Pyongyang leaders used Brazilian passports for visas

Photocopies of Brazilian passports used by the late Mr Kim Jong Il (left) and his son, Mr Kim Jong Un, to try and obtain visas from foreign embassies. They used the names Ijong Tchoi and Josef Pwag, respectively.
Photocopies of Brazilian passports used by the late Mr Kim Jong Il (left) and his son, Mr Kim Jong Un, to try and obtain visas from foreign embassies. They used the names Ijong Tchoi and Josef Pwag, respectively.PHOTOS: REUTERS

LONDON • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his late father, Mr Kim Jong Il, used fraudulently obtained Brazilian passports to apply for visas to visit Western countries in the 1990s, five senior Western European security sources said.

While North Korea's ruling family is known to have used travel documents obtained under false pretences, there are few specific examples. The photocopies of the Brazilian passports have not been published before.

"They used these Brazilian passports, which clearly show the photographs of Mr Kim Jong Un and Mr Kim Jong Il, to attempt to obtain visas from foreign embassies," one of the sources said on condition of anonymity.

"This shows the desire for travel and points to the ruling family's attempts to build a possible escape route," the security source said.

The North Korean embassy in Brazil declined to comment. Brazil's Foreign Ministry said it was investigating.

A Brazilian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two passports in question were legitimate documents when sent out as blanks for consulates to issue.

Four other senior Western European security sources confirmed that the two Brazilian passports with photos of the Kims in the names of Josef Pwag and Ijong Tchoi had been used to apply for visas in at least two Western countries. It was unclear whether any visas were issued. The passports may also have been used to travel to Brazil, Japan and Hong Kong, the security sources said.

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported in 2011 that the younger Mr Kim visited Tokyo as a child using a Brazilian passport in 1991 - before the issue date on the two Brazilian passports.

Both 10-year passports carry a stamp saying "Embassy of Brazil in Prague" with a Feb 26, 1996, issue date. The security sources said facial recognition technology confirmed the photographs were of Mr Kim Jong Un and his father.

The passport with Mr Kim Jong Un's photo was issued in the name of Josef Pwag with a date of birth of Feb 1, 1983. He would have been 12 to 14 years old when the Brazilian passport was issued.

His late father's passport was issued in the name Ijong Tchoi with a birth date of April 4, 1940. The elder Mr Kim died in 2011. His true birth date is 1941. Both passports list the holders' birthplaces as Sao Paulo, Brazil.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'Pyongyang leaders used Brazilian passports for visas'. Print Edition | Subscribe