Soviet records show that Shura was born Alexander Irsenovich Kim in 1944 in the Russian village of Vyatskoye. Inside his family, he was nicknamed Shura. Official North Korean biographies state that Shura and his older brother Kim Jong-il got along very well and played together.
In the summer of 1947 or 1948, Shura and his brother were playing in a pond in the city of Pyongyang, when Shura mysteriously drowned. Russian sources indicate that he drowned in a well in Vyatskoye, prior to the family moving back to Korea. Official records state that Kim Jong-il was devastated and could never get over the trauma of losing his younger brother. In 1949, his mother, Kim Jong-suk died while giving birth to a stillborn girl.