Who Is Kim Jong Un’s “Butler”? Kim Chang-Son Has Been Spotted In Hanoi
Preparations are under way for the second U.S.-North Korea summit next week, and delegations from both countries are already in Hanoi, Vietnam to iron out logistics. According to The New York Times, a North Korean official known as Kim Jong Un's "butler," has been seen scouting in Hanoi ahead of his boss' arrival on Monday.
Kim Chang-Son, the so-called "butler," is probably closer to a chief of staff, reports The Times. According to BBC, South Korean media previously referred to Kim Chang-Son as Kim Jong Un's butler, possibly because he has worked for the North Korean ruler's family for many years.
According to NK Leadership Watch, Kim Chang-Son has worked within the North Korean government since 1969. As the current director and chief secretary of the National Defense Commission, Kim Chang-Son is also reportedly in charge of the supreme leader's scheduling, itineraries, and communications. NK Leadership Watch reports that Kim Chang-Son has been seen publicly accompanying Kim Jong Un and his sister Kim Yo Jong since 2010.
This week Kim Chang-Son has been working on logistics with Daniel Walsh, his counterpart in the White House, and scouting for accommodations for the summit next week, according to The Times. Reuters reported that among other places, Kim Chang-Son stopped in at a government guesthouse, and the five-star Metropole and Meliá hotels located in the capital city.
According to Yonhap, a South Korean news outlet, Kim Chang-Son was also seen in Bac Ninh province, northeast of Hanoi, a possible indicator that Kim Jong Un might be visiting a Samsung smartphone manufacturing plant in Bac Ninh, while he is in Vietnam. The Times also reported that Kim Chang-Son was spotted in Ha Long Bay, a popular tourist destination in Quang Ninh Province.
Kim Chang-Son played a similar role ahead of the Singapore summit in June, arriving ahead of Kim Jong Un to work out logistics. According to South China Morning Post, when Kim Chang-Son was asked at the Beijing airport whether he was flying to Singapore for the U.S.-North Korea talks, he replied that he was "going there to play."
After his arrival next week, Kim Jong Un reportedly plans to meet with Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong, before his second summit with President Trump. This visit will be the first time a North Korean leader has visited Vietnam since 1964. Since both countries are ruled by Communist parties, The Times reports the meeting is expected to strengthen a Vietnamese-North Korean bond.
For Kim Jong Un and Trump, the broad agenda this time around will be the same as the first U.S.-North Korea Summit last June — negotiating an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The last summit ended with an agreement to work toward denuclearization, but left some things — like a timeline, or what exactly denuclearization means — undefined. "We’re in no rush whatsoever," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday, per The Washington Post. "We’re going to have our meeting. ... As long as there’s no testing, I’m in no rush. If there’s testing, that’s another deal."