How a shy boy from North Korea became one of the world's scariest dictator

Kim Jong-Un, leader of North Korea. Photo: Getty Images

For the past 50 years, the world has grown used to crazy threats from North Korea that don’t lead anywhere.

But the threats have taken a decidedly sharper and more ominous tone under North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, the third Supreme Leader of the Hermit Kingdom.

On Wednesday, North Korea claimed to have successfully detonated a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.

Here is how Kim Jong-Un grew into being one of the world’s most concerning world leaders.

Kim Jong-un was born on January 8 in 1982 or 1983 or 1984.

DPRK propaganda via

His parents were future North Korean dictator 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 Jong-un's official birth year is 1982, various reports suggest that the year was changed for symbolic reasons, including that it was 100 years after the birth of Kim Il-sung and 70 years after the birth of Jong-il.

Jong-un (pictured here with his mother) lived at home as a child.

DPRK propaganda via

During this period, North Korea was ruled by 'Great Leader' Kim Il-sung.

While Jong-il was the heir apparent, Jong-un's path to command was far less certain.

Then it was off to Switzerland to attend boarding school.

Called 'Pak-un' and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Jong-un is thought to have attended the English-language 'International School' in Gümligen near Bern.

Jong-un is described by former classmates as a quiet student who spent most of his time at home, but he had a sense of humour too.

'He was funny,' former classmate Marco Imhof told The Mirror. 'Always good for a laugh.'

'He had a sense of humour; got on well with everyone, even those pupils who came from countries that were enemies of North Korea,' another former classmate told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. 'Politics was a taboo subject at school . . . we would argue about football, not politics.'

Jong-un loved basketball and idolized Michael Jordan.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The young Korean reportedly had posters of Jordan all over his wall during his Swiss school days.

Although Jong-un was overweight and only 5 foot 6, he was a decent basketball player.

'He was a fiercely competitive player, very explosive,' former classmate Nikola Kovacevic told The Mirror. 'He was the play maker. He made things happen.'

'He hated to lose. Winning was very important,' said former classmate Marco Imhof.

He also had a 'fantastic' collection of Nike sneakers.

After school in Switzerland, he returned home for military schooling.

Getty Images

Upon his return to North Korea, 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.

While his father faced death, Jong Un was rapidly promoted up the chain of political and military leadership, despite having little experience in either.

He was made a four-star general, deputy chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party, and a member of the Central Committee, according to the BBC.

Jong-un has a theme song known as 'Footsteps.'

'Footsteps' looks and sounds like propaganda songs from the Soviet Union.

Calling the people to follow in 'Our Admiral Kim's footsteps,' here's a sampling of the lyrics:

'Footsteps, Footsteps ... spreading out further the sound of a brilliant future ahead ... tramp, tramp, tramp, ah, footsteps.'

Many North Koreans see Jong-un as a youthful version of 'Great Leader' Kim Il-sung.

Kim Il-sung, 1956

Kim bears a clear resemblance to his grandfather Kim Il-sung in appearance, haircut, and his mannerisms.

Rumours had circulated that Kim Jong-un had received plastic surgery to enhance the resemblance even further, although the North finally responded and called the allegations 'sordid hackwork by rubbish media.'

'The false report ... released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate,' said official Korean Central News Agency.

After his father died, he was quickly declared 'supreme leader' of North Korea.

When Jong-il died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, 2011, the young 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 Jong-chol, who their father thought was 'effeminate' and weak. His other brother Jong-nam apparently said negative things about the regime, according to The Australian.

Around 30 years old when he took power, Jong-un is the youngest head of state in the world.

Some originally believed that Jong Un's aunt and uncle were actually calling the shots.

Among Jong Un's most trusted advisers were his aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Sung Taek, both 66. The couple was reportedly ordered by Jong Il to control the country's military and help the young leader consolidate his position while he gains more experience.

At a recent meeting of the DPRK Workers' Party, both were photographed sitting close by. Their most important job, it seems, is to push his role as a powerful figure among some generals who do not trust him, according to The Telegraph.

But at the end of December 2013, Jong-Un had his uncle and his uncle's family executed apparently in a bid to stop a coup against his rule.

Jang Song-Taek at a trial in North Korea.

On December 12, 2013, Kim Jong-Un had his uncle Sung-Taek executed.
The uncle was charged with having tried to take control of North Korea through a military coup. Following the uncle's execution, there were reports that Jong-Un continued to purge the rest of the uncle's family as a signal.

However, North Korea's ambassador to the UK denied that Sung-Taek's family was also executed. Instead, the ambassador claimed that only Sung-Taek was killed by firing squad following a trial.

He's married to a former cheerleader and may have two kids


Leaders in the Hermit Kingdom are often very secretive when it comes to their significant others, but Jong-un often has his wife join him and allows photographs.

North Korean media revealed in July he was married to Ri Sol-ju -- a former cheerleader and singer -- but no one knows exactly when they were married, according to NBC News.

South Korean intelligence believe the couple probably married in 2009 and already had one child. There are also rumours that Sol-ju gave birth to a child in late 2012, with many believing it was a girl.

The couple is believed to have had another child in 2015.

Jong-un lived out a childhood fantasy when former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman visited.

Courtesy of Vice

The entire family are apparently huge Bulls fans.

His father owned a video library of 'practically every game Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls.' Jong-il tried unsuccessfully to get Jordan to visit in 2001.

Jong-un had tons of Jordan posters as a kid. Brother Jong-chol was photographed as a child wearing a Bulls Jersey (#91 -- Rodman).

But recently, things haven't been going so well.


In 2013 he was reportedly the target of an assassination attempt. South Korean intelligence believes the young leader was targeted by 'disgruntled people inside the North' after he demoted a four-star general which resulted in a power struggle.

Perhaps as a means of reasserting control, Jong-un has become extremely belligerent, shutting down all links with South Korea and threatening thermonuclear war against his neighbour and the United States.

His father and grandfather used to make these threats all the time without following through.

Jong Un has continued to be belligerent with South Korea and the West throughout his rule in hopes of bolstering his authority.

Getty / File

North Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles and nuclear devices under Jong Un's rule, despite the threat of sanctions. In 2012, the country launched its first satellite into space. And since Jong Un has taken over, the country has continued to push ahead with its construction of ballistic and nuclear weapons.

In 2013, North Korea conducted its third-ever nuclear test and its first under Jong Un. And in April 2015, a top US general warned that North Korea could develop nuclear missiles capable of reaching the shores of the western US.

Jong Un's belligerence reached a peak in 2016.

Getty Images

On January 5, North Korea conducted its fourth-ever nuclear test and its second under Jong Un. Pyongyang claims the test was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.

In response to the detonation, world leaders have strongly come out against North Korea. Even China, North Korea's main ally, has said that it strongly opposes the tests.

In response to the bomb, the UN is planning further sanctions against North Korea.

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