Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un's exiled nephew says the North Korean leader is a 'dictator'

The son of the North Korean leader's eldest brother talks about his late grandfather and his sincere hope for future reunification with the South

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 10:54am

Kim Jong-il's teenage grandson has labelled his uncle, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, a "dictator" in an interview offering a rare glimpse into the world's most secretive ruling dynasty.

In the interview at the school in Bosnia where he studies, Kim Han-sol, 17, spoke of his desire to "make things better" for the Korean people.

Sporting wide, black-frame glasses, two studs in his left ear and a fashionable haircut, Kim also spoke of his close friendships forged with South Korean and US students and his hopes for Korean reunification.

Kim, who was born in Pyongyang in 1995, described a lonely early childhood, spent mostly in the home of his mother's family - isolated from the grandfather he never actually met and who died in December last year.

"I always wanted to meet him, because I just wanted to know what kind of person he is," Kim said in the interview, which aired on Finnish television and was posted on YouTube.

"I was actually waiting for him ... until he passed away, hoping he would come find me, because I really didn't know if he knew that I existed," he said.

Kim is the son of Kim Jong-il's eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, who fell out of favour with his father after a botched attempt in 2001 to secretly enter Japan using a fake passport and visit Disneyland.

The family has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in Macau.

"My dad was not really interested in politics," Kim said, when asked why his father was passed over for the dynastic succession in North Korea in favour of his younger brother.

"I don't really know why he became a dictator," Kim said of his uncle Kim Jong-un. "It was between him and my grandfather."

The interview was done in English by Elisabeth Rehn, a former UN undersecretary general and rapporteur for human rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"1995, the year Han-sol was born, was a dark year in North Korean history. Millions of people starved to death," ran a caption displayed on the screen.

"When I was growing up in North Korea, I wasn't really aware of what was going on there," Kim Han-sol said. "I've always dreamed that one day I would go back and make things better and make it easier for the people there."

Kim enrolled in the United World College in Mostar in Bosnia last year, arousing intense media interest, which he did his best to avoid. His plan to study at the college's Hong Kong campus was scuppered when the government denied him a visa last year.

Speaking of his overseas studies, in Macau and Bosnia, Kim recalled how it was "kind of awkward" when he first met students from South Korea as well as the United States.

"But then, little by little, we started understanding each other," he said. "Now, we are really close friends and we travel together, and it's such a wonderful feeling.

"It's really sad I can't go to the other side [South Korea]. But we can, if we put in a little effort, step by step, come to a conclusion and unite."

He offered no direct insight into the relations between his family and the regime led by his uncle in Pyongyang. In February, Kim's father, Kim Jong-nam, had spoken disparagingly of Kim Jong-un lacking "any sense of duty or seriousness".