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A scan obtained by Reuters shows an authentic Brazilian passport issued to North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. Handout via REUTERS

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his father ‘used Brazilian passports to apply for Western visas’

Kim Jong-il also had a Brazilian passport that could have been used to get into Western countries, as well as Asian locations including Hong Kong, a source said

North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his late father Kim Jong-il used fraudulently obtained Brazilian passports to apply for visas to visit Western countries in the 1990s, five senior Western European security sources told Reuters.

While North Korea’s ruling family is known to have used travel documents obtained under false pretenses, there are few specific examples. The photocopies of the Brazilian passports seen by Reuters have not been published before.

“They used these Brazilian passports, which clearly show the photographs of Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-il, to attempt to obtain visas from foreign embassies,” one senior Western security source said on condition of anonymity.

“This shows the desire for travel and points to the ruling family’s attempts to build a possible escape route,” the security source said.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un watches a military drill. Photo: Reuters

The North Korean embassy in Brazil declined to comment.

Brazil’s foreign ministry said it was investigating.

A Brazilian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two passports in question were legitimate documents when sent out as blanks for consulates to issue.

Four other senior Western European security sources confirmed that the two Brazilian passports with photos of the Kims in the names of Josef Pwag and Ijong Tchoi were used to apply for visas in at least two Western countries.

It was unclear whether any visas were issued.

The passports may also have been used to travel to Brazil, Japan and Hong Kong, the security sources said.

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported in 2011 that Jong-un visited Tokyo as a child using a Brazilian passport in 1991 – before the issue date on the two Brazilian passports.

Both 10-year passports carry a stamp saying “Embassy of Brazil in Prague” with a February 26, 1996, issue date.

The security sources said facial recognition technology confirmed the photographs were those of Kim Jong-un and his father.

The passport with Kim Jong-un’s photo was issued in the name of “Josef Pwag” with a date of birth of February 1, 1983.

So little is known about Kim Jong-un that even his birth date is disputed. He would have been 12-to-14-years old when the Brazilian passport was issued.

North Korea’s then-leader Kim Jong-il and then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright meet in Pyongyang in 2000. File photo: AP

Kim Jong-un is known to have been educated at an international school in Berne, Switzerland, where he pretended to be the son of an embassy chauffeur.

Kim Jong-il’s passport was issued in the name Ijong Tchoi with a birth date of April 4, 1940. Kim Jong-il died in 2011. His true birth date was in 1941.

Both passports list the holders’ birthplaces as Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The first security source declined to describe how the passport copies had been obtained, citing secrecy rules.

Reuters has only seen photocopies of the passports so was unable to discern if they had been tampered with.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Kims ‘used Brazilian passports’