Kim Jong-un

For other people named Kim Jong-un, see Kim Jong-un (disambiguation).

This is a Korean name; the family name is Kim.
Kim Jong-un

Sketch of Kim Jong-un
Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea
Assumed office
9 May 2016
Deputy Kim Yong-nam
Hwang Pyong-so
Pak Pong-ju
Choe Ryong-hae
Preceded by Himself (as First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea)
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission
Assumed office
29 June 2016
Deputy Hwang Pyong-so
Choe Ryong-hae
Pak Pong-ju
Preceded by Himself (as First Chairman of the National Defense Commission)
First Chairman of the
National Defence Commission
In office
13 April 2012  29 June 2016
Deputy Kim Yong-chun
Ri Yong-mu
O Kuk-ryol
Preceded by Kim Jong-il (as Chairman)
Succeeded by Himself (as Chairman of the State Affairs Commission)
First Secretary of the
Workers' Party of Korea
In office
11 April 2012  9 May 2016
Preceded by Kim Jong-il (as General Secretary)
Succeeded by Himself (as Chairman)
Supreme Commander of the
Korean People's Army
Assumed office
30 December 2011[1]
Preceded by Kim Jong-il
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea
Assumed office
11 April 2012
Acting: 17 December 2011 – 11 April 2012
Deputy Choe Ryong-hae
Ri Yong-ho
Preceded by Kim Jong-il
Deputy to the
13th Supreme People's Assembly
Assumed office
9 April 2014
Constituency 111th Paektusan
Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea
In office
28 September 2010  11 April 2012
Serving with Ri Yong-ho
Leader Kim Jong-il
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Choe Ryong-hae
Ri Yong-ho
Personal details
Born 8 January 1984 (age 32)[2][3]
Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Nationality North Korea
Political party Korean Workers'
Spouse(s) Ri Sol-ju
Children Kim Ju-ae
Alma mater Kim Il-sung University
Kim Il-sung Military University
HELP University (honorary)
Military service
Allegiance  North Korea
Years of service 2010–present
Rank Marshal of the Republic[lower-alpha 1]
Commands Supreme Commander
Kim Jong-un
Hancha [4]
Revised Romanization Gim Jeong(-)eun
McCune–Reischauer Kim Chŏngŭn

Kim Jong-un (Chosŏn'gŭl: 김정은; Korean: [ɡ̊im d̥ʑ̥̯̯ʌŋ ɯn];[5] born 8 January 1984[3]) is the Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea and supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly referred to as North Korea.

Kim is the third and youngest son of Kim Jong-il (1941–2011) and his consort Ko Yong-hui.[6] Little is known for certain about Kim Jong-un. Before taking power, Kim had barely been seen in public, and many of the activities of both Kim and his government remain shrouded in secrecy.[7] Even details such as what year he was born, and whether he did indeed attend a Western school under a pseudonym, are difficult to confirm with certainty.

Kim was officially declared the supreme leader following the state funeral of his father on 28 December 2011. Kim holds the titles of Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Chairman of the National Defence Commission, Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army,[1] and presidium member of the Politburo of the Workers' Party of Korea.[8]

Kim was promoted to the rank of Marshal of North Korea in the Korean People's Army on 18 July 2012, consolidating his position as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces[9] and is often referred to as Marshal Kim Jong-un or "the Marshal" by state media.[10][11]

Kim obtained two degrees, one in physics at Kim Il-sung University, and another as an Army officer at the Kim Il-sung Military University.[12][13]

On 9 March 2014, Kim Jong-un was elected unopposed to the Supreme People's Assembly. At 32 years of age, Kim is the first North Korean leader born after the country's founding. Kim was named the World's 46th Most Powerful Person by the Forbes list of The World's Most Powerful People in 2013.[14]

Early life and education

The Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Köniz, Switzerland, which Kim Jong-un is reported to have attended.

Scarce information on Kim Jong-un's early life comes from North Korean defectors and people who have claimed to witness him abroad, such as during his school attendance in Switzerland. Some of the information has been conflicting and contradictory, perhaps conflating him with his brother, Kim Jong-chul, who also attended school in Switzerland around the same time. Nevertheless, there has been some consensus on information about his early life. North Korean authorities have stated that his birthdate is 8 January 1982, but South Korean intelligence officials believe the actual date is a year later. Dennis Rodman said that the birthdate is 8 January 1983 after meeting Kim in September 2013.[15] Kim Jong-Un was the second of three children Ko Yong-hui bore to Kim Jong-il; his elder brother Kim Jong-chul was born in 1981, while his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, is believed to have been born in 1987.[16][17]

According to reports first published in Japanese newspapers, he went to school in Switzerland near Bern. First reports claimed he attended the private English-language International School in Gümligen under the name "Chol-pak" or "Pak-chol" from 1993-98.[18][19][20] He was described as shy, a good student who got along well with his classmates and was a basketball fan.[21] He was chaperoned by an older student, who was thought to be his bodyguard.[22]

Later, it was reported that Kim Jong-un attended the Liebefeld Steinhölzli school in Köniz near Bern under the name "Pak-un" or "Un-pak" from 1998 until 2000 as the son of an employee of the Embassy of North Korea. Authorities of Köniz confirmed that a student from North Korea, registered as the son of a member of the Embassy, attended the school from August 1998 until the autumn of 2000, but were unable to give details about his identity. Pak-un first attended a special class for foreign-language children and later attended the regular classes of the 6th, 7th, 8th, and part of the final 9th year, leaving the school abruptly in the autumn of 2000. He was described as a well-integrated and ambitious student who liked to play basketball.[23] However, his grades and attendance rating are reported to have been poor.[24][25] The ambassador of North Korea in Switzerland, Ri Tcheul, had a close relationship with him and acted as a mentor.[26] One of Pak-un's classmates told reporters that he had told him that he was the son of the leader of North Korea.[27][28] According to some reports, Jong-un was described by classmates as a shy child who was awkward with girls and indifferent to political issues but who distinguished himself in sports, and had a fascination with the American National Basketball Association and Michael Jordan. One friend claimed that he had been shown pictures of Pak-un with Kobe Bryant and Toni Kukoč.[29]

In April 2012, new documents came to light indicating that Kim Jong-un had lived in Switzerland since 1991 or 1992, earlier than previously thought.[30]

The Laboratory of Anatomic Anthropology at the University of Lyon, France, after comparing the picture of the boy Pak-un taken at the Liebefeld Steinhölzli school in 1999 with a picture of Kim Jong-un from 2012 came to the conclusion that the two faces show a conformity of 95%. The head of the institute, Raoul Perrot, a forensic anthropologist, considers it most likely that the two pictures show the same person.[31][32]

It is believed that the student at the Gümligen International School was not Kim Jong-un but his elder brother Kim Jong-chol. It is not known whether the student known as Pak-un in Liebefeld Steinhölzli lived in Switzerland prior to 1998.[33] All the children of Kim Jong-il are said to have lived in Switzerland, as well as the mother of the two youngest sons, who lived in Geneva for some time.[26]

Most analysts agree that Kim Jong-un attended Kim Il-sung University, a leading officer-training school in Pyongyang, from 2002 to 2007.[34]

For many years, only one confirmed photograph of him was known outside North Korea, apparently taken in the mid-1990s, when he was eleven.[35] Occasional other supposed images of him surfaced but were often disputed.[36][37][38] 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.[39][40] 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.[41]

In 2013, Kim Jong-un was awarded an honorary doctorate in Economics by HELP University, a private Malaysian university.[42]


Pre-2010 Party Conference speculation

His eldest half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, had been the favorite to succeed, but reportedly fell out of favor after 2001, when he was caught attempting to enter Japan on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.[43]

Kim Jong-il's former personal chef, Kenji Fujimoto, revealed details regarding Kim Jong-un, with whom he had a good relationship,[44] stating that he was 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".[45] 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." Also, according to Fujimoto, Jong-un smokes Yves Saint Laurent cigarettes, loves Johnnie Walker whisky and has a Mercedes-Benz 600 Sedan.[46] When Jong-un was 18, Fujimoto described an episode where Jong-un once 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?"[45] On 15 January 2009 the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that Kim Jong-il had appointed Kim Jong-un to be his successor.[43][47]

On 8 March 2009, BBC News reported that Kim Jong-un was on the ballot for elections to the Supreme People's Assembly, the rubber stamp parliament of North Korea.[48] Subsequent reports indicated that his name did not appear on the list of lawmakers,[49] but he was later elevated to a mid-level position in the National Defense Commission, which is a branch of the North Korean military.[50]

North Koreans bowing to the statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il

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.[51] He has been named "Yŏngmyŏng-han Tongji" (영명한 동지), which loosely translates to "Brilliant Comrade".[52] His father had also asked embassy staff abroad to pledge loyalty to his son.[53] There have also been reports that citizens in North Korea were 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.[54] 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.[55] The Chinese Foreign Ministry has strongly denied that this visit occurred.[56][57]

North Korea was later reported to have backed the succession plan, after Kim Jong-il suspended a propaganda campaign to promote his youngest son.[58] His birthday has since become a national holiday, celebrated on 8 January, according to a report by a South Korean website.[59] He was expected to be named on 28 September 2010 as successor to his father as leader of North Korea.[60][61][62]

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter visited China in early September 2010, and discussed the issue of the North Korean leadership succession with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. According to Carter, 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".[63]

It is believed by some that Kim Jong-un was involved in the Cheonan sinking[64] and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong[65] to strengthen his military credentials and facilitate a successful transition of power from his father.[66]

Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission

Kim Jong-un was made a daejang, the equivalent of a four-star general in the United States,[67] 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.[68][69][70] Despite the promotion, no further details, including verifiable portraits of Kim, were released.[71] 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.[72]

On 10 October 2010, alongside his father, 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.[73] In January 2011, the regime reportedly began purging around 200 protégés of both Jong-un's uncle-in-law Jang Sung-taek and O Kuk-ryol, the vice chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, by either detention or execution to further prevent either man from rivaling Jong-un.[74]

In the following months, Kim Jong-un was given more and more prominence as he accompanied Kim Jong-il during several "guidance tours" and received gifts from foreign delegations and personages, an honor traditionally awarded only to the living supreme leader.

Ruler of North Korea

On 17 December 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.[75] Some analysts had predicted that when Kim Jong-il died, Jang Sung-taek would act as regent, as Jong-un was too inexperienced to immediately lead the country.[76] On 25 December 2011, North Korean television showed Jang Sung-taek in the uniform of a general in a sign of his growing sway after the death of Kim Jong-il. A Seoul official familiar with North Korea affairs said it was the first time Jang has been shown on state television in a military uniform. His appearance suggested that Jang had secured a key role in the North's powerful military, which pledged its allegiance to Kim Jong-un.[77]

North Korea's cult of personality around Kim Jong-un was stepped up following his father's death. He was hailed as the "great successor to the revolutionary cause of Juche", "outstanding leader of the party, army and people"[78] and "respected comrade who is identical to Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il",[79] and was made chairman of the Kim Jong-il funeral committee. 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,[80] while the ruling Workers' Party said in an editorial: "We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong-un our supreme commander, our leader."[81]

He was publicly declared Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army on 24 December 2011[82] and formally appointed to the position on 30 December when the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party "courteously proclaimed that the dear respected Kim Jong Un, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK, assumed the supreme commandership of the Korean People's Army".[1]

On 26 December 2011, the leading North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun announced that Kim Jong-un had been acting as chairman of the Central Military Commission,[83] and supreme leader of the country, following his father's demise.[84]

On 9 January 2012, a large rally was held by Korean People's Army in front of Kumsusan Memorial Palace to honor Kim Jong-un and demonstrate loyalty.[85]

Assuming official titles

On 27 March 2012, Kim was elected to the Fourth Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea. On 11 April, that conference elected him as leader of the party under the newly created title of First Secretary. This position replaced the post of General Secretary, which was awarded "eternally" to Kim Jong-il. At the conference, Kim Jong-un also took his father's post as Chairman of the Central Military Commission, as well as his father's old seat on the Politburo Presidium.[86] In a speech made prior to the Conference, Kim Jong-un declared that "Imbuing the whole society with Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism is the highest programme of our Party". On 13 April 2012, the 5th Session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly appointed Kim Jong-un Chairman of the National Defence Commission.

On 15 April 2012, during a military parade to commemorate Kim Il-sung's centenary, Kim Jong-un made his first public speech.[87] That speech became the basis of "Onwards Toward the Final Victory", a repeatedly aired propaganda hymn dedicated to him.[88]

In July 2012,[89] Kim Jong-un was promoted to wonsu (roughly translated to marshal), the highest active rank in the military. The decision was jointly issued on by the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea, the National Defence Commission, and the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, the Korean Central News Agency subsequently announced.[9]

The only higher rank is Dae Wonsu (roughly translated as Grand Marshal or Generalissimo) which was held by Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, and which was awarded posthumously to his father, Kim Jong-il, in February 2012.[9][89] The promotion confirmed Kim's role as top leader of the North Korean military and came days after the replacement of Chief of General Staff Ri Yong-ho by Hyon Yong-chol.[9]

During a 2012 performance marking the anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, security around Kim reportedly increased dramatically because Kim "is extremely nervous about the possibility of an emergency developing inside North Korea" caused by "mounting opposition to his efforts to rein in the military".[90]

In November 2012, satellite photos revealed a half-kilometer-long (1,600 ft) propaganda message carved into a hillside in Ryanggang Province, reading, "Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!" The message, located next to an artificial lake built in 2007 to serve a hydroelectric station, is made of Korean syllable blocks measuring 15 by 20 metres (49 by 66 ft), and is located approximately 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) south of Hyesan near the border with China.[91]

Kim Jong-il's personal chef Kenji Fujimoto stated, "Stores in Pyongyang were brimming with products and people in the streets looked cheerful. North Korea has changed a lot since Kim Jong-un assumed power. All of this is because of leader Kim Jong-un."[92]

Officially, Kim Jong-un is part of a triumvirate heading the executive branch of the North Korean government along with Premier Pak Pong-ju and parliament chairman Kim Yong-nam (no relation). Each nominally holds powers equivalent to a third of a president's powers in most other presidential systems. Kim Jong-un commands the armed forces, Pak Pong-ju heads the government, and Kim Yong-nam handles foreign relations. Nevertheless, it is generally understood that Kim Jong-un, like his father and grandfather before him, exercises absolute control over the government and the country. Indeed, a constitutional amendment enacted by his father explicitly named the NDC (first) chairman as "the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea".[93][94]

On 30 November 2012, Kim met with Li Jianguo, who "briefed Kim on the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China", according to the state's official news agency, the Korean Central News Agency.[95] A letter from Xi Jinping was hand-delivered during the discussion.[95]

In 2013, Kim re-established his grandfather's style when he made his first New Year's address, a break from the approach of his father. Kim Jong-il never made televised addresses during his 17 years in power.[96] In lieu of delivering a speech, Kim Jong-il contributed to and approved a New Year's Day editorial, jointly published by Rodong Sinmun (the daily newspaper of the Korean Workers' Party), Joson Inmingun (the newspaper of the Korean People's Army), and Chongnyon Jonwi (the newspaper of the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League).[97] At the extraordinary meeting with his top defense and security officials on 26 January 2013, Kim issued orders on preparations for a new nuclear test and introduced martial law in North Korea effective from 29 January.[98][99]

In May 2014, following the collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un was said to be very upset at the loss of life that resulted. A statement issued by the country's official news agency the Korean Central News Agency used the rare expression "profound consolation and apology". An unnamed government official was quoted by the BBC as saying Kim Jong-un had "sat up all night, feeling painful".[100] While the height of the building and the number of casualties was not released, media reports described it is a 23-story building and indicated that more than a hundred people may have died in the collapse.[101]

On 9 March 2014, Kim Jong-un was elected to the Supreme People's Assembly. He was unopposed, but voters had the choice of voting yes or no. There was a record turnout of voters, and according to government officials, all voted yes.[102] The Supreme People's Assembly subsequently elected him first chairman of the National Defense Commission.[103]

Economic policies

In August 2012, Kim Jong-un announced economics reforms similar to China.[104] Kim began to be mentioned by the North Korean state media as "supreme leader" (chego ryongdoja) at this time.

A set of comprehensive economic measures, the "Socialist Corporate Responsible Management System", were introduced in 2013.[105] The measures increase the autonomy of enterprises by granting them "certain rights to engage in business activities autonomously and elevate the will to labor through appropriately implementing the socialist distribution system". Another priority of economic policies that year was agriculture, where the pojon (vegetable garden) responsibility system was implemented. The system reportedly achieved a major increase in output in some collective farms.[105]

North Korean media were describing the economy as a "flexible collectivist system" where enterprises were applying "active and evolutionary actions" to achieve economic development.[106] These reports reflect Kim's general economic policy of reforming management, increasing the autonomy and incentives for economic actors. This set of reforms known as the "May 30th measures" reaffirms both socialist ownership and "objective economic laws in guidance and management" to improve living standards. Other objectives of the measures are to increase the availability of domestically manufactured goods on markets, introduction of defence innovations into the civilian sector and boost international trade.[106]

Nuclear threats

Model of a Unha-9 rocket on display at a floral exhibition in Pyongyang, 30 August 2013

On 7 March 2013, North Korea threatened the United States with a "pre-emptive nuclear attack",[107] and Kim Jong-un issued a detailed threat to "wipe out" Baengnyeong Island, the scene of previous naval clashes.[108] North Korea has revealed plans for conducting nuclear strikes on U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.[109] As of March 2016, experts believe North Korea is not yet able to carry out such nuclear strikes on the US: North Korea has rockets strong enough to power ICBMs, and may have miniaturized nuclear warheads compact enough to be delivered by ICBM,[110] but North Korea's ICBM program probably lacks crucial atmospheric re-entry capability.[111] North Korea probably does possess a dozen or so nuclear weapons;[112] if North Korea has sufficient nuclear warhead miniaturization technology, its Rodong medium-range missiles could probably launch nuclear strikes as far as Japan.[113] As of 2016, the United Nations has enacted five cumulative rounds of sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear program and missile tests.[114]

At a plenary meeting of the WPK Central Committee held on 31 March 2013 in the wake of war threats with South Korea, Kim Jong-un announced that North Korea will adopt "a new strategic line on carrying out economic construction and building nuclear armed forces simultaneously".[115]

In December 2015, in a release from the official KCNA news agency, Kim announced that his country had developed a hydrogen bomb. Kim's claim is considered unlikely, partly because a hydrogen bomb would be an extremely large and sudden step up in technology for a country that struggled to develop much simpler fission weapons,[116] and partly because no seismic activity consistent with a successful hydrogen bomb test has been observed.[117]

Kim made the claim that his family "turned the DPRK into a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation". The boastful claim was made during a visit by Kim to the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site, a museum dedicated to his grandfather Kim Il-sung.[118]

Other unsupported claims

In June 2016, Kim announced via a spokesman that North Korean scientists had created a "wonder drug", composed of ginseng and a mixture of other unspecified ingredients, capable of curing HIV/AIDS, Ebola virus disease, other viral diseases, and "a number of cancers".[119] No clinical support was cited, other than an unpublished African trial claiming "56 % complete cure and 44 % considerable cure" of HIV/AIDS, and unspecified "data from foreign health entities" claiming "splendid effects" in preventing and curing various viral "epidemics".[120]

Purges and executions

As with all reporting on North Korea, individual reports of purges and executions are almost impossible to definitively verify.[121] Reports of numerous purges and executions are based in part on interviews with North Korean defectors, analysis of media issued by North Korea, non-independently-verifiable analysis of closed-source data from intelligence agencies, and occasionally satellite imagery.

In December 2013, Kim Jong-un's uncle Jang Sung-taek was arrested and executed for treachery.[122] Jang Sung-taek is believed to have been executed by machine gun. Yonhap has stated that, according to multiple unnamed sources, Kim Jong-un has also put to death members of Jang's family, to completely destroy all traces of Jang's existence through "extensive executions" of his family, including the children and grandchildren of all close relatives. Those reportedly killed in Kim's purge include Jang's sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin, and Jang's nephew and ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol. The nephew's two sons were also said to have been killed.[123][124] At the time of Jang's removal, it was announced that "the discovery and purge of the Jang group ... made our party and revolutionary ranks purer ..."[125] and after his execution on 12 December 2013 state media warned that the army "will never pardon all those who disobey the order of the Supreme Commander".[126]

O Sang-hon (Chosŏn'gŭl: 오상헌; RR: O Sangheon; MR: O Sanghŏn) was a deputy security minister in the Ministry of Public Security in the government of North Korea who was reportedly killed in a political purge in 2014. According to the Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, O was executed by flamethrower for his role in supporting Kim Jong-un's uncle Jang Song-taek.[127][128]

In May 2016, analysts were surprised to find that top military general Ri Yong-gil, believed by South Korea to have been executed earlier in the year, was, in fact, alive and well. According to the Associated Press, this South Korean blunder highlights the difficulty even professionals have in piercing the veil of North Korea’s secretive regime.[129]

Human rights violations

Human rights violations under the leadership of Kim Jong-il were condemned by the UN General Assembly.[130] Press reports indicate that they are continuing under Kim Jong-un.[131][132][133][134]

The 2013 report on the situation of human rights in North Korea[135] by United Nations Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman proposed a United Nations commission of inquiry[136] to document the accountability of Kim Jong-un and other individuals in the North Korean government for alleged crimes against humanity.[137] The report of the commission of inquiry[138] was published in February 2014 and recommends making him accountable for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.[139]

In July 2016, the United States Department of the Treasury imposed personal sanctions on Kim. Although his involvement in human rights abuses was cited as the reason,[140] officials said the sanctions target the country's nuclear and missile programs.[141]


Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese chef who used to work as Kim Jong-il's personal cook, described Kim Jong-un as "a chip off the old block, a spitting image of his father in terms of face, body shape, and personality".[142]

The Washington Post reported in 2009 that Kim Jong-un's school friends recalled he "spent hours doing meticulous pencil drawings of Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan".[143] He was obsessed with basketball and computer games.[144][145] On 26 February 2013, Kim Jong‑un met ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman,[146] leading many reporters to speculate that Rodman was the first American that Kim had met.[147] Rodman described his trip to Kim Jong-un's private island, "It's like Hawaii or Ibiza, but he's the only one that lives there."[148] Kim Jong-un is reportedly a fan of Eric Clapton.[149]

In July 2012, Kim Jong-un showed a change in cultural policy from his father by attending a Moranbong concert. The concert contained several elements of pop culture from the West, particularly the United States. Kim used this event to debut his wife to the public, an unprecedented move in North Korea.[150]

In 2012, Business Insider reported, that there were “[s]igns of a rise in luxury goods ... creeping out of North Korea since Kim Jong-un took over” and that his “wife Ri Sol-Ju was photographed holding what appeared to be an expensive Dior handbag, worth almost $1,594  an average year’s salary in North Korea”.[151] According to diplomatic sources, "Kim Jong-un likes to drink and party all night like his father and ordered the [imported sauna] equipment to help him beat hangovers and fatigue."[152]

During Dennis Rodman's 26 February 2013 trip to North Korea, Vice Media correspondent Ryan Duffy observed that "the leader was 'socially awkward' and didn't make eye contact when shaking hands".[153]

According to Cheong Seong-chang of Sejong Institute, Kim Jong-un has greater visible interest in the welfare of his people and engages in greater interaction with them than his father did.[154]


In 2009, reports suggested that Kim Jong-un was a diabetic and suffered from hypertension.[53][155] Kim is a smoker.[156]

Kim Jong-un did not appear in public for six weeks in September and October 2014. State media reported that he was suffering from an "uncomfortable physical condition". Previously he had been seen limping.[157][158][159][160][161][162] When he reappeared he was using a walking stick.[163][164]

In September 2015, the South Korean government commented that Kim appeared to have gained 30 kg in body fat over the previous five years, reaching a total estimated body weight of 130 kg (290 lb).[165]


Portraits of Kim Jong-un's father and grandfather (Arirang Festival mass games in Pyongyang)

On 25 July 2012 North Korean state media reported for the first time that Kim Jong-un is married to Ri Sol-ju (리설주).[166][167] Ri, who appears to be in her early 20s, had been accompanying Kim Jong-un to public appearances for several weeks prior to the announcement.[167] The BBC, quoting an analyst who spoke to The Korea Times of South Korea, reported that Kim Jong-il had hastily arranged his son's marriage after suffering a stroke in 2008. According to some sources, the two married in 2009 and Ri gave birth to a daughter in 2010.[168][169]

Kim Jong-un has one half-brother, one half-sister and an older full-brother (see below). He also has a younger full-sister, Kim Yo-jong, who was believed to be about 23 in 2012. She sometimes accompanies him.[16][17] A Washington Post article states that he has an aunt and uncle who defected to the United States.[170]


In March 2013, former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman visited Kim Jong-un in North Korea and on his return reported that Ri had given birth to a daughter named Ju-ae in 2012.[169][171][172][173]

See also


  1. Chosongul: 공화국원수, Konghwaguk wonsu.


  1. 1 2 3 "N.Korea declares Kim Jong-Un commander of military". Agence France-Presse. 30 December 2011. Archived from the original on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  2. We finally know the age of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un
  3. 1 2 "The secret life of Kim Jong Un's aunt, who has lived in the U.S. since 1998". The Washington Post. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 28 May 2016. They can reveal, for example, that Kim Jong Un was born in 1984 — not 1982 or 1983, as has been widely believed. The reason they’re certain? It was the same year that their first son was born. “He and my son were playmates from birth. I changed both of their diapers”, Ko said with a laugh.
  4. [北 막오른 김정은 시대]조선중앙통신 보도, 金正銀(X) 金正恩 (in Korean). Naver. 2 October 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
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Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kim Jong-un.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Kim Il-sung
(until 1966)
Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea
Preceded by
Kim Jong-il
Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Acting: 2011–2012

Preceded by
Kim Jong-il
as General Secretary
First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea
Succeeded by
as Chairman
New office Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Served alongside: Ri Yong-ho
Succeeded by
Choe Ryong-hae
Ri Yong-ho
Political offices
New title Chairman of the State Affairs Commission
Preceded by
Kim Jong-il
as Chairman
First Chairman of the National Defence Commission
Succeeded by
as Chairman of the State Affairs Commission
Military offices
Preceded by
Kim Jong-il
Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army
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