A young man who identified himself as Kim Han Sol has appeared for the first time in a short YouTube video to talk about his father Kim Jong Nam's murder in Malaysia on Feb 13, sparking speculation that he has defected with his family.
South Korea's intelligence authorities have confirmed his identity, but are not sure why the video suddenly emerged yesterday on the website and YouTube page of a group called Cheollima Civil Defence (CCD). It claims to be protecting the Kim family with help from the Netherlands, the United States, China and an unnamed country.
Some analysts said Mr Kim, 21, may have sought asylum with his mother and sister in the unnamed country. His whereabouts have been a mystery since his father was allegedly killed by two women at a Kuala Lumpur airport. Some reports said the Chinese authorities were protecting him and his family in Macau, where they had lived for years.
There were even fears for Mr Kim's life, after talk surfaced that his uncle, North Korea's brash and volatile leader Kim Jong Un, had ordered the hit on his father.
But from the video, it appears the young man is well and safe.
The 40-second clip begins with a man, clad in a black shirt and speaking in English, introducing himself as "Kim Han Sol, from North Korea, part of the Kim family". He holds up his passport but the details are blocked out.
"My father has been killed a few days ago. I'm currently with my mother and my sister," he says.
"We are very grateful to..." he adds, before the audio is muted. "We hope this gets better soon," he says at the end, with a smile.
The clip has drawn over 680,000 views as of last night.
The group CCD said on its website that it responded to an emergency call from Mr Kim's family last month and has relocated them to a safe place. "We have in the past addressed other urgent needs for protection. This will be the first and last statement on this particular matter, and the present whereabouts of this family will not be addressed."
A spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry told The Straits Times that CCD is new to it and it is looking into the group's background.
On its website, the CCD left a message "for the people of North Korea", offering protection for anyone who wants to escape. "We will send you safely to the place you want to go. We have already helped many North Korean people, at no price."
North Korean expert Cheong Seong Chang from think-tank Sejong Institute said the CCD appears to be run by North Korean defectors. He added that Cheollima, which literally means a horse that can run a thousand miles, probably refers to the speed at which it can help fellow defectors escape.
Dr Cheong initially questioned the video's authenticity as he found it odd that Mr Kim would be smiling while talking about his father's death, but later figured he was probably asked to be in the video, and not of his own accord.
"If Cheollima helped him to escape, he would not have been able to turn down its request to make a publicity video," said Dr Cheong, noting that the CCD has posted a call for recruitment and financial support on its website.
Dr Cheong said it is likely Mr Kim has already sought asylum in an unnamed country, probably in Europe, as he is familiar with the continent after having studied in Bosnia and France. "He may try to claim his father's body after settling down, or give up the body out of fear that his current location will be revealed."
Mr Kim Jong Nam's case has sparked a diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea. The Malaysian authorities have refused to release the body to North Korean officials as they were waiting to get a DNA sample from a family member for identification.
The two countries used to be friendly, but the row led them to impose a tit-for-tat exit ban on each other's citizens.
Watch Kim Han Sol in the video.