Boy with the menacing stare likely to take over
Published 20/12/2011 | 05:00
THE young man due to become North Korea's next leader and take the Kim dynasty into a third generation is even more of an enigma than his mercurial father Kim Jong-il.
North Koreans are told Kim Jong-un graduated from the Kim Il-sung military university -- named after his grandfather -- speaks several foreign languages, including English, and is a whizz at computing and technology.
He almost certainly studied at an international school in Switzerland under a false name. But this has never been properly confirmed, and neither his marital status nor birth date are certain. North Korean officials say he was born on January 8, 1984, but other biographies put the date in late 1983.
Even the best informed western intelligence analysts rely on the autobiography of a former Japanese sushi chef to the Kim family for information about Kim Jong-un. The chef, who goes by the pen name Kenji Fujimoto, described him as a competitive, even ruthless, child, whose chief passion was basketball, especially Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Mr Fujimoto, who fled North Korea in 2001, recalled that as a boy he "glared at me with a menacing look when we shook hands. I can never forget the look in his eyes which seemed to be saying, 'this one is a despicable Japanese'. He also loved movies, just like his dad. In looks, tastes and personality, the youngest son was the 'spitting image' of his father."
What we do know is that Kim Jong-un is the late leader's third official son, and that his unveiling came in the autumn of 2010, at a conference to mark the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party.
Sharing his father's stocky build and grim demeanour, he saluted troops at a vast military parade. It emerged he had been made a four-star general a month earlier and was handed senior positions in government and the party. He will lead the funeral procession on December 28.
The Korean people have been told by state media to "faithfully revere" Kim Jong-un as a "respectable comrade" and "a "distinguished leader of the military and people".
His path to the succession appeared to be cleared 10 years ago, when his elder half-brother Kim Jong-nam tried to enter Japan on a forged Dominican Republic passport using a Chinese alias with the intention of visiting Tokyo Disneyland.
The middle son, Kim Jong-chul, attended school in Switzerland and was appointed deputy chief of a leadership division of the Workers' Party in 2007, but rose no higher. According to Fujimoto, Kim thought Jong-chul was "no good because he is like a little girl".
At the age of 27 or 28, Kim Jong-un is remarkably young to take over a country that is virtually bankrupt and remains an international pariah.
There will be some help. His father's only sister, Kim Kyong-Hui, and her husband are expected to act as mentors.
But before long he will have to prove he has the strength of personality to run a brutal political system.
"You have to be ruthless," said Daniel Pinkston¸ north-east Asia deputy project director of the International Crisis Group. (© Daily Telegraph, London)