Kim Jong-un (born January 8, 1983), also romanised as Kim Jong-eun, Kim Jong Un, or Kim Jung-eun, is the supreme leader of North Korea (DPRK) since 2011. He succeeded his father Kim Jong-il, following his death in December 2011. Jong-un was third head of North Korea after his father's death.
In 2009, Jong-un married Ri Sol-ju.
Jong-un is thought to have been born in January 1983 or early 1984.
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 near Bern under the name "Chol-pak" or "Pak-chol" from 1993 until 1998. He was described as shy, a good student who got along well with his classmates and was a basketball fan. He was chaperoned by an older student who was thought to be his bodyguard.
Later, it was reported that Jong-un attended the public school "Liebefeld Steinhölzli" 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 fall 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 fall 2000. He was described as a well-integrated and ambitious student who liked to play basketball. However, his grades and attendance rating are reported to have been poor. The ambassador of North Korea in Switzerland Ri Ticheul had a close relationship with him and acted as a mentor. One of Pak-un's classmates told reporters that he had told him that he was the son of the leader of North Korea. According to some reports, Jong-un was described by classmates as a shy child who was awkward with girls, indifferent to political issues but 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 taken at an unknown location.
In April 2012, new documents came to light indicating that Jong-un had lived in Switzerland since 1991 or 1992, earlier than previously thought.
The Laboratory of Anatomic Anthropology at the University of Lyon, France, after comparing the picture of the boy Pak-un, taken at the school "Liebefeld Steinhölzli" in 1999 with a picture of Jong-un from 2012 came to the conclusion that the two faces show a conformity of 95 percent. The head of the institute, Raoul Perrot, a forensic anthropologist, considers it most likely that the two pictures show the same person.
It is believed that the student at the Gümligen "International School" wasn't 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. All the children of 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. The Kim clan is also said to organize family meetings in Switzerland at Lake Geneva and Interlaken.
Most analysts agree that Jong-un attended Kim Il-sung University, a leading officer-training school in Pyongyang from 2002 to 2007.
For many years, only one confirmed photograph of him was known outside North Korea, apparently taken in the mid-1990s, when he was 11. Occasional other supposed images of him surfaced but were often disputed. 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 Jong-un, taken when he was attending school in Switzerland. The first official image of him as an adult was a group photograph released on September 30, 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.
Pre-2010 Party Conference speculationEdit
His eldest paternal half-brother Kim Jong-nam had been the favorite to succeed, but he reportedly fell out of favor after 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
Jong-il's former personal chef Kenji Fujimoto revealed details regarding Jong-un, with whom he shared a good relationship, 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". 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 and loves Johnnie Walker whiskey and has a Mercedes-Benz 600 Sedan. 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?". On January 15, 2009 the South Korean news agency, Yonhap, reported that Jong-il appointed Jong-un to be his successor.
On March 8, 2009, the BBC reported rumors that Jong-un appeared on the ballot for elections to the Supreme People's Assembly, the rubber stamp parliament of North Korea. Subsequent reports indicate that his name didn't appear on the list of lawmakers; however, he was later elevated to a mid-level position in the National Defense Commission, which is a branch of the North Korean military. Reports have also suggested that he is a diabetic and suffers from hypertension.
From 2009, it was understood by foreign diplomatic services that Jong-un was to succeed Jong-il as the head of the Korean Workers' Party and de facto leader of North Korea. He has been named "Yŏngmyŏng-han Tongji" (영명한 동지), which loosely translates to "Brilliant Comrade". His father had also asked embassy staff abroad to pledge loyalty to his son. There have also been reports that citizens in North Korea have been encouraged to sing a newly composed "song of praise" to Jong-un, in a similar fashion to that of praise songs relating to Jong-il and Kim Il-sung. Later, in June, Jong-un was reported to have visited China secretly to "present himself" to the Chinese leadership, who later warned against North Korea conducting another nuclear test. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has strongly denied that this visit occurred.
North Korea was later reported to have backed the succession plan, after Jong-il suspended a propaganda campaign to promote his youngest son. His birthday has since become a national holiday, celebrated on January 8, according to a report by a South Korean website. He was expected to be named on September 28, 2010 as successor to his father as leader of North Korea.
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, Jong-il had said to Wen that Jong-un's prospective promotion to paramount leader of North Korea was "a false rumor from the West".
Vice Chairman of the Central Military CommissionEdit
Jong-un was made a daejang, the equivalent of general in the United States, on September 27, 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. Despite the promotion, no further details, including verifiable portraits of Jong-un, were released. On September 28, 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.
On October 10, 2010, alongside his father, 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 Jong-un's presence. In January 2011, the regime 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 Defense Commission of North Korea, by either detention or execution to further prevent either man from rivaling Jong-un. In the following months, Jong-un was given more and more prominence as he accompanied Jong-il during several "guidance tours" and received gifts from foreign delegations and personages, an honour traditionally awarded only to the living supreme leader. He was also listed second only to Jong-il himself in the funeral committee for Jo Myong-rok.
Ruler of North KoreaEdit
On December 17, 2011, Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack at age 70. Despite the elder Kim's plans, it wasn't 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. Some analysts had predicted that when Jong-il died, Jang Sung-taek would act as regent, as Jong-un is too inexperienced to immediately lead the country. On December 25, 2011, North Korean television showed Sung-taek in the uniform of a general in a sign of his growing sway after Jong-il's death. A Seoul official familiar with North Korea affairs said it was the first time Sung-taek has been shown on state television in a military uniform. His appearance suggests that Sung-taek has secured a key role in the North's powerful military, which has pledged its allegiance to Jong-un.
The cult of personality around Jong-un has been 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," "respected comrade who is identical to Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il," and chairman of the Kim Jong-il funeral committee. The Korean Central News Agency described Jong-un as "a great person born of heaven," a propaganda term only his father and grandfather had enjoyed, while the ruling Workers' Party said in an editorial: "We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong-un our supreme commander, our leader."
He was publicly declared Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army on December 24, 2011 and formally appointed to the position on December 30 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."
On December 26, 2011, the leading North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun announced that Jong-un has been acting as chairman of the Central Military Commission, and supreme leader of the country, following his father's demise.
On January 9, 2012, a large rally was held by armed forces in front of Kumsusan Memorial Palace to honor Jong-un and demonstrate loyalty.
On March 27, 2012, Jong-un was elected to the Fourth Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea, that elected him first secretary, a newly made position, on April 11. This position replaced the post of General Secretary, which was awarded "eternally" to Jong-il. At the conference, Jong-un also took his father's seats as Politburo Presidium member and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. In a speech made prior to the Conference, Jong-un declared that "Imbuing the whole society with Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism is the highest programme of our Party".
On April 13, 2012, the 5th Session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly appointed him First Chairman of the National Defence Commission.
On April 15, 2012, during a military parade to commemorate Il-sung's centenary, he made his first public speech. That speech became the basis of "Onwards Toward the Final Victory", a repetitively aired propaganda hymn dedicated to him.
In July 2012, Jong-un was promoted to wonsu, 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, Korean Central News Agency subsequently announced. By this promotion he is one of only two wonsu holders now alive in North Korea. The other is Lee UI Sol, who received the rank in 1995. The only higher rank is dae wonsu (roughly translated as Grand Marshal or Generalissimo) which was held by Il-sung and which was awarded posthumously to Jong-il in February 2012. The promotion confirmed Jong-un'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.
During a July 26, 2012 performance marking the 59th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War, security around Jong-un has reportedly increased dramaticly because Jong-un "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."
In August 2012, Jong-un announced economics reforms similar to the People's Republic of China. He began to be mentioned by the North Korean state media as "Supreme Leader" (chego ryongdoja) at this time.
In November 2012, satellite photos revealed a half kilometer long 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 letters measuring 15 by 20 meters, and is located approximately 9 kilometers south of Hyesan near the border with the People's Republic of China.
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."
Officially, Jong-un is part of a triumvirate heading the executive branch of the North Korean government along with Premier Choe Yong-rim 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. Jong-un commands the armed forces, Choe Yong-rim heads the government and Kim Yong-nam handles foreign relations. Nevertheless, it is generally understood that Jong-un, like his father before him, exercises absolute control over the government and the country.
Yong-ho, Kim Yong-chun, U Dong-chuk, and Kim Jong-gak were handpicked to groom the young leader and were close confidants of Jong-il. They have either been demoted or disappeared. One South Korean government official said Jong-un is trying to "erase all traces of his father's rule" 11 months after stepping into power and "replacing top brass with officers who are loyal to him alone."
On November 30, 2012, Jong-un met with Li Jianguo, who "briefed Kim on the 18th National People's Congress of the Chinese Communist Party," according to the KCNA news agency. A letter from Xi Jinping was hand-delivered during the discussion.
In 2013, Jong-un re-established his grandfather's style when he made his first New Year's address, which was a break from the approach of Jong-il, who never made televised addresses during his 17 years in power. In lieu of delivering a speech, 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 Imnigun (the newspaper of the Korean People’s Army), and Chongnyon Jonwi (the newspaper of the Kim Il Sung Youth League). Recently, North Korea has been under santums thanks to a Nuclear test. Jong-un became furious and has been preparing for what some are believing to be the Second Korean War.
Human rights violationsEdit
Many reports indicate that the human rights violations under Kim Jong-il's leadership are continued by Jong-un, ordering to kill defectors, conducting public executions and sending people to political prison camps. It is assumed that he was involved in the bombardment of Yeonpyeong and the Cheonan sinking to strengthen his military credentials and facilitate a successful transition of power from his father.
Thanks to recent tentions, Jong-un has often been compared with other villainous dictators, especially Hitler and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Jong-un was formerly known as Kim Jong-woon or Kim Jung-woon. His name was first reported as 김정운 (Hanja: 金正雲; lit. righteous cloud), possibly as a result of an error in transliteration; the Japanese language does not distinguish between 운 (/un/) and 은 (/ɯn/). The initial source of his name was Jong-il's former personal chef, known by the pen name Kenji Fujimoto, who was among the few who had access to information about his household from inside the government. Chinese media had named him as 김정은 (Hanja: 金正恩; lit. righteous benevolence).
On July 25, 2012, North Korean state media reported for the first time that Jong-un is married to Ri Sol-ju (리설주). Sol-ju, who appears to be in her early 20s, had been accompanying Jong-un to public appearances for several weeks prior to the announcement. The BBC, quoting an analyst who spoke to The Korea Times of South Korea, reported that Jong-il had hastily arranged his son's marriage after suffering a stroke in 2008. The two would have married in 2009 and Sol-ju gave birth to a child in 2010.
Jong-un has two half-brothers and an older and younger full-brother (see below). He also has a younger sister named Kim Yo-jong, who was believed to be about 23 in 2012. She sometimes accompanies him.