CHINA: Kim Jong Il’s grandson barred from Hong Kong


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REPORTING FROM BEIJING -- The boy who couldn’t visit Disneyland now has been turned down by Hong Kong as well.

The 16-year-old grandson of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was accepted at an elite English-language high school in Hong Kong but was rejected for a student visa by local authorities, the school’s former principal said Thursday.


Kim Han Sol is the son of Kim Jong Nam, the leader’s oldest son. In 2001, Kim Jong Nam tried to bring the boy to Tokyo Disneyland but ended up being arrested for trying to enter Japan on a forged Dominican passport.

Flash forward a decade: Hong Kong authorities turned down Kim’s request for a visa to attend United World Colleges’ campus there, according to Stephen Codrington, who was principal until this summer. The official reason was that North Korean passport holders, along with Filipinos, Nepalese and Cambodians, are not eligible for student visas because of a history of overstaying their visits.

‘Reading between lines, I think the real reason was because they know who his father is,’ Codrington said in a telephone interview. ‘The famous incident at the Tokyo airport didn’t help. I think his father is on some sort of blacklist.’

After the Tokyo arrest, Kim Jong Nam fell into disfavor and was passed over as successor to his father in favor of his younger half-brother, Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Nam has been living in Macao, where his son had been enrolled in an English-language international school.

Codrington, who interviewed Han Sol in April in Macao for the admissions office, said the young man was an impressive applicant with good academic standing and command of English.

‘He struck me as balanced, well-rounded, confident without being arrogant, charismatic, idealistic,’ said Codrington. “He seems to care deeply about the situation on the Korean peninsula and to have a capacity to see it from both points of view. He spends summers in North Korea with his family, but he has been exposed to the Western media, Facebook, Twitter. He is certainly aware of the outside view of the Korean situation.’


In fact, social media have been causing young Han Sol some trouble lately. South Korean media last week dug up his Facebook page; photographs revealed a teenager with dyed blond hair and a silver cross around his neck, more like a young pop star than one of the dynasty of dictators.

The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo also uncovered comments he posted on YouTube under a video about North Korea in which he expressed concern about food shortages.

‘I know my people are hungry,’ he wrote. ‘I’d do anything to help them.’

Han Sol now appears headed to Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where United World Colleges has another of its 13 campuses. Codrington said the schools were so impressed with Kim that they made an effort to find him another place after Hong Kong turned down the visa. Canada had been another option, Codrington said, but the Kim family believed the young man would not be safe living so close to the United States.

‘They preferred Europe,’ said Codrington. In Bosnia, he added, ‘they have an emphasis on bringing people together from nations in conflict. He will be great asset to the campus.’


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-- Barbara Demick