A New Neighbor from North Korea

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People in Hong Kong woke up today to learn they have a new neighbor: the eldest son of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. The son, Kim Jong Nam, has been living in nearby Macau for the past three years, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. (The paper has a subscription-only web site, but here’s an AP report that hits the highlights.) The Yomiuri Shimbun out of Japan also has a story that has the son merely visiting Macau. The former Portuguese colony has boomed in recent years thanks to an expansion of its casino industry. It also has a unique history with North Korea. In 2005 the U.S. imposed sanctions on Banco Delta Asia, a financial institution the Americans accused of laundering money for North Korea. Macau officials have impounded $24 million from North Korean accounts at the bank. Those financial restrictions have been the subject of recent talks between U.S. and North Korean officials.

As for the junior Kim, there’s no clear indication of what he’s doing around here. It’s probably a bit more pleasant this time of year than in Beijing, another reported haunt of his. According to the Morning Post story he has been seen out drinking and playing slot machines in Macau. The closest explanation is a quote from the Yomiuri story suggesting he’s visiting to clear up some question about a bank account in Hong Kong. Jong Nam has been known as something of a world traveler. In 2001 he was arrested trying to enter Japan on a forged passport. He reportedly was trying to visit Tokyo Disneyland. Perhaps now he’s interested in the more mature attractions of Macau’s casinos.