Kim Jong Un loves basketball…

This web page has avoided focusing too much on the DPRK’s leadership transition because so much of the discussion is purely speculative.  But the Washington Post has published an interesting article which fills in some of the blanks on Kim Jong Un’s biography (Kim Jong il’s successor du jour) which gives us some insights into Pyongyang’s elite youth culture.

To begin with, we now know that KJU briefly went to a public school in Switzerland from 1998-2000 where he went by the name “Pak Un.” He did not attend the same Swiss school as his older brothers.  Sources from the school describe him as a swift learner who was quiet in class and uncomfortable around girls, but “fiercely competitive” on the basketball court.  Classmates also recall that he didn’t speak out against America.

Despite the short time he spent in Western Europe, however, he did show a love of American basketball, decorating his apartment with personal photos with Kobe Bryant, attending an NBA exhibition game in Paris and sporting Nike Air Jordan shoes.

The full article is worth reading below:
Who Will Succeed Kim Jong Il?
Washington Post
Andrew Higgins

Further notes:
1. Basketball is popular in the DPRK–maybe the second most popular sport after football (soccer).  Is it such a stretch to assume that elite North Korean youths get together to talk about or even watch NBA games? (There is also a baseaball field in Pyongyang here)

2. Kim Jong il is/was a Michael Jordan fan.  Madeline Albright gave him a basketball signed by Michael Jordan which is probably on display in the International Friendship Exhibition.

3. Kim Jong Chol (and probably Kim Jong nam) attended the International School of Bern (locaton here).  The North Korean embassy in Bern is here. Kim Jong Un reportedly attended the Schule Liebefeld Steinhölzli (located here).  However, I am a little confused about where he lived.  The article states that KJU lived in Liebefeld (Bern suburb) at No. 10 Kirchstrasse (10 Kirch Street), not at the DPRK’s embassy which was just down the road.  I wonder why that is…

4. Kim Jong Un’s older brother, Kim Jong Chol, was photographed attending the 2006 World Cup in Germany where he also attended an Eric Clapton concert.

5. Kim Jong nam, Kim Jong il’s eldest son (and a nice guy I hear), spends most of his time in Macao.  His son (KJI’s grandson) was recently photographed with his South Korean school friends at a Rain concert.

6. Charles Jenkins claims he bought Michael Jackson tapes on the Pyongyang black market.


3 Responses to “Kim Jong Un loves basketball…”

  1. David says:

    Wouldn’t living in the DPRK embassy be kind of suspicious? Somebody might have guessed who he was.

  2. James says:

    In 2005 after having lunch in downtown Pyongyang we observed a full out baseball game with the teenage players in good matching uniforms (not shabby), ball caps, cleats and the works. The guides hustled us along and wouldn’t allow us to stop and watch.

  3. Mike Madden says:

    Children of ambassadors have resided at embassies, and there are reports that Kim Jong-il’s sons were sometimes introduced as children of the DPRK’s Swiss envoy. The DPRK embassies I’ve seen in Europe seem to have residential accommodation.