Kim Jong-un’s secretive older brother Kim Jong-chul who had 'warm heart of a girl'

Fresh speculation that Kim Jong-un could be in a coma has renewed the debate over who would take his place if he met an early demise.

The latest claim that the North Korean leader is in a coma has been dismissed, and state media has pictured him chairing a ruling party summit and surveying typhoon damage in recent days.

North Korea has never publicly stated who would follow Kim in the event that he is unable to rule, but Pyongyang watchers have once again tipped his sister, Kim Yo-jong, as his likely successor, although perhaps only temporarily.

There is one long shot, however - the siblings' elusive and only surviving brother, Kim Jong-chul, who plays a support role for his brother, and is probably best known for his love of Eric Clapton and his 2015 visit to London to see the Brit in concert.

Observers say Kim Jong-chul, who is 38 or 39, is not a viable option to take over the country which has been ruled by the Kim dynasty since it was founded after World War II.


Experts recently told the BBC that he has never appeared interested in politics or power, and at most he could be a symbolic link to the Kim family, and possibly be appointed to lead a foundation or read the odd speech.


His father, Kim Jong-il, overlooked him as a potential successor in 2009, and his older half-brother Kim Jong-nam fell out of favour when he was caught travelling on a fake passport (and was later assassinated with a VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia in February 2017.

Kim Jong-il's former personal sushi chef, who used the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto, wrote a book in 2003, claiming the ruler saw his son Kim Jong-chul as "no good because he is like a little girl", while he considered Kim Jong-un to be a boy of "inner strength", the BBC reported.


The chef wrote that Kim Jong-chul "had the warm heart of a girl", the Washington Post once reported.


Younger brother Kim Jong-un, said to be 36 now, was chosen and groomed to become the reclusive regime's next supreme leader, taking over in December 2011 after his father's death.


Kim Jong-chul - the third of Kim Jong-il's five children - is said to be more interested in music than politics, which has been suggested based on his travels abroad, but it is also claimed he has his brother's respect.


It is said he was educated at an international school in Switzerland, like the current ruler, before returning to Pyongyang, where he studied at a military university and worked in the propaganda department.


His Japanese-Korean mother, Ko Yong-hui, who was born in Osaka, was reported to have been Kim Jong-il's favourite consort.


He is said to be a talented musician and he has flown around the world to watch Eric Clapton in concert - in Germany in 2006, Singapore in February 2011 and at London's Royal Albert Hall in May 2015.


In 2016, South Korea's spies claimed he had been shut out of power and was living under surveillance, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Thae Yong-ho, the former deputy ambassador of North Korea to London, was Kim Jong-chul's minder during the May 2015 trip to London.


After defecting to South Korea in 2016, he told Reuters he escorted the Kim brother around London and took him to two gigs for Clapton's 70th birthday celebration tour.


Thae said Kim was a polite young man who didn't reveal much about his life in Pyongyang or his older brother.


The defector, who disappeared from the embassy quarters in Gunnersbury, west London, with his family before resurfacing in Seoul weeks later, added: “He’s very free. But he’s only interested in guitars and music."


Video of Kim Jong-chul at the gig showed him wearing a leather jacket and wearing aviator sunglasses with an unknown woman by his side, believed at the time to have been his girlfriend.


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