Where Is Kim Jong-il's Eldest Son?

What is North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's eldest son Jong-nam doing now that his younger brother Jong-un has been confirmed as his father's successor? The unemployed Jong-nam has two wives and a mistress and three children living in Beijing and Macau.

At the Dragon Villa on the northern outskirts of Beijing apparently lives his first wife Shin Jong-hui (late 30s) and son Kum-sol (13). His second wife Lee Hye-kyong (late 30s), son Han-sol (15) and daughter Sol-hui (12) live in Macau, as does his girlfriend So Yong-la (early 30s), who used to be a flight attendant for Air Koryo.

Last Wednesday, it emerged that Jong-nam's second wife and their two children live on the 12th floor of a modest, 20-year-old apartment in Macau, but nobody answered the doorbell. A junior high school girl living in the apartment said, "I used to meet the Kim siblings often, but I haven't seen them recently." When shown a photograph of Jong-nam, she said, "I saw him on the news, but I never saw him here."

According to South Koreans in Macau, the couple are separated. Kim Jong-nam was rumored to enjoy late-night drinking sessions with his bodyguards and friends at another apartment in the old quarter of Macau, but a security guard in that building said, "I've never seen Kim Jong-nam. The only people who come here are foreign journalists looking for him."

Apartments in the old quarter of Macau (left) and Coloane Island which Kim Jong-nam and his bodyguards lived. Apartments in the old quarter of Macau (left) and Coloane Island which Kim Jong-nam and his bodyguards lived.

An international school in the new section of Macau's Taipa Island features the flags of around 60 countries including the North and South Korean flags. "The only North Korean who can afford to send his children to expensive foreign schools in Macau is Kim Jong-nam, and the North Korean flag means his children are attending this school," said one South Korean resident. Until this spring, the two children apparently lived in a new condo complex called Nova City around 500 m away from the school. But after Japanese reporters came to the school and began tailing the children, the family moved to a new address.

Until three years ago, Jong-nam and his bodyguards lived in an apartment in the southern tip of Macau's Coloane Island. But the place now looks empty. Also, nobody recalled seeing Jong-nam at the housing area where his girlfriend So Yong-la is reportedly living. Workers at the casino, restaurant and lobby of the Altira Hotel, where Jong-nam was spotted by journalists in June this year, said they had not seen him recently.

A South Korean who runs a restaurant in Macau said, "After the Cheonan sinking [in March], I saw Kim Jong-nam at the coffee shop of a top-notch VIP-only hotel. When he heard us speaking in Korean, he immediately got up and left. In the past, he used to say hello, but not any more."

A South Korean intelligence official said Kim Jong-nam has apparently not been to Macau for months now and shuttles between China and another country. The official added Kim Jong-nam has a different mother from his two younger brothers, Jong-un and Jong-chol, so his status in the family hierarchy is uncertain.

Kim Pyong-il (56), Kim Jong-il's half-brother, has been in virtual exile in Poland, where he is nominally the North Korean ambassador, since 1998.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 04, 2010 12:27 KST