Who is Kim Jong Un: Biography, Education, Family and Path to Power
|Kim Jong-un and his wife (Photo: Business Insider)|
Kim Jong Un assumed leadership at such a young age that many thought his rule would be doomed. The current head of the family dynasty that's ruled North Korea since the 1950s has overseen several nuclear tests, dozens of missile tests, and presided over his country's shocking, uninvited entrance into the nuclear club.
After having the most tense, heated exchanges with a US commander in chief in his country's history, Kim met with President Donald Trump twice. Between threats of nuclear annihilation, brinkmanship, and attacks on South Korea, Kim has kept a firm grip on power throughout, and his people have very few freedoms.
Kim Jong Un personal life
His parents were future North Korean Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Young Hee. He had an older brother named Kim Jong Chul and would later have a younger sister named Kim Yo Jong.
While Kim Jong Un's official birth year is 1982, various reports suggest that the year was changed for symbolic reasons, including that it was 70 years after the birth of Kim Il Sung and 40 years after the birth of Kim Jong Il.
But when the US Treasury Department sanctioned Kim Jong Un in 2016, the agency listed his official date of birth as January 8, 1984.
In 2012, North Korean media announced that Kim had married a woman named Ri Sol Ju. Not much is known about Ri, other than that she's a former cheerleader and singer in North Korea's famous "Army of Beauties." They are believed to have three children, though their ages and gender have been kept a secret
Kim Jong Un school years
Called "Pak Un" and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Kim Jong Un attended an English-language international school in Gümligen, near Bern.
Some former classmates described him as a quiet student who spent most of his time at home, but had a sense of humor.
But others pained Kim as an unremarkable boy who was bad at school and lashed out at others.
According to Fifield's book, classmates said Kim was embarrassed to answer questions in class and frequently lashed out because he struggled to speak in German.
"He kicked us in the shins and even spat at us," a former classmate told her.
Kim's time in Switzerland ended in 2001, when his father ordered his return to North Korea. Upon his return to North Korea, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University with his older brother. Some reports say they started to attend their father's military field inspections around 2007.
Kim Jong Un path to power
When Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack on December 17, 2011, the young Kim Jong Un inherited the world's fourth-largest military, a nuclear arsenal, and absolute control over North Korea.
He took over ahead of his older brother Kim Jong Chol, whom their father thought was "effeminate" and weak. His other brother Kim Jong Nam apparently said negative things about the regime, according to The Australian. He was killed in 2017.
Taking the reins of the country when he was around 30, Kim Jong Un was the youngest head of state in the world when he took power.
During the early years of Kim's reign, it was believed that his aunt and uncle were the real decision makers. His aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Song Thaek, were trusted advisers who had served on various government committees for years. However, in 2013, Kim ordered the execution of his uncle and his uncle's inner circle. Kim's rocky start as supreme leader continued as he pushed for North Korea to increase its nuclear arms program in 2013. In just six years, Kim Jong Un had conducted more nuclear tests than both his father and his grandfather combined.
Then, in February 2017, international condemnation towards North Korea increased when Kim Jong Un's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was attacked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia and later died en route to the hospital. South Korean and US officials speculated that Kim Jong Un ordered the assassination of his half-brother, and Kim Jong Nam's death only served to heighten the world's suspicion of North Korea's leadership.
In the Trump era, conflict with North Korea reached a new high.
|Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump reportedly labeled North Korea the single biggest threat to the US. |
Breaking with former President Barack Obama's attempts at diplomatic negotiation via "strategic patience," the Trump administration started demanding North Korea's immediate de-nuclearization and hinted at the possibility of a preemptive military strike if its impulsive leader does not comply
.In April 2017, Kim retaliated by unsuccessfully test launching another nuclear missile at the same time that US Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to discuss the country's arms program in Seoul, South Korea. After the US threatened a "pretty significant international response" in the event of another test, a North Korean envoy warned that nuclear war could break out at "any moment."
And in November 2017, North Korea has tested intercontinental-range ballistic missiles with the express purpose of threatening the US mainland — something which Trump swore he would prevent, according to Business Insider.
Throughout 2017 and early 2018, North Korea continued its nuclear threats, and Trump continued to taunt Kim. In December 2017, then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the chance of war was "increasing every day."
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