NORTH KOREA POLITICS: Kim Jong Nam Official Biography
Kim Jong-nam was born in Pyongyang on May 10 1971 to Song Hye-rim with whom Kim Jong-il had begun an affair in 1968. Sung Hye Rim, a popular actress who died in Moscow in 2002. It seems that the birth was kept a secret from Kim Jong-il for some time.
Kim Jong-nam spent most of the 1980s going back and forth between international schools in Moscow — where he expressed his displeasure at the state of the bathrooms — and Geneva. While there, he learned French and German, and spoke English well with reporters who accosted him on the street on occasion.
Kim Jong-nam returned to Pyongyang in 1988, when he was almost 18, and became a cadre in the Ministry of People’s Security, North Korea Leadership Watch says. He also became very close to his aunt — Kim Jong II’s sister — and her mercurial husband, Jang Song Thaek.
After learning of his son’s existence, Kim Jong-nam was said to have begun grooming him for a future leadership role.
Kim Jong Nam’s aunt and guardian, Song Hye Rang, defected in the late 1990s and wrote a memoir called “The Wisteria House.”
“Words cannot describe how deeply Jong Il loved his son,” Song wrote of the period immediately after Kim Jong Nam’s birth. “The young prince rocked his fretting son on his back to sleep, carried him until he stopped crying, and mumbled to the baby the way moms calm a crying baby.”
Kim Jong Nam’s feeling of emptiness was really growing because his father was “in the processing of abandoning” him, Song wrote.
“His father started a new life with another woman and had more sons and daughters. He transferred his abnormal ‘tearful love’ for Jong Nam to his new children,” she wrote. These included Kim Jong Un and his siblings.
Kim Jong Nam has never been mentioned in the North Korean media, and, even today, only a handful of elite North Koreans will have known of his existence.
The jovial and portly Kim Jong Nam had lived in exile for many years in Macau, a gambling enclave under China’s control. He also frequented casinos, five-star hotels and traveled around Asia, with little say in North Korean affairs.
The Chinese had calculated that the North Korean exile, to whom it had long agreed to host, “would have been preferable as a leader to North Korea,” said Georgetown University visiting professor Balbina Hwang. “That in itself is a direct threat to Kim Jong Un and, of course, must be eliminated at any costs, even fratricide.”
The two half-brothers apparently had never met (they were born to different mothers, but both shared a father and grandfather — North Korea’s revered founder Kim Il Sung). And there had been previous assassination threats against Kim Jong Nam, who was once considered heir apparent.
But his attempt to visit Tokyo Disneyland reportedly soured North Korea’s leadership on his potential as a successor. Kim Jong-nam had said he had no political ambitions, although he was publicly critical of the North Korean regime and his half brother’s legitimacy in the past. In 2010, he was quoted in Japanese media as saying he opposed dynastic succession in North Korea.
After he tried to enter Japan on a forged passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland, Kim Jong-nam fell from grace with his father Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-il was the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly referred to as North Korea, from 1994 to 2011.
Kim Jong Il Will
Kim Jong Il in his will before his death, outlined new policy for Kim Jong Un, his successor, to adhere to. Kim Jong Il “urged that Kim Jong Nam be left alone and not targeted or harassed by the regime,” according to the will, which Gause said he obtained in 2012 through defector sources.
South Korean intelligence officials had contended that Kim Jong Un, while director of the State Security Department in 2009 and while their father was still alive, had ordered a raid on Kim Jong Nam’s vacation home and had several of his older half-brothers and associates arrested.
During Korea’s traditional Chosun dynasty “a brother or an uncle in a royal household is a potential rival to get rid of, including killing,” explained Tara O, adjunct fellow of the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Kim Jong Un put to death a powerful uncle, Jang Song Thaek, in 2013, according to several defectors from the regime.
Kim Jong Nam had stated he had no desire to lead his country and had criticized, in a 2010 Japanese TV interview, what he termed “third-generation succession.” He said he hoped, though, “my younger brother will do his best for the sake of North Koreans’ prosperous lives.”
Kim Jong Nam favored reform, a position China also shares.
Kim Jong-nam had been keeping a low profile except for a few notable occasions in which he spoke to Japanese media and appeared to question the legitimacy of North Korea’s system of hereditary succession. During the late 1990s, while he was still in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Nam had been in favor of loosening North Korea’s hermetic border controls and allowing more North Koreans to travel.
Kim Jong Nam’s most prominent child is Kim Han Sol, who grew up in Macau, attending international schools and having a wide range of friends. He attended the United World College in Bosnia and while there, in 2012, gave an interview to a Finnish TV in which he spoke perfect American English and wore a diamond earring.
He described living in a dormitory and how his roommate was a Libyan — one who had been very happy about the revolution that toppled Moammar Gaddafi.
Kim Han Sol said he had never met his uncle, Kim Jong Un. “I don’t really know why he became a dictator,” he said. “It was between him and my grandfather,” he said, referring to second-generation leader Kim Jong II.
After Bosnia, he studied at Sciences-Po in Paris.
– Kim Jong-nam Biography
13 February: World News Update: Kim Jong-nam Murdered
South Korea’s spy agency said on Wednesday that Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was poisoned by two suspected North Korean female agents, according to lawmakers briefed by the intelligence agency.
The agency also said North Korea had long prepared for the murder of Kim Jong Nam, according to lawmakers, although they did not say how the agency knows that.
Kim Jong Nam was assassinated on his way to the Chinese territory of Macau, where he had been living, the lawmakers said, adding that he had been given China’s protection.
“If the murder of Kim Jong Nam was confirmed to be committed by the North Korean regime, that would clearly depict the brutality and inhumanity of the Kim Jong Un regime,” South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, the country’s acting president, told a security council meeting.