Families under tremendous emotional stress

Nephew of N.K. leader sighted despite rumors of going into hiding

Nephew of N.K. leader sighted despite rumors of going into hiding

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Published : 2013-12-17 20:19
Updated : 2013-12-17 20:19

Kim Han-sol, a nephew of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was spotted on Monday at a student dormitory in France amid growing speculations about his whereabouts in connection with the recent execution of once-powerful Jang Song-thaek.

The South Korean media had earlier raised the possibility that he might have gone off the radar to protect himself from the brutal political purges. He is the son of Kim Jong-nam, an older half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Right after Jang’s downfall, North Korea experts predicted that Kim Jong-nam’s status would be changing as Pyongyang solidifies the one-man rule of Kim Jong-un ― a development that could also affect Kim Han-sol.

Despite all the concerns, the 18-year-old freshman at the Science Po campus in the seaport city of Le Havre showed up around 6 p.m. at the school’s dormitory, under the protection of French policemen.

According to local media, the police officers have been patrolling the grounds of the dormitory and warned South Korean reporters not to take pictures of Kim.

On Sunday, Korean media outlets speculated that Kim Han-sol and his father Kim Jong-nam might take steps to protect themselves from Kim Jong-un, who is urgently consolidating his grip on the communist nation by eliminating dissenters and possible threats.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of Pyongyang, on Saturday described Kim Jong-un as “a person who can point a gun” at those who dare to challenge him, even if they are “his own flesh and blood.” Rumors mushroomed here as Han-sol’s name tag at school had been removed from his mailbox on the same day.

Kim Han-sol publicly made an unfavorable comment about his uncle Kim Jong-un in an interview with a Finnish television station last year. At the time he was attending the United World College in Mostar, Bosnia. He said he did not know how his uncle became “a dictator” and he wanted to improve things for the people in North Korea.

Meanwhile, his father, Kim Jong-nam, who had been living in Macao and China and allegedly received financial support from Jang Song-thaek, is said to have left Macao around the time his brother rose to the top military rank of marshal in the North Korean army, in 2012.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)

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