Kim Jong Un, the flamboyant supreme leader of North Korea, is the son and grandson of North Korean dictators who believed that their mythical bloodline gave only direct family members the right to lead the reclusive kingdom. His family life is notoriously secret, but he has a wife and three children.
Kim’s children are too young to succeed him, however, so some experts believe his sister is his likely successor. Kim also had two brothers, although one was slain in an assassination with a nerve agent at an airport and the other has seemed more interested in rock music than politics.
There have been conflicting reports about Kim Jong Un’s health, with some saying he may be near death or even in a vegetative state after heart surgery. Kim Jong Un is only 36 years old.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kim Jong Un took Over the Leadership of North Korea When His Father Kim Jong Il Died; He Is the Son of Kim Jong Il & His Mistress
Kim Jong Un was kept shrouded in secrecy until right before his father, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died. According to BBC, Kim first appeared in public in 2010, not long before his dad died in 2011. BBC reports that there’s even confusion over whether Kim was born in 1983 or 1984.
According to BBC, Kim Jong Il had four partners during his life that are known: Song Hae-rim, Kim Young-sook, Ko Young-hui and Kim Ok. Ko Young-hui is the mother of Kim Jong un, who was one of the five children of Kim Jong Il. Kim’s mother was described by Nikkei Asian Review as “a dancer from a Korean family in Osaka.”
Kim’s mother died of breast cancer after undergoing treatment in Paris, according to The Guardian.
Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack in 2011 at the age of about 69.
2. Kim Jong Un is Married to Ri Sol-ju, Who Is Reportedly a Former Singer
Kim Jong Un is married. His wife’s name is Ri Sol-ju, and she was described by BBC as a “former singer.” She wasn’t named as his partner until 2012, and there are conflicting reports about her background and how they met, BBC reports. According to the Guardian, it’s believed she is the daughter of a teacher and doctor. She has also been described as a former orchestra member who was a cheerleader for North Korea.
She has been seen in the public eye and her fashion sense charmed the Chinese public when she accompanied her husband on a visit to that country in 2018.
That same year Kim gave his wife the title of First Lady. At that time, she was believed to be 29 years of age. She was previously referred to as “comrade.”
You can read more about Ri Sol-ju here.
3. It’s Believed That Kim Jong Un Has at Least Three Children
How many children does Kim Jong Un have? That’s unclear because of his secrecy, but it’s believed he has at least three kids.
In 2017, CNN reported that Kim had a third child. The story reported that Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju was believed to have given birth to the child in February. The gender wasn’t revealed.
CNN reported that it’s believed Kim also had a boy in 2010 and a daughter in 2013. In 2013, basketball player Dennis Rodman revealed the name of Kim’s daughter after visiting North Korea, according to CNN.
“I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well,” he said, according to CNN, adding that Kim was “a good dad.”
4. Kim Had His Uncle Executed & His Brother Was Murdered at an Airport
Kim’s aunt made what CNN called a “surprise appearance” with Kim Jong Un in January 2020, appearing in public for the first time since Kim had her husband executed seven years before.
The aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, was the only sister of Kim Jong Un’s father, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
In addition, Kim’s brother Kim Jong Nam was slain. It was suspected that he met with CIA operatives, according to The Wall Street Journal. Kim Jong Nam was murdered when two women approached him in a Malaysian airport in 2017 and one rubbed nerve agent VX on his face, according to BBC. North Korea denied involvement but Kim Jong Nam had a history of publicly questioning his brother’s leadership.
Kim also has a sister named Kim Yo Jong who was present at the Lunar New Year concert with Kim’s aunt. In addition, he has a half-sister named Kim Sul-song. In addition, Kim Pyong Il is a 65-year-old half-brother of Kim Jong Il who served as a diplomat in Europe, according to AP.
Kim’s aunt was married to Jang Song Thaek, a military leader accused of being a traitor to the North Korean regime. Kim Jong Un also has an older brother named Kim Jong Chul, described by The Washington Post as an “Eric Clapton megafan.” He’s been spotted in a black leather jacket and in sunglasses, The Post reported, adding that Kim Jong Il felt Kim Jong Chul was too feminine to take over the country.
5. Kim’s Grandfather Also Ruled North Korea
According to BBC, Kim’s grandfather was North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994. Kim Jong Un didn’t attend a birthday celebration in honor of his deceased grandfather, which first sparked the rumors that he was ill.
The Associated Press reports that the family’s power hinges on its “mythical Paektu bloodline,” which is “named after the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula,” and is argued to give direct family members the right to rule North Korea.
As a result of this myth, it’s possible that Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong would succeed him upon his death.
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