Where Is Kim Jong-un's Older Brother?

Kim Jong-nam and his son Han-sol Kim Jong-nam and his son Han-sol

The whereabouts of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half brother Jong-nam and his son Han-sol were unclear after the execution of Kim's uncle Jang Song-taek.

There have been rumors that they fear for their lives and that a hit squad has been set on them, but reports are contradictory and hard facts are difficult to come by.

Kim Jong-nam, the oldest son of former leader Kim Jong-il, disappeared from the radar when rumors of Jang's ouster surfaced.

More recently, Han-sol has been reported to be lying low in France, where he studies, but reports on Tuesday said he is safe and staying in student accommodation.

Kim Jong-nam had been close to Jang, and there were rumors that the North Korean leader caught a crony of Jang’s sending money to Jong-nam. This raises fears that Jong-un took steps to purge his half-brother and nephew as well.

Kim Jong-nam has been a vocal critic of the hereditary transfer of power from his father to his half brother Jong-un, warning that the Kim Jong-un regime "will not last long" and calling the dynastic succession "a joke to the outside world."

Han-sol has referred to his uncle as a "dictator."

North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun daily on Dec. 14 said a "true revolutionary" is one who remains steadfast enough to punish "even his own blood." Some speculated that the reference was aimed at Jong-nam, who according to rumor is being groomed to take over if the North Korean regime were to collapse.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 17, 2013 12:29 KST