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Kim Jong Un's Elusive Older Brother Kim Jong Chul Rumored To Be His Successor — Meet Him

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Who Is Kim Jong Un's Brother? New Details On Kim Jong Chul And Whether He Could Be His Brother's Successor

As of this writing, no one knows quite yet whether Kim Jong Un is still alive, in a coma, or dead. It's highly unlikely that Western media will get a full and reliable confirmation about his status until long after he's passed away, but speculation continues to grow about who could succeed him in the event of the inevitable.  

Kim Yo-Jong, who is Kim Jong Un's sister and allegedly second-in-command reportedly hasn't been seen in public for quite a while, which has led many to speculate that she could be her brother's successor — and that her disappearance from public view is  "proof" that the shift in power has begun. 

But there's still another possible successor to Kim Jong Un: his elusive, nearly reclusive, older brother. So, we decided to take a look. 

Who is Kim Jong Un's brother, Kim Jong Chul?

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Who is Kim Jong Chul?

38-year-old Kim Jong Chul is the son of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. In addition to Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo-Jung, Kim Jong Chul's other sibling was an older half-brother named Kim Jong-Nam. Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated in Malaysia in February 2017. It's widely believed that Kim Jong Un had his older half-brother assassinated

Kim Jong Chul may have torpedoed his political career before it even got started. 

As the eldest son of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Chul was thought to be a natural successor to his father, Kim Jong Il. However, in May of 2001, he was arrested in Japan after he tried to use a fake passport from the Dominican Republic. Japanese officials held him, then ultimately deported him to China. But as a result of this little incident, not only did Kim Jong Il cancel a planned trip to China, but Kim Jong Chul "fell from favor" in the eyes of the North Korean people. That left the door open for his younger brother, Kim Jong Un, to get groomed to take his father's place. 

But Kim Jong Chul still had a position in the "party."

In 2007, after some time had passed after the Japan incident, Kim Jong Chul was appointed the deputy chief of the Workers' Party of Korea. For a while, this led him to believe that he would have a future in the party that would eventually lead to him taking his father's place. But on January 15, 2009, Kim Jong Il announced that Kim Jong Un would be his successor, passing over Kim Jong Chul, and forcing the elder son of Kim Jong Il into hiding.

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Kim Jong Chul is a talented musician — and a huge Eric Clapton fan. 

In May of 2015, Kim Jong Chul was spotted in London, attending Eric Clapton's concert at the Royal Albert Hall. According to the intrepid reporter who spotted him there, he went to both nights of Clapton's concert performances. And that was far from the first time he'd been spotted there: in 2011, Korean newswires reported that Kim Jong Chul was in attendance for Clapton's concerts in both Singapore and Germany. 

Kim Jong Chul was also personally in attendance to watch the execution of his uncle. 

Even though Kim Jong Chul is reportedly "softer" than Kim Jong Un — which reportedly made Kim Jong Il wary of making him the successor, even before the incident in Japan — he was on hand to personally witness his uncle's execution in 2013. Jang Song Thaek, who was their uncle by marriage (his wife, Kim Kyong-Hui, was the sister of Kim Jong Il) was deemed a "counter-revolutionary" by Kim Jong Un, and subsequently executed. It's believed that many of Kim Jong Chul's relatives were also killed by Kim Jong Un, and there's even some suggestion that Kim Jong Chul, himself, was slated for execution, though ultimately spared. 

Will Kim Jong Chul be Kim Jong Un's successor?

Legally speaking, Kim Jong Chul can indeed become Kim Jong Un's successor when the inevitable happens. However, according to many experts familiar with the elusive North Korean family, Kim Jong Chul remains "apolitical" and prefers to lead a quiet life in Pyongyang, North Korea. While he has consulted with his younger brother on occasion and upon his request, he prefers to live a life away from politics, staying to himself and with his guitars. 

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, photographer and publicist whose work has been featured in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and more.