Kim Jong-un, President of North Korea
Kim Jong-un (born 8 January 1983; also romanized as Kim Jong-eun, Kim Jong Un or Kim Jung-eun) is the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea. He is the son of Kim Jong-il (1941–2011) and the grandson of Kim Il-sung (1912–1994). He has held the titles of the First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, First Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, and presidium member of the Politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea. He was officially declared the supreme leader following the state funeral for his father on 28 December 2011. He is the third and youngest son of Kim Jong-il and his consort Ko Young-hee.
From late 2010, Kim Jong-un was viewed as heir apparent to the leadership of the nation, and following his father’s death, he was announced as the “Great Successor” by North Korean state television. At Kim Jong-il’s memorial service, North Korean Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong-nam declared that “Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un is our party, military and country’s supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong-il’s ideology, leadership, character, virtues, grit and courage”. On 30 December 2011, the Politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea formally appointed Kim as the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. On 11 April 2012, the 4th Party Conference elected him to the newly created post of First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
He was promoted to the rank of marshal of the DPRK in the Korean People’s Army on 18 July 2012, consolidating his position as the supreme commander of the armed forces. He obtained two degrees, one in physics at Kim Il-sung University and another as an Army officer at the Kim Il-sung Military University. On 9 March 2014 Kim Jong-un was elected unopposed to the Supreme People’s Assembly. At 31 years of age, he is the first North Korean leader born after the country’s founding and the world’s youngest head of state.
Kim was named the world’s 46th most powerful person by Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s Most Powerful People in 2013, the third highest among Koreans after Ban Ki-moon and Lee Kun-hee.
In September 2014, it was reported that Kim was suffering from gout and had fractured his ankles as a result of obesity combined with his habit of wearing platform heels to increase his apparent height.
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”.
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.” He was obsessed with basketball and computer games. On 26 February 2013, Kim Jong-un met ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman, leading many reporters to speculate that Rodman was the first American that Kim had met. 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.” Kim Jong-un is reportedly a fan of Eric Clapton.
In a 2012 news story, Business Insider reported, “Signs of a rise in luxury goods have been creeping out of North Korea since Kim Jong-un took over as last year. Just recently, Kim’s 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.” 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.”
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”.
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.
In 2013, it was rumored that Kim Jong-un had received plastic surgery in order to modify his facial appearance.
In September 2014, state media indicated that Kim Jong-un was suffering from an unnamed “uncomfortable physical condition” after he had not been seen in public for three weeks. The announcement came after Kim had failed to attend an important parliamentary session. The Yonhap news agency quoted an anonymous source as saying: “I understand that he is suffering from gout along with hyperuricemia, hyperlipidemia, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure”. The source added that a North Korean medical team had visited Germany and Switzerland to consult collegaues about Kim’s health. Kim’s grandfather and father both had gout as does his elder brother Kim Jong-nam. UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that a Pyongyang source had told the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo that Kim had become so fat while in office that his ankles had fractured under his own weight.
On 25 July 2012 North Korean state media reported for the first time that Kim Jong-un is married to Ri Sol-ju (리설주). 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. 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.
Kim Jong-un has two half-brothers and an older and younger full-brother (see below). He also has a younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, who was believed to be about 23 in 2012. She sometimes accompanies him.
In October 2012, there was speculation about Ri’s public disappearance, and questions arose whether it was the result of a “breach of discipline” or “pregnancy,” but she later reappeared with her spouse Kim at a military college. It was followed by news reports in December 2012 that Ri was visibly pregnant, although North Korean officials did not comment on the speculation.
In March 2013, former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman visited Kim Jong-un in North Korea and on his return told the British tabloid newspaper The Sun that Ri had given birth to a healthy daughter. One South Korean government source speculated that “doctors induced labor to make sure the child was born in 2012, which marked the 100th anniversary of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung,” but no exact birth date has been confirmed. Rodman told The Guardian in September 2013 that the couple’s baby, a girl, is named Ju-ae.
Kim Jong-il, Former President of North Korea (died on Dec 19, 2011)
Kim Jong-il, at 64, is the unchallenged leader of North Korea. Since he succeeded his father Kim Il-sung in 1994 the secretive communist state has sunk further into poverty, while its foreign policy has become ever more combative and anti-Western.
The birth of Kim Il-sung’s eldest son – now known to his people as “Dear Leader” – is steeped in legend. According to some accounts he was born in February 1942 on Mount Paektu, his birth marked by the appearance of a double rainbow and a bright star in the sky.
Others claim he was born February 1941 in Siberia during Kim Il-sung’s period of exile.
Kim studied politics at the Kim Il-sung university and graduated in 1964, becoming leader of the Korean Workers’ Party and joining the party politburo.
He was later appointed deputy editor of the Propaganda and Agitation department and, in 1973, he became party secretary in charge of Organisation and Propaganda.
By 1980 he had become a member of the Central Committee and the designated successor to his father. In 1991 he was appointed Supreme Commander of the armed forces.
Little is known about him although there are many stories. He is said to have written six operas within two years and single-handedly designed the Juche tower which signifies the Juche ideology of self reliance blended with Marxism, the Korean idea of communism.
It is also rumoured that he has been responsible for kidnapping young women, mainly from Japan, in order to be his companions.
Kim Jong-il has been suspected of being involved in the 1983 bomb attack on Rangoon in which several members of the South Korean cabinet were killed and the bombing of a South Korean airliner four years later.
Recent reports suggest that the dictator has hired body doubles to carry out boring state visits and reduce the threat from assassins.
A liking for exotic foods including roast donkey has contibuted to the dictator’s potbellied physique, although the look is far from typical in his country where many survive on a meagre diet of rice and cabbage.