Kim Jong-nam

Kim Jong-nam’s family placed under police protection in Macau

Sources confirm relatives of the murdered half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fear for their life after his death in Malaysia on Monday

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2017, 1:49am

Relatives of Kim Jong-nam, fearing for their safety after his murder in Malaysia on Monday, have been placed under police protection in Macau, sources have confirmed.

The circumstances of the death of the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader are still being investigated and both his family and local authorities are now grappling with the consequences of the killing.

The Macau secretary for security Wong Sio Chak said in a statement that he would not reveal any details about the case or the eventual security measures being taken to protect Kim’s relatives, but said that the authorities were paying close attention to the development of the case.

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“The authorities continue making their utmost efforts – in a lawful manner – to protect the safety and legitimate rights of all Macau residents, visitors and people staying in Macau,” the note read.

Over the past few days, there have been reports of US and South Korean government sources saying they believed North Korean agents murdered Kim, but other analysts have argued that the country had no reasons to do so. Kim, who moved to Macau in the early 2000s and was a frequent traveller, had survived an earlier attempt on his life in 2012.

Kim’s second wife, Lee Hye-Kyong, the son Kim Han-sol, 21, and the daughter Kim Sol-hui, who is believed to be 18, have been living in the former Portuguese colony, whereas his first wife and son reside in Beijing.

A Macau source, who knows Lee, said: “She is very simple, always in good spirits and a very open person ... but we never talked about North Korea.”

Both Han-sol, who studied in Bosnia and France, and Sol-hui were raised and educated in international schools in Macau. “The kids had a very normal childhood, they were very active, attended activities ... it wasn’t like they we hiding or anything,” she said.

“Until now, they had always felt safe in Macau,” the source told the Post.

Han-sol and Sol-hui, at the age of 14 and 10 respectively, joined the Portuguese scouts in Macau, a catholic group, for about four years. That included attending masses and lusophone events, Portuguese-language newspaper Ponto Final reported in 2009.

Sources said that not many people knew about their family background back then, but soon realised that the two were in special circumstances.

“The [kids] were very easy to deal with, but they would avoid sharing their contact details and they would be often away ... One day, they stopped showing up without any explanation,” a source said.

Although Kim used to travel very often, another source said that the children had a fairly close relationship with their father. “Whenever the son had a problem, I know that he would seek help from him,” a source said.

Over the years, the family moved around in Macau, but many residents would not recognise them as they always maintained a low profile. That was the case of a neighbour, who lived two houses away from Kim’s former oceanfront villa in Cheoc Van, Coloane, about 10 years ago.

“He already lived there when I moved to that house. At first, I did not know who he was… I only realised it when I saw some news in the newspaper,” the man, who was Kim’s neighbour for some three years, said.

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“He used to wear sunglasses. He would leave home and enter his car and vice versa ... always had expensive cars,” the source said.

According to the former neighbour, Kim would never speak to others and rarely had guests. “He wouldn’t look at anybody ... never greeted me,” the source said. “Never saw his wife or children, but I remember there were one or two men, whom I believe were security guards, near the house,” he described.

From time to time, the source said, Kim would not be seen for a few weeks.

Although he might have been a reserved neighbour, friends in Macau described Kim as a relaxed and an open man, who appreciated food and wine as well as an occasional bet in the city’s casinos.

Former neighbours of the mother and two children – the couple was no longer together – declined to make any comments, citing that they were a very private family.