Kim Jong-nam (Chosŏn'gŭl: 김정남; Hancha: 金正男,
Korean: [kim.dzʌŋ.nam];[a] 10 May 1971 – 13 February
2017) was the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. From
roughly 1994 to 2001, he was considered the heir apparent to his
father. He was thought to have fallen out of favour after
embarrassing the regime in 2001 with a failed attempt to visit Tokyo
Disneyland with a false passport, although Kim said his loss of favour
was due to advocating reform.
Kim was exiled from
North Korea c. 2003, becoming an occasional critic
of his family's regime. His younger paternal half-brother, Kim
Jong-un, was named heir apparent in September 2010. Kim died on 13
February 2017 in
Malaysia as the result of what the US Department of
State eventually determined was an assassination conducted by North
Korea using VX gas.
1 Life and career
1.1 Early life
1.2 1998–2001: Heir apparent
Tokyo Disneyland incident
1.4 2001–2005: Loss of favour
1.5 2005–2017: Rise of Kim Jong-un
2 Personal life
4 See also
7 External links
Life and career
Kim Jong-nam was born 10 May 1971 in Pyongyang, North Korea, to Song
Hye-rim, one of three women known to have had children with Kim
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. North Korea
Leadership Watch says he left
North Korea to visit his grandmother in
Moscow, Soviet Union, and spent his childhood at international schools
in both Russia and
Switzerland until returning to his home country in
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". His aunt also said in 2000 that
he "[did] not wish to succeed his father". Like Kim Jong-il, he was
interested in film: he wrote scripts and short films from a young
age. His father also created a small movie set for him to use.
Kim made several clandestine visits to Japan, starting as early as
1998–2001: Heir apparent
In 1998, Kim was appointed to a senior position in the Ministry of
Public Security of North Korea, as a future leader. He was also
reported to have been appointed head of the North Korean 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.
Tokyo Disneyland incident
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. After
being detained he was deported to China, where he said he was
travelling to Japan to visit Tokyo Disneyland. The incident caused
his father to cancel a planned visit to China due to the embarrassment
it caused him.
2001–2005: Loss of favour
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
Since the loyalty of the army is the real foundation of the Kim
family's continuing hold on power in North Korea, this was a serious
development for Kim Jong-nam's prospects. In late 2003, it was
Kim Jong-nam was living in Macau, lending strength to
Kim Jong-un was left in charge while his father was on a state visit
to China. 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.
Kim's loss of favour was thought to have been caused by the Tokyo
incident. Kim, however, said he fell out of favour because he had
become an advocate for reform. In an email to the editor of the
Tokyo Shimbun, Kim wrote that after being educated in Switzerland, he
"insisted on reform and market-opening", leading his father to decide
that he had turned "into a capitalist". Kim at this time has also
been described as "the closest [North Korea] ever had to an
international playboy", and gained a reputation for "gambling and
drinking and arranging the occasional business deal". He was the
only member of the Kim family to ever speak directly to media outside
of North Korea.
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.
2005–2017: Rise of Kim Jong-un
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. It was reported in the
South China Morning Post
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
South Korean television and the
South China Morning Post
South China Morning Post reported in
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
In January 2009,
Kim Jong-nam said he had "no interest" in taking
North Korea after his father, stating that it is only for his
father to decide.
In June 2010,
Kim Jong-nam gave a brief interview to the Associated
Macau while waiting for a hotel elevator. He said that he
had "no plans" to defect to Europe, as the press had recently
Kim Jong-nam lived in an apartment on the southern tip
Coloane Island until 2007. An anonymous South Korean
official reported in October 2010 that
Kim Jong-nam had not lived in
Macau for "months", and shuttled between China and "another
In late September 2010, his younger half-brother
Kim Jong-un was made
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 had never met, because of the ancient practice of
raising potential successors separately.
On 1 January 2012, it was reported that
Kim Jong-nam secretly flew to
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.
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.
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
Kim Jong-nam said he expected the leadership of
Kim 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".
According to South Korean intelligence sources,
Kim Jong-un had issued
a standing order to have his half-brother killed. 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. In late
2012, he appeared in
Singapore one year after leaving Macau. He
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.
It has been reported that Kim had two wives, at least one
mistress, and had at least six children. His first wife, Shin
Jong-hui (born c. 1980), lives at a home called
Dragon Villa on the
northern outskirts of Beijing. His second wife, Lee Hye-kyong
(born c. 1970), their son Han-sol (born 1995) and their daughter
Sol-hui (born c. 1998) lived in a modest 12-storey apartment
building in Macau; Jong-nam's mistress, former
Air Koryo flight
attendant So Yong-la (born c. 1980), also lives in Macau. He had
several tattoos, including two of dragons.
Select[α] family tree of North Korea's ruling[β] Kim
^ To keep the tree of manageable size, it omits some members, e. g.,
brothers and sisters of Kim Jong-il.
^ Names of Supreme Leaders of the DPRK (and the name of the article
being viewed, if any) are in bold font.
^ Korean names often have a variety of transliterations into English,
which can be confusing. For example, "Kim Jong-chul" may also be
written "Gim Jeong-cheol" or "Kim Jŏng-ch'ŏl" among many other
Korean romanization for more information.
^ Huss, Kan; Frost, Clay. "North Korea's First Family: Mapping the
personal and political drama of the Kim clan". msnbc.com. Retrieved 20
January 2013. (Confirms many, but not all, of the birth and
death years. See individual articles for more references.)
^ Yan, Holly (16 February 2017). "The world's most mysterious family
tree: Kim Jong Un's secretive dynasty is full of drama, death". Design
by Alberto Mier. CNN. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
^ a b c Official biographies of
Kim Jong-suk and
Kim Jong-il give
birth years of 1917 and 1942, respectively.
Kim Ju-ae may have been
born in late 2012 or early 2013.
Main article: Assassination of Kim Jong-nam
On 13 February 2017, Kim died after being attacked by two women with
VX nerve agent at
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport in
Macau under a pseudonym. His death is under
investigation, but it is speculated that it was carried out at the
command of the North Korean government.
North Korea portal
Foreign relations of North Korea
List of people of Korean descent
Outline of North Korea
Politics of North Korea
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Week. 5 May 2017.
Japan expels North Korean leader's 'son'
Kim dynasty of North Korea
Kim Il-sung (1912–1994)
Kim Jong-il (1941–2011)
Kim Jong-un (1984–)
Kim Hyong-jik (Kim Il-sung's father)
Kang Pan-sok (Kim Il-sung's mother)
Kim Jong-suk (Kim Il-sung's first wife, Jong-il's mother)
Kim Yong-ju (Kim Il-sung's brother)
Kim Song-ae (Kim Il-sung's second wife)
Hong Il-chon (Kim Jong-il's first wife, divorced)
Song Hye-rim (Kim Jong-il's first mistress)
Kim Man-il (Kim Jong-il's brother)
Jang Song-thaek (Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law)
Kim Kyong-hui (Kim Jong-il's sister)
Kim Young-sook (Kim Jong-il's wife)
Ko Yong-hui (Kim Jong-il's second mistress, Jong-un's mother)
Kim Pyong-il (Kim Jong-il's half-brother)
Kim Ok (Kim Jong-il's third mistress)
Kim Yo-jong (Kim Jong-un's sister)
Kim Jong-chul (Kim Jong-un's brother)
Kim Sul-song (Kim Jong-un's half-sister)
Kim Jong-nam (Kim Jong-un's half-brother)
Ri Sol-ju (Kim Jong-un's wife)
Kim Ju-ae (Kim Jong-un's daughter)
Kim Han-sol (Kim Jong-nam's son)