SEOUL – A video of a man describing himself as the son of assassinated North Korean exile Kim Jong Nam emerged Wednesday, apparently the first time a family member has spoken about the killing.
The video was uploaded to the YouTube page of a previously unknown group, Cheollima Civil Defense (CCD), which claimed to have “extracted” vulnerable members of Kim’s family with the help of Dutch, U.S. and South Korean authorities, and was keeping them under protection in an undisclosed location.
South Korea’s intelligence agency confirmed the individual on the video is Kim Han Sol. A spokesman for the National Intelligence Service declined to give further details, including Kim’s whereabouts or any information about the CCD.
Kim father was murdered at Malaysia’s main airport last month by two women using the banned nerve agent VX, with Pyongyang widely blamed for the assassination.
In the video, the man says in English: “My name is Kim Han Sol, from North Korea, part of the Kim family. My father has been killed a few days ago. I’m currently with my mother and my sister. We are very grateful to” — and then the audio cuts off and his mouth is blacked out, apparently to avoid revealing their location.
He shows his North Korean diplomatic passport as evidence of his identity, but the page that shows his particulars is digitally covered.
The 40-second video wraps up with him saying, “We hope this gets better soon.”
There was no indication where or precisely when the video was made.
Han Sol, 21, is believed to have graduated from Sciences Po university in Paris and had been living in exile with his parents in the Chinese territory of Macau before he disappeared with his mother and sister following his father’s death.
Because of his bloodline, Han Sol could be seen as a rival figurehead in a state that is ruled by his uncle Kim Jong Un and is roiled by bloody purges.
Malaysia has yet to formally identify the dead man as Kim or release the body, with police saying they are waiting for next of kin to come forward and provide a DNA sample.
On its website — registered only Saturday — CCD said that it was protecting Kim’s family.
“Cheollima Civil Defense responded last month to an emergency request by survivors of the family of Kim Jong Nam for extraction and protection. The three family members were met quickly and relocated to safety,” it said in English.
“We have in the past addressed other urgent needs for protection,” it asserted. “This will be the first and last statement on this particular matter, and the present whereabouts of this family will not be addressed.”
The group thanked countries “for the emergency humanitarian assistance afforded to us in protecting this family,” including the Netherlands, China and the United States, plus an unspecified fourth government.
It praised the Dutch ambassador to South Korea, Lody Embrechts, in particular “for his timely and strong response to our sudden request for assistance,” calling him “a credit to the people of the Netherlands and their long and principled stance for human rights and humanitarian norms.”
Neither the Netherlands Embassy in Seoul nor CCD could be reached for comment.
“Cheollima” is a mythical winged horse originating in ancient Chinese myths. CCD uses South Korean transliteration for the word, and some of the Korean text on its website reads as if it may have been translated from English.
Kim Sung Min, a high-profile defector who operates an anti-Pyongyang radio station, said the group appears to be associated with activists based in the United States.
South Koreans left messages of encouragement for Han Sol on YouTube, with some inviting him to defect to the South.
“It must have been very painful for him when he said ‘my father has been killed,’ ” wrote one user.
Another said: “Be safe. You’re important to us, and to our future as a divided nation.”