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Kim Jong-un


Kim Jong-un

Who is he?:

The "Great Successor," as officially deemed in North Korea, to his late father, "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-Il. The third and youngest son of the elder Kim, who groomed him as heir apparent in the last year of his life amid failing health. Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army in charge of nearly 6 million active duty personnel. Vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which directs Workers' Party of Korea activity in the army.


Born in 1983 or early 1984 in Pyongyang (his birthday as a national holiday is celebrated on Jan. 1), to Kim Jong-Il and his late consort, Ko Young-hee, a onetime dancer for the Mansudae Art Troupe in Pyongyang. Has one half-sister, Kim Sul-song, who was her father's secretary and worked on regime propaganda; half-brother Kim Jong-nam, whose name was dropped in succession after a botched attempt to enter Japan; older brother Kim Jong-chul, who was not in favor with his father for reportedly being effeminate and wrote poetry denouncing atom bombs; and sister Kim Yeo-jong, who is said to work in the organizational department of the ruling party.

Personal life:

Kim Jong-un may have found special favor with his father for eschewing Western influences, even when sent abroad to the English-language International School of Bern, Switzerland, until 1998. He attended under the psuedonym "Pak Un" but reportedly told at least one student he was Kim Jong-il's son (to disbelief). He would return home when school was not in session, and remained close with and mentored by the North Korean ambassador when away. He learned to speak German as well as some English and French. He reportedly is already suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, problems that afflicted his late father. Reportedly a poor student, he's a big fan of the National Basketball Association (especially Michael Jordan), computer games and James Bond and Jackie Chan flicks. (His father was a well-known movie buff with some 20,000 titles in his collection.)

Political affiliation:

Workers' Party of Korea, the official ruling party and only party allowed in North Korea. He was appointed to the Central Committee of the Workers' Party in 2010.


The young Kim comes to his grand position as dictator of North Korea with little in the way of ruling experience. After returning to Pyongyang, he attended the Kim Il-sung Military University. In 2009, he was granted a mid-level position in the National Defense Commission, the same year that he was reportedly pegged for succession. In 2010, he reportedly accompanied his father on a trip to Beijing to be introduced to Chinese leaders. Despite no military experience, he was made the equivalent of a general in September of that year, a day before a Workers' Party of Korea conference, and on the day of the rare meeting was also elevated to vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. He was referred to as "Great Successor" upon his father's death on Dec. 17, 2011, and was publicly named Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army a week later.


Shortly after Kim Jong-il's death, the North Korean government readied some 10 million portraits of the "Great Successor" to be sent around the country and hung alongside the pictures of the "Dear Leader" and "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung. But a power struggle may be in the cards for the young and inexperienced Kim. His uncle Jang Song-thaek, husband of Kim Jong-il's sister, was switched from a business suit to military uniform after Kim's death and has reportedly been tasked with guiding the younger Kim through his first years in power. In early 2011, the Chosun Ilbo reported that Jang, once powerful in Kim Jong-il's regime and running day-to-day affairs after the dictator's 2008 stroke, had kept a "respectful distance" since the son began being groomed for leadership. Still, some 200 senior officials with ties to Jang and O Kuk-ryol, a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, were executed or arrested in an apparent effort to stymie any future challenge to Kim Jong-un's rule. Jang's future is in doubt because of the Kim family history on those who aid succession: Kim Yong-ju, the uncle of Kim Jong-il, was executed after helping the transition in the wake of Kim Il-sung's death. This grisly scenario doesn't take into account possible dynastic challenges from the two older sons passed over for the position, or a potential military overthrow if they are unsatisfied with an untested leader taking the helm (the attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan was reportedly tied to an effort to establish Kim Jong-un's credibility with military leaders). Regardless, the leader of North Korea inherits a starving, cloistered, fourth-world nuclear nation.


"Kim Jong Un, identical to Kim Jong Il, is the popular tender-hearted father and the sun of the destiny as he is the man the people will follow to the end of the earth." - Korean Central News Agency, propaganda organ of Pyongyang
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