It was the late 90s when the baby-face evil genius started life as a high school student in Switzerland.
North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un attended a German-speaking Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Koeniz, just south of Bern, from 1998 to mid-2000.
Obsessed with basketball (the Chicago Bulls was his go-to team), he allegedly got along with everyone despite flashes of temper. He also had a good sense of humour.
However, everyone knew him as “Pak Un,” the son of a staffer at the North Korean embassy.
Now, almost 20 years later, The Daily Beast sought out a few of the dictator’s ex-classmates for comment:
Joao Micaelo, now a chef at a Bern restaurant, remembers fondly his former classmate.
“He was a good friend,” Micaelo told The Daily Beast. “We had a lot of fun together. He was a good guy. Lots of kids liked him. I don’t know anything about his life today. All I know is the guy I knew in school. He loved basketball. We played a lot together. I’d like to say to him, if you ever have the time, please contact me again so we can catch up.”
Although 1,67 metres and slightly overweight, “Kim had an enviable collection of Nike sneakers” and “was a good basketball player”:
“He was funny,” former classmate Marco Imhof of Bern said. “Always good for a laugh. He also hated to lose. Winning was very important.”
“He had a sense of humor and got on well with everyone, even those pupils who came from countries who were enemies of North Korea,” another former classmate told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “Politics were a taboo subject at school. We argued about [soccer] football, not politics.”
Last year, Kim’s aunt, Ko Yong Suk, opened up about taking care of Kim and his siblings during the time they studied in Switzerland:
“We lived in a normal house and acted like a normal family. I acted like their mother,” Ko said about her time in Bern. “I encouraged [Kim Jong Un] to bring his friends home, because we wanted them to live a normal life. I made snacks for the kids. They ate cake and played with Legos.”
During school breaks, Ko and her husband took the kids skiing in the Swiss Alps, swimming on the French Riviera, and to Italy.
In Bern, Kim liked playing with machinery in addition to obsessing about basketball and Michael Jordan.
“He wasn’t a troublemaker, but he was short-tempered and had a lack of tolerance,” Ko recalled. “When his mother tried to tell him off for playing with these things too much and not studying enough, he wouldn’t talk back, but he would protest in other ways, like going on a hunger strike.”
And then, in mid-2000, he vanished and was not heard from again.
Kim never returned to Switzerland, but his family’s relationship with Europe is still maintained: It began in the 70s when the family started to build “necessary network” in Paris, where they still have a home to this day:
“You can’t send the kids of a dictator abroad without a network, people and institutions in place to help take care of them,” Madden said. “The Kims started all of this in Paris.”
You can bet your socks that his children – the heirs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – will one day, too, end up at a similar school in Europe.
No wonder we have no idea what they look like.
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