Kim Jong-nam passed away according to a Malaysian News agency. “The police have confirmed a North Korean who died at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport yesterday was Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un.”

A documented biography of Kim Jong-nam is available there. Born in 1971, Kim Jong-nam is the oldest son of Kim Jong-il. Being child, he was outsidehis family, educated alone and without friends. Being young, his life took place between Moscow and Geneva. In the 2000’s he finally moved to Asia. However, he used to regularly travel to Europe and Japan for private and business issues. Kim Jong-nam’s position in the regime was soon undermined after his aunt Sung Hye-rang migrated to the U.S. in 1996. In 2001 he was arrested at the Narita Airport. Japanese authorities considered that he was suspect in some businesses with the organization of North Koreans based in Japan (regarding IT deals).

Jong-nam lived mostly in the Chinese territory of Macau where he was said to have managed one of his father’s slush funds and North Korea’s arms dealings under the direction of Kim Jong-il.He passed away in 2017, poisoned at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

As I summarized in an old article published in 2011, nobody in North Korea can feel safe. Nevertheless, that’s related also for each person belonging to the establishment of each country. 

Furthermore, other Kim family members based abroad may also feel jeopardize. I discussed with some Kim family members in the past, all of them told me that: the further I’m from Pyongyang, the better it is.

Kim Jong-nam as a KPA soldier (right side). Source: Japan

People that I consider in danger (including relatives of those persons) are listed below:

  • Ri Su-yong (former North Korean MOFA minister)
  • Kim Pyong-il (North Korean ambassador to Czech Republic)
  • Kim Kwang-jin (North Korean ambassador to Austria)
  • Choe Thae-bok and Kim Ki-nam (First generation politicians)
  • Kim Han-sol (Kim Jong-nam’s son)

If Kim Jong-un is responsible for this assassination (we don’t know), the assassination of Kim Jong-nam confirms the unstability of the North Korean regime and the fact that Kim Jong-un fears for his future. It’s also confirming that the power of kim Jong-un is either not totally securized or rather that Kim Jong-un is too nervous, committing unuseful crimes. Kim Jong-un may be also send to the ICC for these crimes. The assassination may also be perpetrated by Kim Jong-un’s ennemies who would like to jeopardize the position of the North Korean leader, depicting him as a “unstable leader”. This possibility is also plausible.


In memory of Kim Jong-nam, A selected passage from a translation of The Wisteria House, a memoir written by Sung Hye-rang, maternal aunt and nurse of Kim Jong Nam.

Jong-nam, who was healthy, was a plump and handsome son. Words cannot describe how deeply [Kim]Jong-il loved his son. The young prince rocked his fretting son on his back to sleep, carried him until he stopped crying, and mumbled to the baby the way moms calm a crying baby. Seeing him behave in such ways, Hye-rim felt pity for him. She understood his childhood that he spent without the loving touch of a mother, and his youth during which he was lonely even under his father’s power.

Hye-rim always looked at him with pity as if he were a younger brother. With such emotion toward him, Hye-rim looked at his deviant behavior with a pained heart. Inside a high fence, the connection between the leader and us three — mother and daughters — began like this and continued on.

Nicolas Levi

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