Rare interview with Kim Jong-Il’s grandson appears on YouTube

Kim Han-Sol, 17, describes growing up in North Korea under his grandfather's controversial regime.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Published Oct 19, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 9:06 am CDT

A candid interview with the teenage grandson of Kim Jong-Il gives a rare glimpse into growing up in one of the world’s most secretive nations.

The Wall Street Journal reported last October that Kim Han-Sol, 17, the son of Kim Jong-Il’s eldest son Kim Jong-Nam, attended a private high school in Bosnia and Herzegovina on a study visa, but the trail ran cold on information about him once he deleted or restricted access to all of his social media accounts.

Kim spoke with former United Nations Under-Secretary General Elisabeth Rehn, who helped found the United World College in Mostar, where Kim is a student. The two-part interview was conducted in English for Finnish TV and uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday.

Calm and collected, Kim described his childhood as being “very isolated” in order to keep a low profile, much of which was spent with his mother’s family. Kim’s father fell out of favor with the former ruler in 2001 and the family lived in the Chinese territory of Macau.

Kim, who had never met Kim Jong-Il, was curious about him, like much of the international media, and wanted to find out more about him.

“I always wanted to meet [Kim Jong-Il], because I just wanted to know what kind of person he is,” Kim said, who hoped that the ruler would come find him.

Kim called his uncle, North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-Un, a “dictator” when asked about him, but he didn’t know about the process. Kim Jong-Nam told a Japanese journalist in an email exchange that Kim Jong-Un lacked “any sense of duty or seriousness.”

He said that it was initially awkward meeting students from South Korea and the U.S. due to the conflicts they have with North Korea, but they were soon all able to understand each other and he considers them his friends.

“At the end of the day, we all have very similar core human values,” Kim said.

He also expressed a wish to become involved with voluntary and humanitarian work after he finished school, especially at home.

“I’ve always dreamed that one day I would go back [to North Korea] and make things better and make it easier for the people there,” Kim said.

Photo via processedturkey/YouTube

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*First Published: Oct 19, 2012, 2:15 pm CDT