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Kim Jong-nam
Kim Jong-nam.jpg
Kim Jong-nam
Born (1971-05-10)10 May 1971
Pyongyang, North Korea
Died 13 February 2017(2017-02-13) (aged 45)
Cause of death Assassination
Nationality North Korean
Alma mater Kim Il-sung University
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Spouse(s) Shin Jong-hui
Lee Hye-kyong
Children 6 (including Kim Han-sol)
Relatives Kim Il-sung (grandfather)
Kim Jong-un (half-brother)
Military career
Allegiance  North Korea
Rank Colonel rank insignia (North Korea).svg Colonel

Kim Jong-nam (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 himself said his loss of favour had been 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 an apparent assassination conducted by North Korea using VX nerve agent.

Life and career

Song Hye-rim portrait
Kim Jong-nam was born to Song Hye-rim

Kim Jong-nam was born in Pyongyang, North Korea, to Song Hye-rim and Kim Jong-il. HIs father initially kept Jong-nam out of school, instead sending him to live with his aunt, 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 1988.

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.

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

Korean People's Army Soldiers watch as preparations for a repatriation ceremony are made at the Panmunjom Joint Security Area on 981106-F-AF179-509
Korean People's Army Soldiers watch as preparations for a ceremony are made at the Panmunjom Joint Security Area

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.

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 designed to promote Kim Jong-chul or Kim Jong-un. 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 reported that Kim Jong-nam was living in Macau.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un (33352861498) (cropped)
Donald Trump and Kim Jong-nam's brother, Kim Jong-un

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". He was the only member of the Kim family to ever speak directly to media outside of North Korea.

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. In late September 2010, his younger half-brother Kim Jong-un was made heir-apparent. 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.

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, he had left Macau on suspicions that he was being targeted for assassination by Kim Jong-un - Kim Yong-su confessed to planning an attack on Kim Jong-nam in July 2010.


VX Nerve Agents Symbol
VX Nerve Agents Symbol

On 13 February 2017, Kim died after being exposed to VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. It was widely believed that he was killed on the orders of his half-brother Kim Jong-un. Four North Korean suspects left the airport shortly after the attack, travelling back to Pyongyang.

An Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, and a Vietnamese woman, Doan Thi Huong, were charged with murder but said they thought they were part of a TV prank. In March 2019, Siti Aisyah was freed after the charge against her was dropped. In April, the murder charge against Huong was also dropped, and she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of "voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means". She was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, but received a one-third reduction in her term, and was released on 3 May 2019.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Kim Jong-nam para niños

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