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Kim Jong-nam
Native name 김정남
Born (1971-05-10)10 May 1971
Pyongyang, North Korea
Died 13 February 2017(2017-02-13) (aged 45)
Sepang District, Selangor, Malaysia
Cause of death Poisoning
Residence Macau, Singapore, Malaysia
Nationality North Korean
Alma mater Kim Il-sung University
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Spouse(s) Shin Jong-hui
Children 6 (including Kim Han-sol)
Relatives Kim Il-sung (grandfather)
Kim Sul-song (sister)
Kim Jong-chul (brother)
Kim Jong-un (brother)
Military career
Allegiance  North Korea
Service/branch Flag of the Korean People's Army (Fringed).png 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'gŭl김정남; Hancha金正男, Korean pronunciation: [kim.dzʌŋ.nam] or [kim] [tsʌŋ.nam]; 10 May 1971 – 13 February 2017) was the eldest son of Kim Jong-il, deceased former leader of North Korea. From roughly 1994 to 2001, he was considered the heir apparent to his father.[1] After advocating reform and embarrassing the regime in 2001 with a failed attempt to visit Tokyo Disneyland with a false passport, he was thought to have fallen out of favour.[2]

Kim was exiled from North Korea c. 2003, becoming an occasional critic of his family's regime.[3] His younger paternal half-brother, Kim Jong-un, was named heir apparent in September 2010.[4] Kim died on 13 February 2017 in Malaysia as the result of a suspected chemical attack.


Life and careerEdit

Early lifeEdit

Kim Jong-nam was born 10 May 1971 in Pyongyang, North Korea, to Song Hye-rim,[5] 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.[6] He allegedly left North Korea to visit his grandmother in Moscow, Soviet Union, and spent his childhood at international schools in Switzerland until returning to his home country in 1988.[7]

Kim was reported to have had a personality similar to that of his father, and was described by his aunt as being "hot-tempered, sensitive, and gifted in the arts".[8] His aunt also said in 2000 that he "[did] not wish to succeed his father".[8] Like Kim Jong-il, he was interested in film: he wrote scripts and short films from a young age.[8] His father also created a small movie set for him to use.[8]

Kim made several clandestine visits to Japan, starting as early as 1995.[8]

1998–2001: Heir apparentEdit

In 1998, Kim was appointed to a senior position in the Ministry of Public Security of the DPRK, as a future leader.[9] 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.[9]

2001: Tokyo Disneyland incidentEdit

In May 2001, Kim was arrested in Japan on arrival at Narita International Airport, accompanied by two women and a four-year-old boy identified as his son. He was travelling on a forged Dominican Republic passport using a Chinese alias, Pang Xiong.[2][10][11] After being detained he was deported to China,[12] where he said he was travelling to Japan to visit Tokyo Disneyland.[9] The incident caused his father to cancel a planned visit to China due to the embarrassment it caused him.[9]

2001–2005: Loss of favourEdit

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." This was interpreted as praise of Ko Young-hee, such that the campaign was designed to promote Kim Jong-chul or Kim Jong-un, her sons.[2][13]

It is believed that Kim Jong-un, Jong-nam's youngest half-brother, became the new heir apparent due to this incident.[14] 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.[2][14] In late 2003, it was reported that Kim Jong-nam was living in Macau, lending strength to this belief.[2][15]

Kim Jong-un was left in charge while his father was on a state visit to China.[14] Outsider observers also believed North Korea's sinking of a South Korean ship in March 2010 was part of Kim Jong-il's attempt to secure succession for the youngest Kim.[14]

Kim said 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 the 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 Yo-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".[16] Kim at this time has also been described as "the closest [North Korea] ever had to an international playboy",[17] and gained a reputation for "gambling and drinking and arranging the occasional business deal".[18] He was the only member of the Kim family to ever speak directly to media outside of North Korea.[17]

It was believed that Kim Jong-nam had friendly ties to China. Outside analysts considered him as a possible candidate to replace Kim Jong-un if the North Korean leadership imploded and China, traditionally an ally, sought a replacement in its client state.[2][19]

2005–2017: Rise of Kim Jong-unEdit

The Asahi Shimbun reported Kim Jong-nam, travelling to his brother Kim Jong-chul in Munich, survived an assassination attempt at the Budapest Ferihegy International Airport in July 2006. According to South Korean reports, the Hungarian government protested against the incident to the North Korean embassy in Vienna, requesting there be no recurrence.[20][21] 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.[22][23]

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, Pedro Moitinho de Almeida, stated that if Kim had such a document it would be a forgery.[24]

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 his father to decide.[25]

In June 2010, Kim Jong-nam gave a brief interview to the Associated Press in Macau while waiting for a hotel elevator.[26] He said that he had "no plans" to defect to Europe, as the press had recently rumoured.[26] Kim Jong-nam lived in an apartment on the southern tip of Macau's Coloane Island until 2007.[27] An anonymous South Korean official reported in October 2010 that Jong-nam had not lived in Macau for "months", and shuttled between China and "another country".[27]

In late September 2010, his younger half-brother Kim Jong-un was made heir-apparent.[28][29] Kim Jong-un was declared Supreme Leader of North Korea on 24 December 2011 after the death of Kim Jong-il. The two half-brothers never met, because of the ancient practice of raising potential successors separately.[30][31]

On 1 January 2012, it was 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 to avoid speculation about the succession.[32]

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.[33]

In a book released in 2012 titled My Father, Kim Jong Il, and Me by Japanese journalist Yōji Gomi who had interviewed Kim Jong-nam on numerous occasions, Jong-nam said he expected the leadership of Jong-un to fail, citing that he was too inexperienced and young. He also stated, "Without reforms, North Korea will collapse, and when such changes take place, the regime will collapse".[34]

According to South Korean intelligence sources, Kim Jong-un had issued a standing order to have his half brother killed.[2] In 2012 there was another assassination attempt on Kim Jong-nam, who later that year sent a letter to his half-brother begging for his life.[2] In late 2012, he appeared in Singapore one year after leaving Macau.[35] He left Macau on suspicions that he was being targeted for assassination by Kim Jong-un; South Korean authorities had formerly indicted a North Korean agent, Kim Yong-su, who confessed to planning an attack on Kim Jong-nam in July 2010.[36]

Personal lifeEdit

It has been reported that Kim had two wives, at least one mistress,[27] and had at least six children.[37] His first wife, Shin Jong-hui (born c. 1980), lives at a home called Dragon Villa on the northern outskirts of Beijing.[27] His second wife, Lee Hye-kyong (born c. 1970), their son Han-sol (born 1995) and their daughter Sol-hui (born c. 1998) live in a modest 12-story apartment building in Macau;[27] Jong-nam's mistress, former Air Koryo flight attendant So Yong-la (born c. 1980), also lives in Macau.[27]


On 13 February 2017, Kim died after being attacked by two women with VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia while traveling from Macau under a pseudonym.[38][39] The death is under investigation but it is believed to have been carried out with the help, approval, or knowledge of the North Korean government.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Kim Jong-un's Big Threat: His Older Brother – Globalo". 23 August 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Choe, Sang-hun; Paddock, Richard C. (15 February 2017). "Kim Jong-nam, the Hunted Heir to a Dictator Who Met Death in Exile". The New York Times. USA. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017. “there has been a standing order” to assassinate his half brother, Lee Byung-ho, the director of the South’s National Intelligence Service, said during a closed-door briefing at the National Assembly, according to lawmakers who attended it.“This is not a calculated action to remove Kim Jong-nam because he was a challenge to power per se, but rather reflected Kim Jong-un’s paranoia,” Mr. Lee was quoted as saying. Kim Jong-un wanted his half brother killed, Mr. Lee said, and there was an assassination attempt against him in 2012. Mr. Kim was so afraid of assassins that he begged for his life in a letter to his half brother in 2012. “Please withdraw the order to punish me and my family,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying in the letter. “We have nowhere to hide. The only way to escape is to choose suicide.” (...) 
  3. ^ "North Korea's leader will not last long, says Kim Jong-un's brother". The Guardian. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  4. ^ Christian Science Monitor article: "Kim Jong-un confirmed North Korean heir ahead of massive military parade."
  5. ^ Anna Fifield (15 February 2017). "Who was Kim Jong Nam?". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^ Lee, Adriana S (23 June 2003). "Secret Lives". Time. Retrieved 29 October 2007. 
  7. ^ Fifield, Anna (15 February 2017). "N. Korean leader's half brother killed in Malaysia in possible poison attack, police say". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Bradley K. Martin (10 January 2006). Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. St. Martin's Press. p. 697. ISBN 978-0-312-32322-6. 
  9. ^ a b c d Ryall, Julian (14 February 2017). "Profile: Who was Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  10. ^ "《金正日夫人去世使继承人问题又增悬疑》" (in Chinese). The Epoch Times. 2 September 2004. Retrieved 28 October 2008. 
  11. ^ David Scofield (2 September 2004). "Death of Kim's consort: Dynastic implications". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 28 October 2008. 
  12. ^ Taylor, Adam (22 May 2015). "The sad story of Kim Jong Chul, the North Korean leader's brother and Eric Clapton megafan". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  13. ^ Allen, Dan (19 December 2011). "The Maybe-Gay Son of Kim Jong-Il Definitely Won't Be North Korea's Next Leader". Queerty. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c d Choe, Sang-Hun (27 May 2010). "Succession May Be Behind N. Korea's New Belligerence". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Loh, Andrew. "Kim Jong-un's half-brother takes refuge in S'pore and Malaysia". The Global Citizen. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  16. ^ "Kim Jong-nam Says N.Korean Regime Won't Last Long". Chosun Ilbo (English Edition). 17 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Kamer, Nimrod (14 February 2017). "Kim Jong-nam was North Korea's only international playboy". British GQ. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  18. ^ Chan, Kelvin; Sullivan, Tim (28 February 2017). "The strange life, and sudden death, of North Korean exile Kim Jong Nam". The Toronto Star. Associated Press. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  19. ^ Choe, Sang-hun (18 February 2017). "China Suspends All Coal Imports From North Korea". The New York Times. USA. Archived from the original on 19 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  20. ^ Yoshihiro, Makino (14 February 2017). "Was Kim Jong Nam in sights of his paranoid half-brother?". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "Eric Clapton miatt járt Pesten az észak-koreai diktátor megölt testvére" (in Hungarian). Bors. 16 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  22. ^ Toy, Mary-Anne (2 February 2007). "Kim's playboy son parties in Macau". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  23. ^ Alfano, Seanc (1 February 2007). "Report: Kim Jong Il's Son Living In Macau". CBS News. Associated Press. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  24. ^ "Filho de Kim Jong-il com passaporte português" (in Portuguese). CM. 1 February 2007. Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  25. ^ "Kim Jong-Il's eldest son has 'no interest' in leadership". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 January 2009. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  26. ^ a b William Foreman; Hyung Jin-kim (6 June 2010). "NKorean leader's son gives interview". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  27. ^ a b c d e f Where Is Kim Jong-il's Eldest Son?. The Chosun Ilbo. 4 October 2010.
  28. ^ "Kim Jong-il's grandson seen at concert". RTHK. 18 July 2009. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  29. ^ Mark McDonald (30 September 2010). "North Korea Releases First Photo of Kim's Heir". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  30. ^ Demetriou, Danielle (17 February 2017). "Kim Jong-nam received 'direct warning' from North Korea after criticising regime of half-brother Kim Jong-un". The Telegraph. United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 18 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  31. ^ McKirdy, Euan (16 February 2017). "North Korea's ruling family: Who is Kim Jong Nam?". CNN. U.S. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  32. ^ "Kim's eldest in 'secret visit' to see body". Agence France-Presse. 1 January 2012. Archived from the original on 2 January 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  33. ^ "Kim Jong-nam Resurfaces in Beijing". The Chosun Ilbo. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  34. ^ Kyung Lah (17 January 2012). "Kim Jong Il's other son expects North Korean regime to fail, journalist says". CNN. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  35. ^ Ryall, Julian (15 November 2012). "Kim Jong-il's son reappears in Singapore". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  36. ^ Griffiths, James (16 November 2012). "Kim Jong-il's son reappears in Singapore one year after fleeing Macau". Shanghaiist. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  37. ^ "Kim Jong-nam killed after pleading with his brother to spare his life". ABC. 16 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  38. ^ Samuel Osborne (14 February 2017). "Kim Jong-un's half-brother 'assassinated with poisoned needles at airport'". The Independent. 
  39. ^ McCurry, Justin (14 February 2017). "Kim Jong-un's half-brother dies after 'attack' at airport in Malaysia". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 

External linksEdit