The ouster of North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek throws into relief the fate of leader Kim Jong-un's older half-brother Jong-nam, who was raised by Jang and his wife.
Kim Jong-nam is the eldest son of former leader Kim Jong-il and was thought to be the designated heir until he fell from grace in 2001. Since then he has lived in lavishly funded exile in Macau and Beijing and has had practically no contact with his younger half-brother.
Kim Jong-nam has not been seen in Macau for over a year. "He seems to be living a quiet life traveling between Singapore and China," a source based in Beijing said Tuesday. "He's probably lying low now that Jang, to whom he was close, has been purged."
Kim Jong-nam has been critical of the dynastic succession of power in the North, talking freely to a Japanese journalist about the need for reform in the North. But lately he has been more quiet.
There is speculation that China is grooming Jong-nam to take over if the regime of Kim Jong-un were to collapse.
"Rumor has it that China is protecting Kim Jong-nam," the source added.