Kim Jong Un's brother wanted to go to Eric Clapton's concert

Thae Yong Ho, North Korea's former deputy ambassador in London who defected to the South, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Seoul, South Korea, February 3, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL - Two years ago, Thae Yong Ho, North Korea's former deputy ambassador in London, received an unexpected phone call from the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee in Pyongyang telling him to get ready to receive a very important e-mail.

"Please go to the Albert Hall and buy four tickets," said the cryptic message from a disposable e-mail address designed to throw off Western intelligence agencies.

But the message wasn't code - Thae found out later he was being asked to take leader Kim Jong Un's brother to an Eric Clapton concert.

After receiving the e-mail, Thae said he searched online for upcoming gigs at London's Royal Albert Hall.

One caught his eye: "Eric Clapton's 70th Birthday Celebration Tour".

North Korea president Kim Jong-Un happily inspecting things

  • North Korean leader Kim Jung Un supervises a demonstration of a new rocket engine for the geo-stationary satellite at the Sohae Space Center n this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 20, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jung Un supervises a demonstration of a new rocket engine for the geo-stationary satellite at the Sohae Space Center n this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 20, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the newly-built Medical Oxygen Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 15, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the newly-built Medical Oxygen Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 15, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the Kosan Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 18, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) smiles as he guides a test fire of a new multiple launch rocket system in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 4, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance during a fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 6, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance during a fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 6, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the January 18 General Machine Plant in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 10, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Sunchon Chemical Complex in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Chollima Building Materials Complex, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), July 27, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-built combined fishing-tackle factory under the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 30, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-built combined fishing-tackle factory under the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 30, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-built combined fishing-tackle factory under the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 30, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-built combined fishing-tackle factory under the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 30, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the January 18 General Machine Plant in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 10, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claps during a demonstration of a new large-caliber multiple rocket launching system at an unknown location, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an art performance staged by the amateur art groups of KPA units selected in the sixth round of the second-term art performance contest of KPA officers' wives in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 16, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to the drill for ballistic rocket fire of the Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 21, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a Fish Food Factory run by KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), July 24, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a Fish Food Factory run by KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), July 24, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance at the Phyongsong Synthetic Leather Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 12, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to the Paektusan Architectural Institute in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 14, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in this undated file photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 15, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to Pyongyang Orphans' Secondary School in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 3, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the Pyongyang Terrapin Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 6, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Pig Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016.

"I realised, 'Ah! It must be Kim Jong Chol! In North Korea who else would be interested but Kim Jong Chol?'".

Not much is known about Kim Jong Chol, the elder brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, except his love for the music of British guitarist Eric Clapton.

Thae, who defected from North Korea to the South last year, said he was charged with escorting Kim around London when he arrived for the concert.

In an interview in Seoul on Friday, he described the then 35-year-old as a polite young man who said little about his life back in Pyongyang or the politics of his brother.

The Kim dynasty: North Korea's secretive rulers

  • Following a successful missile test and the murder of his half-brother in Kuala Lumpur, North Korean leader Kim Jung Un has been thrust back into the headlines. Here's a look at the hermit state's ruling dynasty.
  • Known as "The Eternal President", Kim Il Sung established the North Korean dictatorship after World War II. With the help of the Soviets who installed him, he purged political enemies and laid the foundations for the regime we see today.
  • Kim Il Sung had three children; Kim Man Il, Kim Kyung Hee and his successor Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Il ran the country after his father's death in 1994.
  • State media announced the death of "The Dear Leader" on December 19, 2011. He is thought to have had at least four female partners.
  • Kim Jong Il had an affair with actress Song Hye-rim, before marrying his first wife Kim Yong Suk (not pictured). The pair had a son, Kim Jong-nam.
  • Kim Jong-nam was raised in secrecy and tipped to take the North Korean crown after his father's death, but fell out of favor after being caught trying to travel to Disneyland. He was allegedly murdered in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13, 2017.
  • Another one of Kim Jong Il's lovers. Ko Yong Hui was working as a dancer before becoming his partner and bore him two sons and a daughter. One of the sons is Kim Jong-Un, the country's current leader. She died in 2004.
  • The supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), lLittle is known for sure about Kim Jong Un. Even his birth date is uncertain but he is believed to be around 33 years old.
  • Before taking power, he had barely been seen in public, and many of the activities of both Kim and his government remain shrouded in secrecy.
  • The oldest son of Kim Jong Il but passed over for the top job by his younger brother Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Chul was initially seen as the successor but a book written by a chef to the family suggested he was viewed as too soft for the job.
  • Mystery also surrounds Kim Yo Chong, the younger sister of Kim Yong Un. Born in 1987, she reportedly attended the International School of Berne in Switzerland.
  • The International Business Times reported that in October 2014 she possibly took over state duties for her brother while he underwent medical treatment.

"He's very free," said Thae. "But he's only interested in guitars and music".

Video of Kim at the May, 2015 concert showed him clad in a leather jacket and wearing aviator sunglasses with an unknown woman by his side, believed at the time to have been his girlfriend.

"She's not his girlfriend," said Thae. She was a rhythm guitarist from the "Moranbong Band" - a North Korean pop group formed by Kim Jong Un after he took power.

Just like Clapton, Kim Jong Chol is an accomplished lead guitarist and jams regularly with the woman, Thae said.

In the days leading up to Clapton's birthday concert, Thae took Kim to Denmark Street, a street in London's glitzy West End packed with guitar and musical instrument shops.

Kim Jong Chol tried out various guitars in every single one of those shops, Thae said, before settling on one where he bought an armful of pedals and mixers to take back home to Pyongyang.

"The shop owner didn't know it was Kim Jong Chol," said Thae.

"He let him play for 30 minutes. The shopkeepers of those guitar shops were amazed by his talent".

Curious at the mysterious guitarist riffing before them, Thae said several shopkeepers started to talk to the North Korean leader's brother, prying him excitedly with questions like 'What is your name?' and 'Which band are you in?'.

"He didn't say anything," said Thae.

"He just smiled".

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