The Strange Family of Kim Jong Nam

Kim Jong Nam’s (38) family structure has been thrown under a spotlight, revealing more than was previously known.

According to a knowledgeable North Korean source, Kim Jong Nam has, at one point or another, resided with three women and has produced two sons and two daughters with them. His three wives and children all reside in locations in China and Macau.

The source said on the 20th, “In his youth, Kim Jong Nam began living with his first wife Choi Hye Ri and had a son, Dong Hwan, with her. Currently, they are residing in Beijing, China.” According to the source, whenever Kim Jong Nam enters North Korea through Beijing or makes a visit to China, he stays with his first wife.

The source also explained, “His second wife Lee Hye Kyung, son Kim Han Ryul and daughter Kim Sol are currently living in Macau. His son Han Ryul is alleged to be undergoing treatment for a thyroid gland tumor.”

Until now, his second wife had been known by the name Jang Gil Sun. With unparalleled beauty, her background includes time spent performing with the Chosun Performing Arts Troupe. She is known to be a luxury goods enthusiast.

One South Korean media outlet recently cited a North Korean source in Macau as saying, “I have seen the wife with her son, and she was covered head to toe in Prada, Gucci and other global luxury brands.”

The third wife, Myung Ra (family name unknown), whom Kim Jong Nam met relatively recently, is also apparently residing in Macau. However, for some reason their daughter Hyun Kyung is apparently being raised by Kim’s first wife in Beijing. The source said that the precise age of Kim Jong Nam’s wives is unknown.

Characteristic of North Korea’s closed society, news regarding the Kim Jong Il family tree has been a closely guarded secret, and even regarding the likely successor, third son Jong Woon, hardly anything is known apart from his period spent studying in Switzerland.

Therefore, Kim Jong Il’s first son Jong Nam has become a target for intelligence authorities and the media, due to his relative freedom in travelling the world, competent English and amicable style.

Born in 1971, he was born between Kim Jong Il and actress Sung Hye Rim, whose family crossed into North Korea after the war (she died in May 2002 at age 65). As a result of Sung’s being married, Jong Nam’s grandfather Kim Il Sung did not know about his grandson’s existence until the boy turned four (in 1975).

Kim Jong Nam became the Chair of the North Korean Computer Committee at age 17. Testimonies have revealed that he became a general in the People’s Army and took charge of the National Security Agency’s foreign intelligence arm at the youthful age of 24.

Until the mid-1990s, he appeared to be the likely successor to Kim Jong Il, but after his aunt Sung Hye Rang’s exile, he was arrested for possession of a fake passport in Japan in May 2001 and fell out of Kim Jong Il’s favor.

▲ Kim Jong Nam’s second wife Lee Hye Kyung (wearing sunglasses, on the right) and son Han Ryul. Image of Jong Nam being arrested after attempting to enter Japan illegally in 2001.

At the time, he was accompanied by his second wife Hye Kyung. The Japanese authorities believe that he had secretly entered Japan at least three times to go shopping and for other pleasures.

Even before this, Kim Jong Nam is said to have been travelling back and forth between Pyongyang and Macau since the mid-1990s, enjoying a relatively free lifestyle. Recently, he even revealed his thoughts on the successor in an interview with the Japanese media.

Wherever he goes, he is said to stay in the homes of local mistresses and goes gambling in places such as Macau and Thailand. His entertainment expenses are covered by the North Korean consulates on site.

It has been reported by some sections of the media that he is currently spending time with his second wife and son in a well-appointed villa on the 300㎡ Coloane Island in Macau. He apparently enjoys French wine which can cost up to 10 million Korean won per bottle.

On July 20th, the media reported that one of Jong Nam’s sons was spotted at a concert by popular South Korean singer Rain, hanging out with South Korean school friends. This is most likely to have been Han Ryul.