9 things to know about once heir apparent Kim Jong Nam who lost favour with father

A picture taken in August 1981 at an unknown location showing Kim Jong Nam (front row, right), the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, together with his father Kim Jong Il.
A picture taken in August 1981 at an unknown location showing Kim Jong Nam (front row, right), the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, together with his father Kim Jong Il. PHOTO: EPA
A man watches a television showing news reports of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Seoul on Feb 14, 2017.
A man watches a television showing news reports of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Seoul on Feb 14, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

Mr Kim Jong Nam, 45, the estranged older half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had lived a life in exile for more than a decade, after he was abandoned in the succession process. He is known to be jovial and optimistic. But on Feb 13, he was murdered in Kuala Lumpur, more than five years after Mr Kim Jong Un ruled the North.

1. Mother was rejected by grandfather Kim Il Sung

Mr Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. He was born on May 10, 1971, to Ms Song Hye Rim, a married actress his grandfather Kim Il Sung disapproved of. Kim Il Sung was the founder and "Great Leader" of North Korea.

It was said that father Kim Jong Il was extremely fond of Kim Jong Nam, but kept his relationship with his mistress Ms Song secret.

2. Tokyo Disneyland: Where his succession process was short-circuited

The grooming of Mr Kim Jong Nam to succeed his father Kim Jong Il as the next leader of North Korea came to an end in 2001, when he was caught at an airport in Japan travelling on a forged Dominican Republic passport, saying he had wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

3. Not interested in politics


A woman and her daughter paying their respects at statues of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung (left) and Dear Leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang. PHOTO: REUTERS

He had said in a rare interview in 2009 that he had "no interest" in succeeding his father Kim Jong Il.

Mr Kim Jong Nam's son Kim Han Sol, who was born in Pyongyang in 1995, also told former UN Under-Secretary General Elisabeth Rehn in an interview on Finnish television in 2012: "My dad was definitely not really interested in politics."

But Mr Kim Jong Nam remained a subject of speculation that he could replace Mr Kim Jong Un and loyalists may have wanted to get rid of him.

4. Previous attempts to harm him

Mr Kim Jong Nam had pleaded for his life to be spared after a failed assassination bid in 2012, Seoul's spy chief said.

According to BBC, a North Korean spy admitted in 2012 that he had been ordered to attack Mr Kim. The spy went as far as hiring a taxi driver to run him over in 2010.

5. Critic of the regime


Kim Jong Nam called on his half-brother Kim Jong Un (above) to improve the lives of North Koreans. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Kim Jong Nam is a supporter of reform in North Korea. In an interview with Tokyo Shimbun in January 2011, he called on then heir apparent Kim Jong Un to improve North Koreans' lives. Their father Kim Jong Il died later in December 2011.

He had previously told other Japanese media that he was personally opposed to a dynastic succession in North Korea, questioning the three-generation succession process which began with his grandfather Kim Il Sung.

He was believed to be close to his uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was North Korea's second most powerful man before being executed on Mr Kim Jong Un's orders in 2013.

Jang was known to be close to China and an advocate of economic reform in the North, but was charged with treason.

Mr Kim Jong Nam is also believed to have ties with Beijing's elite.

6. Where he has lived in exile


An undated photo taken in 2010 shows Kim Jong Nam at a restaurant in Macau, China. PHOTO: EPA

He lived a relatively low-profile life mainly in Macau, while some reports suggested he might have also lived in Singapore and later in Malaysia.

He travelled frequently to Beijing, Bangkok, Moscow and Paris.

 

7. His interests and education

Mr Kim Jong Nam is known to have been a computer enthusiast and a fluent Japanese speaker. When he was 10, he left North Korea to study in Geneva and then Moscow, along with his mother and aunt.

Before living in Macau, he had held senior posts in Pyongyang, leading a technology drive.

8. Lover of not just luxury goods and expensive hotels, but also hawker food

Often wearing a newsboy cap and Ferragamo loafers, he is portrayed in the media as a patron of five-star hotels and expensive restaurants.

Over the last three years, he had stayed long stretches at the Mandarin Oriental hotel near Macau's ferry terminal.

He has also reportedly been seen around the restaurants of Macau's Outer Harbour reclamation, and often went across to Taipa island for whisky or cognac.

A Macau source told the South China Morning Post that Mr Kim also ate with friends at streetside outlets.

He enjoyed playing slot machines, but is not known to be a compulsive gambler.

9. His family members

He is rarely seen with his family members. His former and current wives and three children are said to be living in Beijing and Macau.

Sources: BBC, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE