Kim Jong Il's grandson a typical teenager in Bosnia

October 31, 2011

By TORU TAMAGAWA / Correspondent

MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina--The grandson of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il sports an earring in his left ear and has stopped dying his hair blond. He likes to hang out at a cafe here with his Libyan roommate and other pals, playing cards and drinking coffee.

In short, Kim Han Sol is much like any other 16-year-old.

Kim Han Sol started taking courses at the United World College, an international school located in downtown Mostar in southern Bosnia, on Oct. 13.

He lives in a dormitory, 10 minutes from school by car.

On the morning of Oct. 20, a youth believed to be Kim Han Sol was spotted heading for school with other students from the dorm.

These days, his hair is black, unlike the photo he posted on Facebook.

"He is a bit shy, but is otherwise an ordinary boy," said a 19-year-old waitress at a cafe near the dormitory. "He said he was afraid of going out by himself."

She said Kim Han Sol hangs out at the cafe most nights with his friends.

He appears relaxed and open to friends, the waitress said, adding that when chatting he will often say, "Bosnian dishes are yum" and "I am worried if I will be able to catch up with my classes."

According to a Hong Kong newspaper and other media, Kim Han Sol, a son of Kim Jong Il's eldest son Kim Jong Nam, lived in Macau before he was granted a visa to live in Bosnia, which maintains close ties with North Korea.

Alarmed about Western media interest in the youth, school administrators ordered its students not to talk to outsiders about him.

The school arranged for security staff to accompany him temporarily on his trips to and from school.

School administrators introduced Kim Han Sol to the other students as coming "from a very famous family in North Korea."

While many students know of his background, they refrain from asking him about North Korea so as not to make him feel uncomfortable, staff at the school said.

A man with Asian features frequently patrols the school grounds and around the dormitory, apparently to keep an eye out for visiting representatives of the world's media.

Mostar was the site of major fighting during the Bosnian conflict.

The school has about 150 students from as far away as Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Palestine territory.

Kim Han Sol will study there for two years, a school staff member said.

During this time, Kim Han Sol will be encouraged to mingle with students from diverse backgrounds.

The city was badly damaged during the Bosnian conflict, but much of it has been rebuilt.

In an interview with U.S.-based Public Radio International, Kim Han Sol said being Kim Jong Il's grandson "comes with a lot of baggage."

"All I want to do is study and live my life," Kim Han Sol was quoted as saying in an article the broadcaster posted on its website.

Kim Han Sol said he knows "almost nothing about (North) Korea" because he had lived in Macau with his father since he was 2 years old, although he visited his homeland every summer.

Asked about his Facebook posting, in which he asked friends if they prefer democracy or communism, he said, "In communism and democracy you have both good and bad," the PRI article said.

By TORU TAMAGAWA / Correspondent
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A student believed to be Kim Han Sol leaves a student dormitory to attend college in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Toru Tamagawa)

A student believed to be Kim Han Sol leaves a student dormitory to attend college in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Toru Tamagawa)

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  • A student believed to be Kim Han Sol leaves a student dormitory to attend college in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Toru Tamagawa)

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