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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea's Kim looks to mystery brother Kim Jong Chol for help

Report says leader held discussions with elder sibling before historic US summit

SEOUL -- Before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un decided to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, he consulted with his elder brother, Kim Jong Chol, and younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, on the historic summit and other matters affecting the Korean Peninsula.

The second son of the late leader Kim Jong Il has been out of the media spotlight. There had been speculation that he was under the supervision of the authorities. But a report on Thursday by South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper hints that the leader is on good terms with his elder brother.

The report quoted unnamed intelligence sources as saying that although Kim Jong Chol's policymaking role is not significant, "the fact that Kim Jong Un holds discussions with him can be interpreted as him showing respect for his elder brother."

The three siblings were all born to Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong-hui, a dancer from a Korean family in Osaka. The mother of Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of Kim Jong Il, who was murdered in a Malaysian airport last year, was actress Sung Hye-rim.

In 2016, a South Korean intelligence agency reported to parliament that Kim Jong Chol had been shut out of power and was living under surveillance.

Kim Jong Un has gone to great lengths to establish the legitimacy of his rule based on the so-called Mount Paektu bloodline, which stretches back to his grandfather and North Korea's first leader, Kim Il Sung, and his father, Kim Jong Il.

In 2013, Kim Jong Un executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek. Some observers had believed Kim Jong Chol was elbowed aside in the same purge.

Kim Yo Jong, since early this year, has been present at important events, such as North-South summits and meetings between North Korean and U.S. officials.

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