Asia

Kim Han-sol: The open-minded son of Kim Jong-nam

  • 8 March 2017
  • From the section Asia
Kim Han-sol talking to Elisabeth Rehn in a hand-out video grab taken on 28 May 2012 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kim Han-sol gave an interview to Finnish television in 2012

Kim Han-sol has been the subject of intense media interest for most of his life, and the killing of his father in mysterious circumstances at Kuala Lumpur airport has done nothing to diminish that.

A short video of him confirming his father's death that emerged weeks later has only added to the intrigue.

Kim Jong-nam was passed over for the North Korean leadership and his life since the early 2000s had been spent in exile.

The half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un had even spoken out against his family's dynastic control of the North, so it is perhaps no surprise that his son also became known for his open-minded views.

Han-sol has referred to his uncle as a "dictator" and also expressed hope for peace between the two Koreas.

In a 2012 interview for Finnish television, he said: "I've always dreamed that one day I would go back and make things better, and make things easier for the people back there. I also dream of unification."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Han-sol's uncle is Kim Jong-un, the current leader of North Korea

Although his immediate family was reportedly living in exile, Han-sol, who was then 17 years old, said that he visited North Korea every summer to "meet with my relatives and keep in touch with my family".

When asked about his uncle, he said: "I don't really know how he became a dictator because first of all it was between him and my grandfather."

Change in fortunes

Born in 1995 in Pyongyang, Kim Han-sol spent the first few years of his life living in the capital in isolation with few friends.

But his life dramatically changed in the early 2000s, when his father fell out of favour and moved the family to Macau.

Media captionKim Han-sol: 'My father has been killed'

It was in Macau and later at United World College in Mostar in Bosnia, where he said he became more exposed to different cultures and opinions.

He added that he had made friends with Americans and South Koreans. "These are countries which we have been having conflicts with and a lot of tension, but we turned out to be really great friends. That just sparked the curiosity for me," he said.

In 2013 Han-sol reportedly moved to the French city of Le Havre where he enrolled in the prestigious Sciences Po university, to study social sciences.

There have been reports that his next move was to attend Oxford University in 2017, but it is unclear whether he will go ahead following his father's death.

On 8 March, a video was published by a previously-unknown group of a man confirmed to be Kim Han-sol saying: "My father has been killed a few days ago. I'm currently with my mother and my sister."

He showed what appears to be a North Korean diplomatic passport to confirm his identity, though the details have been blocked out, and said he is "grateful to..." before the audio and image were censored.

He ended by saying: "We hope this gets better soon."

In the video, he spoke perfect English with a faint British accent.

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