LONDON – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his late father, Kim Jong Il, used fraudulently obtained Brazilian passports to apply for visas to visit Western countries in the 1990s, five senior Western European security sources told Reuters.
While North Korea’s ruling family is known to have used travel documents obtained under false pretenses, there are few specific examples. The photocopies of the Brazilian passports seen by Reuters have not been published before.
“They used these Brazilian passports, which clearly show the photographs of Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Il, to attempt to obtain visas from foreign embassies,” one senior Western security source said on condition of anonymity. “This shows the desire for travel and points to the ruling family’s attempts to build a possible escape route.”
The North Korean Embassy in Brazil declined comment.
Brazil’s foreign ministry said it was investigating.
A Brazilian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two passports were legitimate documents when sent out as blanks for consulates to issue.
Four other senior Western European security sources confirmed that the passports were used to apply for visas in at least two Western countries. It was unclear whether any visas were actually issued.
The passports may also have been used to travel to Brazil, Japan and Hong Kong, the security sources said.
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported in 2011 that Kim Jong Un visited Tokyo as a child using a Brazilian passport in 1991 — before the issue date on the two Brazilian passports.
Both 10-year passports carry a stamp saying “Embassy of Brazil in Prague” with an issue date of Feb. 26, 1996. The security sources said facial recognition technology confirmed the photographs were those of Kim Jong Un and his father.
The passport with Kim Jong Un’s photo was issued in the name of Josef Pwag with a date of birth of Feb. 1, 1983.
So little is known about Kim Jong Un that even his birth date is disputed. He would have been 12 to 14 years old when the Brazilian passport was issued.
Kim Jong Un is known to have been educated at an international school in Bern, Switzerland, where he pretended to be the son of an embassy chauffeur.
Kim Jong Il’s passport was issued in the name Ijong Tchoi with a birthdate of April 4, 1940. He died in 2011. His true birthdate was in 1941.
Both passports list the holders’ birthplaces as Sao Paulo.
The first security source declined to describe how the passport copies had been obtained, citing secrecy rules.
Reuters has only seen photocopies of the passports so was unable to discern if they had been tampered with.