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Report Unveils NK Heir Apparent`s Time in Switzerland

Posted June. 15, 2009 06:54,   

한국어

A leading Japanese daily yesterday ran a feature on Kim Jong Un, the heir apparent to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and his early life in Switzerland.

The Mainichi Shimbun posted a photo of the junior Kim at age 16 when he was in the seventh grade at a public school in Bern, Switzerland, under the pseudonym Pak Un. The photo was reportedly taken in June 1999.

Kim Jong Un stayed in Bern from summer 1996 to January 2001. He first attended the International School in Bern, where his older brother Jong Chol, 28, had studied. Several months later, Kim Jong Un transferred to a nearby local school.

After taking extra German classes in a nearby elementary school, he entered the seventh grade in August 1998. He returned to Pyongyang in late 2000 when he was in ninth grade, according to sources quoted by the newspaper. Kim Jong Un was apparently held back a grade due to language proficiency.

His homeroom teacher recalled Kim Jong Un quitting school a day after informing at lunch time in the teacher’s room that he was returning to his home country. The teacher said he was surprised to hear from police that Kim Jong Un was the youngest son of the North Korean leader after the younger Kim left Switzerland.

Joao Michaelo, 25, a Portuguese classmate of Kim Jong Un, recalled flying to Paris to watch an NBA basketball game with Kim Jong Un, who was a basketball fan. They even visited each other’s homes and traveled around on bikes.

“Kim didn’t tell us about his family at school, but he confided in me that his father was Kim Jong Il and showed me a photo he took with his father,” Michaelo said.

Kim Jong Il’s oldest son Jong Nam, 38, attended an international school in Geneva between 1980 and 1981, and his second oldest son Jong Chol attended one in Bern between 1993 and 1998.

The older son quit within a year and a half due to security issues, and the younger was accompanied by a bodyguard to school. In contrast, the youngest Jong Un walked the 200 meters to his school on his own.

One diplomatic source said, “Back then, Kim Jong Nam was the most likely successor and the regime prepared thoroughly for Jong Chol’s departure since it was the first time for Kim Jong Il’s son to stay overseas for a long time. Kim Jong Il could have decided to go easy on Jong Un since he is the youngest son.”



sya@donga.com