," it is assumed that the "Respected Mother" is Ko Young-hee, and that the campaign was designed to promote Kim Jong-chul or Kim Jong-un, her sons. (A similar campaign was launched in praise of Kim Jong il's mother during the later years of Kim Il-sung's life.)

It is believed that Kim Jong-un, Jong-nam's youngest half-brother, became the new heir apparent due to this incident.[8] Since the loyalty of the Army is the real foundation of the Kim family's continuing hold on power in the DPRK, this was a serious development for Kim Jong-nam's prospects.[8] In late 2003, it was reported that Kim Jong-nam was living in Macau, lending strength to this belief.

Kim Jong-un was left in charge while his father was on a state visit to China.[8] Outsider observers also believe that the North Korea's sinking of a South Korean ship in March 2010 was part of a Byzantine attempt to secure succession for the youngest Kim.[8]

Kim says he fell out of favour because he had become an advocate for reform after being educated in Switzerland, leading his father to decide that he had turned "into a capitalist". In an email to the editor of Tokyo Shimbun, Kim wrote "After I went back to North Korea following my education in Switzerland, I grew further apart from my father because I insisted on reform and market-opening and was eventually viewed with suspicion," adding "My father felt very lonely after sending me to study abroad. Then my half brothers Jong-chol and Jong-un and half sister Yeo-jong were born and his adoration was moved on to them. And when he felt that I'd turn into a capitalist after living abroad for years, he shortened the overseas education of my brothers and sister."[9]

2005–present: Rise of Kim Jong-un

It was reported in the South China Morning Post on 1 February 2007, that Kim Jong-nam had been living incognito with his family in Macau, for some three years, and that this was a cause of some embarrassment to both the Macanese and Chinese governments.

South Korean television and the South China Morning Post reported in 2007 that Kim Jong-nam had a Portuguese passport. However, Portuguese authorities and the Portuguese consul in Macau,[10] Pedro Moitinho de Almeida, stated that "If such a document indeed exists, it is certainly a forgery."

In August 2007, it was reported that Kim Jong-nam had returned to the DPRK from Macau and had begun working at a key agency of the ruling Workers' Party, fueling speculation that the rift between Kim Jong-nam and his father had at least partially mended and that Kim Jong-nam was being groomed as a potential successor.[11] It was verified later on that this was a rumour and that Kim Jong-nam is still staying in Beijing and Macau as before while travelling to Austria and France for medical reasons early November 2007 where he gave a short interview to a Japanese TV channel after going to Moscow.

In January 2009, Kim Jong-nam said he had "no interest" in taking power in North Korea after his father, stating that it is only for him to decide.[12]

In June 2010, Kim Jong-nam gave a brief interview to the Associated Press in Macau while waiting for a hotel elevator.[13] He told the reporter that he had "no plans" to defect to Europe, as the press had recently rumoured.[13] Kim Jong-nam lived in an apartment on the southern tip of Macau's Coloane Island until 2007.[14] An anonymous South Korean official reported in October 2010 that Jong-nam had not lived in Macau for "months", and now shuttles between China and "another country."[14]

In late September 2010, his younger half-brother Kim Jong-un was made heir-apparent.[15][16] Kim Jong-un was declared Supreme Leader of North Korea on 24 December 2011 after the death of Kim Jong-il.

On 1 January 2012, the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Kim Jong-nam secretly flew to Pyongyang from Macau on 17 December 2011, after learning about his father's death that day and was presumed to have accompanied Kim Jong-un when paying his last respects to their father. He left after a few days to return to Macau and was not in attendance at the funeral in order to avoid speculation about the succession.[17]

On 14 January 2012, Kim Jong-nam was seen in Beijing waiting for an Air China flight to Macau. Kim confirmed his identity to a group of South Koreans which included a professor at Incheon University, and told them he usually travels alone.[18]

In a book released in 2012 titled My Father, Kim Jong Il, and Me by Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi who had interviewed Kim Jong-nam on numerous occasions, it is claimed that Kim Jong-nam expects the leadership of Kim Jong-un to fail, citing that he is too inexperienced and young. He also stated that "Without reforms, North Korea will collapse, and when such changes take place, the regime will collapse."[19]

In late 2012, Kim Jong-nam appeared in Singapore one year after leaving Macau.[20] He left Macau allegedly on suspicions that he was being targeted for assassination by Kim Jong-un; South Korean authorities had formerly indicted a North Korean agent by the name of Kim Yong-su who confessed to planning an attack on Kim Jong-nam in July 2010.[21]

2015 Foreign Ministry post

On 3 July 2015, the Daily Mail reported he now has a foreign ministry post working on Japanese affairs thanks to Kim Jong-un.

Personal life

The South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo reports that Kim Jong-nam has two wives, at least one mistress, and several children.[14] His first wife, Shin Jong-hui (born c. 1980), lives at a home called Dragon Villa on the northern outskirts of Beijing.[14] His second wife, Lee Hye-kyong (born c. 1970), their son Han-sol (born c. 1995) and their daughter Sol-hui (born c. 1998) live in a modest 12-story apartment building in Macau;[14] Jong-nam's mistress, former Air Koryo flight attendant So Yong-la (born c. 1980), also lives in Macau.[14]

Jong-nam is often given attention by the media for his gambling and extravagant spending.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Huffington Post article: "Kim Jong Nam, North Korean Leader's Son, Denies Plans To Defect."
  2. ^ Christian Science Monitor article: "Kim Jong-un confirmed North Korean heir ahead of massive military parade."
  3. ^ "North Korea's leader will not last long, says Kim Jong-un's brother". The Guardian. January 17, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ Lee, Adriana S. (2003-06-23). "Secret Lives". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K. Martin, pp. 697."
  6. ^ "金正日夫人去世使继承人问题又增悬疑". Retrieved on 28 October 2008. (Chinese)
  7. ^ "Death of Kim's consort: Dynastic implications" (2 September 2004). Retrieved on 28 October 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d Choe, Sang-Hun (27 May 2010). "Succession May Be Behind N. Korea’s New Belligerence". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "Kim Jong-nam Says N.Korean Regime Won't Last Long". Chosun Ilbo (English Edition). January 17, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Filho de Kim Jong-il com passaporte português" (1 February 2007). Retrieved on 22 September 2010.
  11. ^ "Exiled son 'returns to N Korea'" (27 August 2007). Retrieved on 28 October 2008.
  12. ^ Report: Kim's son hints no decision on successor, AP, 23 January 2009.
  13. ^ a b Seattle Times article: "NKorean leader's son gives interview."
  14. ^ a b c d e f The Chosun Ilbo article: "Where Is Kim Jong-il's Eldest Son?."
  15. ^ Kim Jong-il's grandson seen at concert, RTHK, 18 July 2009
  16. ^ North Koreans Bloster power of Ruler's Kin, by Marin Frackler and Mark McDonald, New York Times 29 September 2010
  17. ^ Kim's eldest in 'secret visit' to see body (AFP, 1 January 2012)
  18. ^ Kim Jong-nam Resurfaces in Beijing (The Chosun Ilbo, 16 January 2012)
  19. ^ 17 January 2012, Kim Jong Il's other son expects North Korean regime to fail, journalist says, CNN
  20. ^ 2012-11-15, Kim Jong-il's son reappears in Singapore, Telegraph UK
  21. ^ 2012-11-16, Kim Jong-il's son reappears in Singapore one year after fleeing Macau, Shanghaiist
  22. ^

External links

  • After Kim Jong Il
  • Japan expels North Korean leader's 'son'
  • "Rare interview with Kim Jong-Il's son", BBC, June 7, 2009 (video)
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