Meet Kim Jong-Il's Sons

With Kim Jong-Il's passing, we take a look at the three sons he fathered, and why the youngest is taking the reigns.

Kim Jong-Nam

Kim Jong-Nam is the oldest son of the departed "Dear Leader." Jong-Nam was born in 1971 and for the first four years of his life his existence was kept from his grandfather, the then-President and leader of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung. Il-Sung was notoriously puritanical, and Jong-Il worried he would disapprove of his marriage to Jong-Nam's mother Sung Hae Rim, who had been previously married.

In 1998 Kim Jong-Nam was appointed to a high post in the Ministry of Public Security. A high-profile position such as this, pointed towards the fact that Jong-Nam was being groomed to succeed his father. A belief was only strengthened when Jong-Nam was made the chairman of the DPRK Computer Committee, a position that effectively put him in charge of North Korea's technological future.

But in 2001, Jong-Nam was arrested for traveling to Japan (on his way to Tokyo Disney) using a fake Dominican passport. This unwanted attention on his family infuriated Kim Jong-Il and led to Jong-Nam's falling out of favor. At which point, Jong-Nam steered into the skid and announced that he had no interest in replacing his father and instead embraced his playboy lifestyle. It's been reported that he lives in Macau.

He has a dragon tattoo on his back. It is not believed the books are based on him.

Kim Jong-Chol

Little is known about Kim Jong-Il's second son, Kim Jong-Chol. Educated at an international school in Switzerland, Jong-Chol went by the pseudonym Pak Chol for protection. While there he wrote a poem that called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It was featured in the book "Bipolar Orders: The Two Koreas Since 1989."

After Jong-Nam's falling out of favor, it was believed that Jong-Chol was the heir apparent, but that notion was quickly dismissed as Kim Jong-Il reportedly believed that "Jong Chol is impossible because he is too feminine." (That fact was first written about in the memoir of Kim Jong-Il's sushi chef, "I Was Kim Jong Il's Cook." What an awesome title.)

He was last spotted at an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore.

Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-Un, the youngest son of Kim Jong-Il was born in either late-1983 or early-1984, and has been his father's heir apparent since 2009 when he was named to a position in the North Korean National Defense Commission.

Jong-Un has always held something of a favored place with his father, and they are said to be similar in many ways (both have been known to have notoriously short fuses). He's been driving cars and drinking alcohol since he was a child, and once insisted that his younger sister call him "General Comrade" rather than "brother." It is believed that he too was educated in Switzerland where he learned to speak both English and German, but much of his childhood is speculation (or hearsay) due to the secrecy of the North Korean regime.

In 2010 Jong-Un was made a Daejang (the Korean equivalent to a general), despite limited military experience. He was also made a deputy chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party and a member of the party's central committee. All of these appointments clearly pointed to his ascendance to power when his father finally passed.

It is expected that North Korea will now enter a three year mourning period, during which time Jong-Un's power will slowly be consolidated. As he has only been in the public eye (or as "public" an eye as is possible for a North Korean leader) for a short time (unlike his father who had been groomed over a period of more than a decade) it is believed that he will share some of the ruling responsibilities with military leaders to start. At the end of the three year period Jong-Un will formally take over for his father.

It is also known that he loves the Los Angeles Lakers. So there's that too.

To read more about Kim Jong Il and his sons check out these two amazing pieces:

Evan Thomas in Newsweek

Adriana S. Lee in Time Magazine



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.