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

*right now

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

But with young and untested Kim Jong-un in charge of a nuclear arsenal, no one knows what will happen next.

This what we do know about him…

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

Image: DPRK propaganda via www.atimes.com

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

Image: DPRK propaganda via www.atimes.com

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.”

He loved basketball and idolised Michael Jordan

Image: AP Photo/Chuck Burton

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.

He may have been a member of the “good” gang in a production of Grease

In a school production of the hit American musical Grease, young Kim enjoyed singing Summer Nights and You’re the One That I Want, according to photos from The Sun.

His role required slicked-back hair and a leather jacket as a member of the T-Birds, one of the “good gangs.”

There is a bit of controversy over this claim, as The Washington Post points out that the photos may actually be Jong-un’s brother instead.

After school in Switzerland, he returned home for military schooling

Upon his return to North Korea, Jong-un attended Kim Il-sung Military University with his older brother. Some reports say both 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 (Wikimedia Commons)

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

Image: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

When Jong-il died of a heart attack on 17 December 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, Jong-un is the youngest head of state in the world.

Some believe Kim’s aunt and uncle may actually be calling the shots

Among Kim’s most trusted advisers are 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.

He’s married to a former cheerleader and may have two children

Image: KCNA via AP

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 late last year, with many believing it was a girl.

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

Image 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

Recently 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.

At this point most analysts think Jong-un will follow through with a minor attack — something to back up his threats without setting off a horrifying war which North Korea would most likely lose.

- Paul Szoldra and Gus Lubin

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