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Kim Jong-un
2018 inter-Korean summit 01 (cropped 2).jpg
Supreme Leader of North Korea
Assumed office
17 December 2011
Premier Choe Yong-rim
Preceded by Kim Jong-il
First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea
Assumed office
11 April 2012
Deputy Kim Yong-nam
Choe Yong-rim
Choe Ryong-hae
Ri Yong-ho
Preceded by Kim Jong-il (General Secretary)
First Chairman of the National Defence Commission
Assumed office
13 April 2012
Deputy Kim Yong-Chun
Ri Yong-mu
Jang Song-thaek
O Kuk-ryol
Preceded by Kim Jong-il (Chairman)
Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army
Assumed office
30 December 2011
Preceded by Kim Jong-il
Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Assumed office
11 April 2012
Acting: 17 December 2011 – 11 April 2012
Deputy Choe Ryong-hae
Ri Yong-ho
Preceded by Kim Jong-il
Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
In office
28 September 2010 – 11 April 2012
Serving with Ri Yong-ho
Leader Kim Jong-il
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Choe Ryong-hae
Ri Yong-ho
Personal details
Born 8 January 1983 or 1984 (age 37–38)
Pyongyang, North Korea
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Spouse(s) Ri Sol-ju
Alma mater Kim Il-sung University
Kim Il-sung Military University
Signature
Military service
Allegiance  North Korea
Years of service 2010–present
Rank Marshal of the Republic
Commands Supreme Commander

Kim Jong-un (born 8 January 1983) is a North Korean politician. He has been Supreme Leader of North Korea since 2011 and Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea since 2012. Kim is the second child of Kim Jong-il (1941–2011), the country's second leader from 1994 to 2011, and Ko Yong-hui (1952–2004). He is the grandson of Kim Il-sung, who was the founder and first leader of North Korea from 1948 to 1994. Kim is the first North Korean leader who was born after the country's founding.

From late 2010, Kim Jong-un was viewed as heir apparent to the leadership of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), and following the elder Kim's death, North Korean state television announced him as the "Great Successor". North Korean state media often refers to him as Marshal Kim Jong-un, "the Marshal" or "Dear Respected."

On 12 December 2013, Kim Jong-un ordered the execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek for "treachery". Kim is widely believed to have ordered the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, in Malaysia in February 2017.

In 2018 Kim Jong-un and President of South Korea Moon Jae-in met twice in Panmunjom on the border between North and South, and once in Pyongyang.

On 12 June 2018, Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump met for a summit in Singapore, the first-ever talks held between a North Korean leader and a sitting US President, to discuss the North Korean nuclear program. A follow-up meeting in Hanoi in February 2019 ended abruptly without an agreement.

On 25 April 2019, Kim Jong Un and the President of Russia Vladimir Putin held their first summit in Vladivostok, Russia.

Early life

Schule Liebefeld-Steinhölzli, Köniz
The Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Köniz, Switzerland, which Kim Jong-un is reported to have attended

North Korean authorities and state-run media have stated that Kim's birthdate was 8 January 1982, but South Korean intelligence officials believe the actual date is a year later. It is thought that Kim's official birth year was changed for symbolic reasons. Kim Jong-Un was the second of three children Ko Yong-hui bore to Kim Jong-il; his elder brother Kim Jong-chul was born in 1981, while his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, is believed to have been born in 1987. All the children of Kim Jong-il are said to have lived in Switzerland.

It was reported that Kim Jong-un attended the Liebefeld Steinhölzli state school in Köniz near Bern under the name "Pak-un" or "Un-pak" from 1998 until 2000. Pak-un first attended a special class for foreign-language children and later attended the regular classes of the 6th, 7th, 8th, and part of the final 9th year, leaving the school abruptly in the autumn of 2000. He was described as a well-integrated and ambitious student who liked to play basketball. However, his grades and attendance rating are reported to have been poor. He was obsessed with basketball and computer games.

The ambassador of North Korea in Switzerland, Ri Chol, had a close relationship with him and acted as a mentor. One of Pak-un's classmates told reporters that he had told him that he was the son of the leader of North Korea. According to some reports, Kim was described by classmates as a shy child who was awkward with girls and indifferent to political issues, but who distinguished himself in sports and had a fascination with the American National Basketball Association and Michael Jordan.

Kim Il-sung University
Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang

Most analysts agree that Kim Jong-un attended Kim Il-sung University, a leading officer-training school in Pyongyang, from 2002 to 2007. Kim obtained two degrees, one in physics at Kim Il-sung University, and another as an Army officer at the Kim Il-sung Military University.

For many years, only one confirmed photograph of him was known to exist outside North Korea, apparently taken in the mid-1990s, when he was eleven. It was only in June 2010, shortly before he was given official posts and publicly introduced to the North Korean people, that more pictures were released of Kim, taken when he was attending school in Switzerland. The first official image of him as an adult was a group photograph released on 30 September 2010.

Leader of North Korea

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Portraits of Kim Jong-un's father and grandfather (Arirang Festival mass games in Pyongyang)

On 17 December 2011, Kim Jong-il died. Despite the elder Kim's plans, it was not immediately clear after his death whether Jong-un would in fact take full power, and what his exact role in a new government would be. Following his father's death, Kim Jong-un was hailed as the "great successor to the revolutionary cause of Juche".

He was publicly declared Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army on 24 December 2011 and formally appointed to the position on 30 December 2011 when the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party proclaimed that the dear respected Kim Jong Un, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK, assumed the supreme commander-ship of the Korean People's Army.

Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery 32
North Korean soldiers saluting at the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery in Pyongyang 2012

On 27 March 2012, Kim was elected to the Fourth Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea and designated Kim Jong-il as the party's "Eternal General Secretary". The conference then elected Kim Jong-un as leader of the party. Kim Jong-un also took his father's post as Chairman of the Central Military Commission, as well as his father's old seat on the Politburo Presidium.

On 15 April 2012, during a military parade to commemorate Kim Il-sung's centenary, Kim Jong-un made his first public speech, Let Us March Forward Dynamically Towards Final Victory, Holding Higher the Banner of Songun. That speech became the basis of a hymn dedicated to him, "Onwards Toward the Final Victory".

Kim Jong-Un Photorealistic-Sketch
Kim Jong-Un illustration

In July 2012, Kim Jong-un was promoted to wonsu (translated as marshal), the highest active rank in the military. The only higher rank is Dae Wonsu (roughly translated as Grand Marshal or Generalissimo) which was held by Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, and which was awarded posthumously to his father, Kim Jong-il, in February 2012. The promotion confirmed Kim's role as top leader of the North Korean military.

Officially, Kim Jong-un is part of a triumvirate (party of three), heading the executive branch of the North Korean government. Kim Jong-un commands the armed forces, the other heads the government and handles domestic affairs, and one handles foreign relations. Nevertheless, it is generally understood that Kim Jong-un, like his father and grandfather before him, has absolute control over the government and the country.

Secretary Pompeo and Chairman Kim Attend Working Lunch in Pyongyang (44240166245)
Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang

On 9 March 2014, Kim Jong-un was elected to a seat in the Supreme People's Assembly, the country's unicameral legislature. He ran unopposed, but voters had the choice of voting yes or no. There was a record turnout of voters and, according to government officials, all voted "yes" in his home district of Mount Paekdu. The Supreme People's Assembly subsequently elected him first chairman of the National Defense Commission. On 9 March 2014, Kim Jong-un was elected unopposed to the Supreme People's Assembly.

In November 2012, satellite photos revealed a half-kilometer-long (1,600 ft) propaganda message carved into a hillside in Ryanggang Province, reading, "Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!"

New leadership style

Kim Jong Un with Honor Guard portrait
Kim Jong Un with Honor Guard 2018

In July 2012, Kim Jong-un showed a change in cultural policy from his father by attending a Moranbong Band concert. The concert contained several elements of pop culture from the West, particularly the United States. Kim used this event to debut his wife to the public, an event that had never happened before in North Korea.

In 2012, Kim Jong-il's personal chef Kenji Fujimoto visited North Korea and said, "Stores in Pyongyang were brimming with products and people in the streets looked cheerful. North Korea has changed a lot since Kim Jong-un assumed power. All of this is because of leader Kim Jong-un."

In 2013, Kim re-established his grandfather's style when he made his first New Year's address, a break from the approach of his father. Kim Jong-il never made televised addresses during his 17 years in power. Instead of delivering a speech, Kim Jong-il contributed to and approved a New Year's Day editorial.

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People in Pyongyang watch Kim Jong-un on North Korean TV, 2015

In May 2014, following the collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un was said to be very upset at the loss of life that resulted. A statement issued by the country's official news agency the Korean Central News Agency used the rare expression "profound consolation and apology".

There has been a construction boom in Pyongyang, bringing colour and creative architectural styles to the city. While in the past there was a concentration on building monuments, Kim Jong-un's government has constructed amusement parks, aquatic parks, skating rinks, a dolphinarium and a ski resort.

Nuclear weapons development

Unha-9 rocket model
Model of a Unha-9 rocket on display at a floral exhibition in Pyongyang, 30 August 2013

Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea has continued to develop nuclear weapons, testing bombs in February 2013, January and September 2016, and September 2017, and conducting over 80 missile tests. At a meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party held on 31 March 2013, Kim Jong-un announced that North Korea will adopt "a new strategic line on carrying out economic construction and building nuclear armed forces simultaneously".

According to several analysts, North Korea sees the nuclear arsenal as vital to deter an attack, and it is unlikely that North Korea would launch a nuclear war. According to a RAND Corporation senior researcher, Kim Jong-un believes that nuclear weapons are his guarantee of regime survival.

During the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in 2016, Kim Jong-un stated that North Korea would "not use nuclear weapons first unless aggressive hostile forces use nuclear weapons to invade on our sovereignty". However, on other occasions, North Korea has threatened "pre-emptive" nuclear attacks against a US-led attack.

North Korea's ballistic missile - North Korea Victory Day-2013 01
North Korea's ballistic missile - North Korea Victory Day-2013

In December 2015, Kim stated that his family "turned the DPRK into a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation".

In January 2018, estimates of North Korea's nuclear arsenal ranged between 15 and 60 bombs, probably including hydrogen bombs. In the opinion of analysts, the Hwasong-15 missile is capable of striking anywhere in the United States. As of 2016, the United Nations has created five rounds of sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear program and missile tests.

Diplomacy 2018–2019

2018 inter-Korean summit 01
Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shake hands during the 2018 inter-Korean Summit, April 2018
Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit
Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands at the start of the 2018 North Korea–United States Summit, June 2018
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Kim meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during of the North Korea–Russia Summit, April 2019

In his 2018 New Year Speech, Kim announced that he was open to dialogue with South Korea with a view to take part in the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South. The Seoul–Pyongyang hotline was reopened after almost two years. North and South Korea marched together in the Olympics opening ceremony, and fielded a united women's ice hockey team. In addition to the athletes, Kim sent an unprecedented high-level delegation including his sister, Kim Yo-jong, and President of the Presidium, Kim Yong-nam, and performers such as the Samjiyon Orchestra. On 5 March, he had a meeting with South Korea's Chief of the National Security Office, Chung Eui-yong, in Pyongyang.

In March 2018, Kim visited Beijing, meeting with General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, marking his first foreign trip since assuming power.

At the April 2018 inter-Korean summit, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in signed the Panmunjom Declaration, pledging to convert the Korean Armistice Agreement into a full peace treaty, formally ending the Korean War, by the end of the year.

From 7–8 May, Kim made a second visit to China, meeting with Xi Jinping in Dalian.

On 26 May, Kim had a second and unannounced meeting in the North Korean side of Panmunjom, meeting with Moon to discuss his proposed summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

On 10 June, Kim arrived in Singapore and met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. On 12 June, Kim held his first summit with Trump and signed a declaration, affirming a commitment to peace, nuclear disarmament, and the repatriation of the remains of U.S. war dead. This marked the first-ever meeting between leaders of North Korea and the United States.

In September, Kim held another summit with Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang. Kim agreed to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons facilities if the United States took reciprocal action. The two governments also announced that they would establish buffer zones on their borders to prevent clashes.

In February 2019, Kim held another summit with Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, which Trump cut short on the second day without an agreement. The Trump administration said that the North Koreans wanted complete sanctions relief, while the North Koreans said that they were only asking for partial sanctions relief.

On 25 April 2019, Kim held his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia. On 30 June 2019, in the Korean DMZ, Kim again met with Trump, shaking hands warmly and expressing hope for peace. Kim and Trump then joined Moon Jae-in for a brief chat. Talks in Stockholm began on 5 October 2019 between US and North Korean negotiating teams, but broke down after one day.

Events in 2020

During 2020, Kim claimed success in combatting COVID-19 pandemic in North Korea, after putting the country in isolation and limiting public gatherings.

In April 2020, a three-week absence from public view led to speculation that Kim was seriously ill or even dead, but no clear evidence of any health problem came to light. He continued to appear in public rarely over the following months, possibly because of health problems, possibly because of the risk of COVID-19, or possibly for some other reason.

In August 2020, it was reported that Kim had ceded a degree of authority to his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, giving her responsibility for relations with South Korea and the United States and making her his de facto second-in-command. This fed more rumours that Kim was unwell, but this was not substantiated.

On 5 September 2020, Kim Jong Un toured the areas hit by Typhoon Maysak. He also replaced the local provincial party committee chairman and ordered Pyongyang officials to lead a recovery effort. His ruling party also pledged harsh punishment for the city and provincial officials, stating that they failed to protect the residents from the disaster. As a result, Kim fired Kim Song-il who was the chairman of the South Hamgyong Province Workers Party of Korea Committee.

Personal life

Ri Sol-ju, Kim Jong-un, Moon Jae-in, and Kim Jong-sook (April 27, 2018)
Kim Jong-un and his wife Sol-ju (left) 2018

On 25 July 2012, North Korean state media reported for the first time that Kim Jong-un is married to Ri Sol-ju, the two married in 2009, and they had a child in 2010. Dennis Rodman, after visiting in 2013, reported that they had a daughter. However, South Korean sources speculate that they could have many children.

Kim is sometimes accompanied by his younger sister Kim Yo-jong, who is said to be instrumental in creating his public image and organising public events for him. In 2009, reports suggested that Kim Jong-un was a diabetic and suffered from hypertension. He is also known to smoke cigarettes.

2020 death rumor

Rumors of Kim's death happened in late April 2020. Kim had been absent on the Day of the Sun, 15 April, celebrating the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung, though had been last seen four days before at a government meeting. Daily NK reported that Kim had gone to a hospital for a heart surgery on 12 April, but according to CNN by 21 April that Kim's state was in "grave danger" from the surgery. South Korea reported in response to these stories that there were "no unusual signs detected" in about Kim's health. The Guardian reported that China had sent a team of doctors on 25 April to North Korea to look at Kim's condition.

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