Kim Jong-un

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Kim Jong-un
Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Assumed office
28 September 2010
Serving with Ri Yong-ho
Leader Kim Jong-il
Preceded by Position established
Personal details
Born 1983/1984 (age 27–28)[1]
Pyongyang, North Korea
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Alma mater Kim Il-sung University
Military service
Allegiance  North Korea
Years of service 2010–present
Rank Daejang (General)
Kim Jong-un
Chosŏn'gŭl 김정은
Hancha 金正恩[2]
McCune–Reischauer Kim Chŏng'ŭn
Revised Romanization Gim Jeong-eun

Kim Jong-un (Korean: [3]), also known as Kim Jong-eun or Kim Jung-eun,[4] formerly Kim Jong-woon or Kim Jung-woon[5] (born 1983 or early 1984),[6] is the third and youngest son of deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his consort Ko Young-hee.[7] Since late 2010, Kim Jong-un has been viewed as heir apparent to the leadership of the nation, and following the announcement of his father's death, he was announced as the "Great Successor" by North Korean state television.[8]

He is a Daejang in the Korean People's Army, a military rank equivalent to that of a (full) General.[9] Kim is said to have studied computer science privately in Korea.[10]


Early life

Kim is thought to have been born in 1983 or early 1984.[6] North Korean officials gave his date of birth as 8 January 1984.[1]

He attended the English-language International School of Berne, Switzerland, until 1998 under a pseudonym.[11][12][13][14][15] Former classmates have asserted that he attended Gümlingen International School or Liebefeld public school. His pseudonym at Gümligen was "Pak Chol" and he pretended to be the son of a driver, although in Liebefeld, the teacher told the class that he was from North Korea.[citation needed] An older student chaperoned him all the time.[citation needed] In Liebefeld, he told his friend Joao Micaelo that he was the son of the North Korea leader, though Micaelo said he didn't believe him at the time.[16]

Kim was described as a shy child who avoided communication with unfamiliar people and was only distinguished for his competitive nature, particularly in sports, and a fascination with the NBA and Michael Jordan. Allegedly, one friend claimed that he had met and even had pictures taken with Kobe Bryant and Toni Kukoč, but was unsure where.[17] He reportedly stayed in Switzerland until late 1999 or early 2000 when former classmates claimed he "disappeared."[citation needed] The ambassador of North Korea in Switzerland, Ri Tcheul, had a close relationship with him and acted as a mentor while there. Switzerland has always stayed neutral in the conflict between North and South Korea. The Kim clan is said to organise family meetings at Lake Geneva and Interlaken.[18]

For many years, only one confirmed photograph of him was known outside North Korea, apparently taken in the mid-1990s, when he was eleven.[19] Occasional other supposed images of him surfaced but were often disputed.[20][21][22][23] It was only in June 2010, shortly before he was given official posts and publicly introduced to the North Korean people, that more pictures were released of Kim, taken when he was attending school in Switzerland.[24][25] The first official image of him as an adult was a group photograph released on 30 September 2010 at the end of the party conference that effectively anointed him, in which he is seated in the front row, two places from his father. This was followed by newsreel footage of him attending the conference.[26]


Kim Jong-un became the leader of the country after his father's death on December 17, 2011. His eldest half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, had been the favorite to succeed, but reportedly fell out of favour after 2001, when he was caught attempting to enter Japan on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.[27]

Kim Jong-il's former personal chef, Kenji Fujimoto, revealed details regarding Kim Jong-un, with whom he shared a good relationship,[28] stating that he is favored to be his father's successor. Fujimoto also claimed that Jong-un was favored by his father over his elder brother, Kim Jong-chul, reasoning that Jong-chul is too feminine in character, while Jong-un is "exactly like his father".[29] Furthermore Fujimoto stated that "If power is to be handed over then Jong-un is the best for it. He has superb physical gifts, is a big drinker and never admits defeat." When Jong-un was 18, Fujimoto described an episode where Jong-un questioned his lavish lifestyle and asked, "We are here, playing basketball, riding horses, riding Jet Skis, having fun together. But what of the lives of the average people?"[29] On January 15, 2009 the South Korean news agency, Yonhap, reported that Kim Jong-il appointed Kim Jong-un to be his successor.[27][30]

On March 8, 2009, the BBC reported rumors that Kim Jong-un appeared on the ballot for elections to the Supreme People's Assembly, the rubber stamp parliament of North Korea.[31] Subsequent reports indicate that his name did not appear on the list of lawmakers,[32] however he was later elevated to a mid-level position in the National Defense Commission, which is a branch of the North Korean military.[33] Reports have also suggested that he is a diabetic and suffers from hypertension.[5][34]

From 2009, it was understood by foreign diplomatic services that Kim was to succeed his father Kim Jong-il as the head of the Korean Workers' Party and de-facto leader of North Korea.[35] He has been named "Yŏngmyŏng-han Tongji" (영명한 동지), which loosely translates to "Brilliant Comrade".[36] His father had also asked embassy staff abroad to pledge loyalty to his son.[34] There have also been reports that citizens in North Korea have been encouraged to sing a newly composed "song of praise" to Kim Jong-un, in a similar fashion to that of praise songs relating to Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung.[37] Later in June, Kim was reported to have visited China secretly to "present himself" to the Chinese leadership, who later warned against North Korea conducting another nuclear test.[38] The Chinese Foreign Ministry has strongly denied that this visit occurred.[39][40]

North Korea was later reported to have backed the succession plan, after Kim Jong-il suspended a propaganda campaign to promote his youngest son.[41] His birthday has since become a national holiday, celebrated on January 1, according to a report by a South Korean website.[42] He was expected to be named on 28 September 2010 as successor to his father as leader of North Korea.[43][44][45]

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited China in early September 2010, and discussed the issue of North Korean leadership succession with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. According to Carter, Wen told Carter that Kim Jong-il had said to Wen that Kim Jong-un's prospective promotion to paramount leader of North Korea was "a false rumor from the West".[46]

Kim Jong-un was made a Daejang, the equivalent of General in the United States,[9] on 27 September 2010, a day ahead of a rare Workers' Party of Korea conference in Pyongyang, the first time North Korean media had mentioned him by name and despite his having no previous military experience.[47][48][49] Despite the promotion, no further details, including verifiable portraits of Kim, were released.[50] On 28 September 2010 he was named vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and appointed to the Central Committee of the Workers' Party, in an apparent nod to become the successor to Kim Jong-il.[51]

On October 10, 2010, alongside his father the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un attended the ruling Workers' Party's 65th anniversary celebration. This was seen as fully confirming his position as the next leader of the Workers' Party. Unprecedented international press access was granted to the event, further indicating the importance of Kim Jong-un's presence.[52]

On December 17, 2011, Kim Jong-il died. Despite the elder Kim's plans, it was not immediately clear after his death whether Jong-un would in fact take full power, and what his exact role in a new government would be.[53] Some analysts believe that following Kim Jong-il's death, Jong-un's uncle-in-law Chang Sung-taek will act as regent, as Jong-un is too inexperienced to immediately lead the country.[54]

On December 19, 2011 the Korean Central News Agency described Kim Jong-un as "a great person born of heaven," a propaganda term only his father and grandfather had enjoyed, while the ruling Workers' Party editorialized that he is "the spiritual pillar and the lighthouse of hope" for the military and the people.[55]


His name was first reported as 김정운 (), possibly an error in transliterating the name from Japanese to Korean, as the Japanese language does not distinguish between 운 (un) and 은 (eun). The initial source of his name was Kim Jong-il's former personal chef, known by the pen name Kenji Fujimoto, who was among the few who had access to information about Kim's household from inside the secretive regime.[citation needed] Chinese media, however, have named him as 김정은 (Hanja: ).


Kim Hyŏng-jik
Kang Pan-sŏk
Kim Jong-suk
Kim Il-sung
Kim Sŏng-ae
Kim Yong-ju
Kim Young-sook
Song Hye-rim
Kim Jong-il
Ko Young-hee
Kim Ok
Kim Kyong-hui
Chang Sung-taek
Kim Pyong-il
Kim Sul-song
Kim Jong-nam
Kim Jong-chul
Kim Jong-un
Kim Han-sol

See also


  1. ^ a b Lee, Young-jong; Ser, Myo-ja (29 September 2010). "Man without a face or birthday". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  2. ^ (Korean)"[北 막오른 김정은 시대조선중앙통신 보도, 金正銀(X) 金正恩"]. Naver. 2 October 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2010. 
  3. ^ (Korean)""청년대장 김정은"... 북 후계자 시사 벽보 찍혔다". Kyunghyang Shinmun. 25 September 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2010. 
  4. ^ Note: until recently, Jong Eun's name had been spelled differently in both Korean and English, causing him to become known as Jong-Woon. The Korean News Service refers to him as Kim Jong Un, while South Korean media is using Eun presently. Daily NK.
  5. ^ a b Kim Jong-un (Kim Jong Woon) – Leadership Succession. Global 3 July 2009
  6. ^ a b "Profile: Kim Jong-un". BBC News. 22 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  7. ^ Moore, Malcom. Kim Jong-un: a profile of North Korea's next leader. The Daily Telegraph. 2 June 2009
  8. ^ Alastair Gale (18 December 2011). "Kim Jong Il Has Died". The Wall Street Journal Asia. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "Is North Korea following the Chinese model?". BBC News. 29 September 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "Will Korea's Computer-Savvy Crown Prince Embrace Reform?". Science 330 (6001): 161. 8 October 2010. doi:10.1126/science.330.6001.161.  (link)
  11. ^ North Korean leader Kim Jong-il 'names youngest son as successor'
  12. ^ "North Korea: Nuclear Tension". CNN. 18 July 2006. 
  13. ^ Hall, Allan (25 November 2010). "Dim JongUn". The Sun (London). 
  14. ^ Foster, Peter (8 June 2010). "Rare photos of Kim Jong-il's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, released". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  15. ^ Harden, Blaine (3 June 2009). "Son Named Heir to North Korea's Kim Studied in Switzerland, Reportedly Loves NBA". The Washington Post. 
  16. ^ Shubert, Atika (2010-09-28). "Swiss man remembers school with son of North Korean leader". CNN. Retrieved 2011-12-19. 
  17. ^ "The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - Classmates Recall Kim Jong-un's Basketball Obsession". 17 July 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  18. ^ "Kim Jong-un : une éducation suisse entourée de mystères". Le Figaro. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  19. ^ "BBC News – Tales of starvation and death in North Korea". 22 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  20. ^ Profile: Kim Jong-un, BBC News Online, 2 June 2009
  21. ^ Photo of Kim Jong-il's Heir Apparent at Age of 16 Unveiled, Korea Times, 14 June 2009.
  22. ^ Fackler, Martin (24 April 2010). "North Korea Appears to Tap Leader's Son as Enigmatic Heir". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ "The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea – Confusion Over Photo of N. Korean Leader-to-Be". Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  24. ^ "The son also rises". JoongAng Daily. 9 June 2010. 
  25. ^ Foster, Peter (8 June 2010). "Rare photos of Kim Jong-il's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, released". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  26. ^ New images of North Korea's heir apparent Kim Jong-un, BBC News Online, 30 September 2010
  27. ^ a b Kim Jong-il's grandson seen at concert. RTHK. 18 July 2009
  28. ^ Lynn, Hyung Gu. (2007). Bipolar orders: the two Koreas since 1989. Zed Books. p. 122. ISBN 978-1842777435.
  29. ^ a b Sang-hun, Choe; Fackler, Martin. North Korea's Heir Apparent Remains a Mystery. The New York Times. 14 June 2009
  30. ^ North Korea Newsletter No. 38. Yonhap. 22 January 2009.
  31. ^ "N Korea holds parliamentary poll". BBC News. Retrieved on 8 March 2009.
  32. ^ "Kim Jong Il's Son, Possible Successor, Isn't Named as Lawmaker". Bloomberg L.P..
  33. ^ "In North Korea, Ailing Kim Begins Shifting Power to Military". Fox News. 1 May 2009.
  34. ^ a b Kim Jong-un: North Korea's Kim Anoints Youngest Son As Heir. Huffington Post. 2 June 2009.
  35. ^ "N Korea names Kim's successor named". BBC. 2 June 2009. Retrieved 14 June 2009. 
  36. ^ North Korean leader's son is 'Brilliant Comrade' , The Jakarta Post, 13 June 2009
  37. ^ North Koreans sing praises of dynastic dictatorship – AM, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  38. ^ Kim Jong Il's son 'made secret visit to China'. The Times. 16 June 2009.
  39. ^ China Dismisses Reports of Kim Jong-un Visit. The Chosun Ilbo. 19 June 2009
  40. ^ Harden, Blaine. North Korea's Kim Jong Il Chooses Youngest Son as Heir. The Washington Post. 3 June 2009
  41. ^ Chang-Won, Lim (6 September 2009). N Korea backs Kim's succession plan: analysts. AFP.
  42. ^ "N.Korea marks Kim, Jr.'s birthday as holiday: reports". AFP. 8 January 2010. 
  43. ^ Sources: Kim chooses third son as heir, JoongAng Daily, 2 June 2009.
  44. ^ Sources: Is North Korea's Kim poised to name his successor?,, 1 September 2010.
  45. ^ John Sudworth (21 September 2010). "BBC News – North Korea sets date for rare leadership conference". Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  46. ^ "Trip Report by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to China, Sept. 4–10, 2010". The Carter Center. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  47. ^ "North Korea sets date for rare leadership conference". BBC News. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  48. ^ "North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's son 'made a general'". BBC News. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  49. ^ "North Korea's Kim paves way for family succession". BBC News. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  50. ^ By MATT NEGRIN. "N. Korean leader promotes his son | POLITICO 44". Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  51. ^ North Korea leader's son given key party posts, BBC News, 28 September 2010, 
  52. ^ McDonald, Mark (9 October 2010), Kim Jong-il’s Heir Attends Parade, New York Times, 
  53. ^ Branigan, Tania (19 December 2011). "Kim Jong-il, North Korean leader, dies". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  54. ^ Wallace, Rick; Sainsbury, Michael (19 December 2011). "Kim Jong-il's heir Kim Jong-un made general". The Australian. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  55. ^ NKorea grieves Kim Jong Il, state media hails son (Associated Press, December 19, 2011)

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New office Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Served alongside: Ri Yong-ho
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