- By Alicia P.Q. WittmeyerAlicia P.Q. Wittmeyer is the Europe editor at Foreign Policy. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Forbes, among other places. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and master’s degrees from Peking University and the London School of Economics. The P.Q. stands for Ping-Quon.
Kim Jong Il’s grandson has a Libyan roommate. They like to talk politics, including the 2011 revolution that overthrew Muammar al-Qaddafi. He grew up isolated in North Korea, but now has both American and South Korean friends, and hopes that in the future he’ll be able to take a bus down the peninsula to South Korea to see them. He never met his grandfather; it was something he’d really hoped to do before the dictator passed away in December of last year.
These insights and more came out during a recent interview with Kim Han Sol, who is a student at the UN sponsored United World College in Mostar, Bosnia, on Finnish television. The interview was conducted by former Finnish Defense Minister Elisabeth Rehn. It’s well worth a watch:
Kim tells Rehn that his roommate was very supportive of the revolution in Libya:
"It was quite an interesting experience throughout the the year having a Libyan roommate. And especially the revolution, when it happened he was really enthusiastic about it, and he was telling me many stories…how he went home and saw different Libya….It was really interesting."
He describes how his mother was from an "ordinary" North Korean family, and how when he moved to Macau as a child for school, meeting South Koreans was initially "awkward""
"We had people from United States, South Korea, and these are countries that we have been having a lot of conflicts with, a lot of tension. But then we turned out to be really great friends in the end, and that just sparked a curiosity for me to go further to the next level."
Kim Han Sol sparked something of a media frenzy last year when it was reported he would be attending school in Bosnia. But in the videos he seems well adjusted and charming. He speaks good, slightly American-accented English, wears stylish glasses and has two earrings in his left ear.
Kim Han Sol is the son of Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong-Il’s eldest son, who was reportedly the favorite to succeed his father but reported fell out of favor, after pushing the boundaries of what was tolerated from a member of the dynasty. In 2001, he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disney, and has denied he has plans to defect.
Kim Han Sol says his father is not interested in politics, and that when he finished his studies he hopes to volunteer and do humanitarian work.