Kim Jong-un seems poised to become the next dictator of North Korea, following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, on Saturday.
“Seems” is the operative word, because nothing is ever fully clear in North Korea.
Reports from North Korea said the country’s 24 million people had already begun to rally round Kim Jong-un, who has been the communist state’s leader-in-waiting for more than a year.The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the country, people and military “must faithfully revere respectable comrade Kim Jong-un. At the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un, we have to change sadness to strength and courage and overcome today’s difficulties.”
During a state television broadcast monitored in Tokyo, the announcer wept as she read the news of Kim Jong Il’s death. Footage was aired of thousands of people in the main square of the capital of Pyongyang chanting in unison and waving Kimjongilia, a flower named after the deceased leader.
The agency hasn’t yet broken the news on its actual website, which is full of the usual headlines. (“South Korean Dictatorial Regime Riddled with Corruption.”)
Kim Jong-un would be the third member of the family to run North Korea. His father ruled for 17 years, and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, grabbed power in 1948 and held on until his death in 1994.
Kim Jong-un has been Kim Jong-il’s heir apparent since last October, when the two made a joint appearance at a military parade, leading to a frenzy of speculation.
The known basics are these:
- Kim Jong-un was born around 1983, so he’s about 28 years old. His official year of birth is 1982, but Western news agencies suspect that the North Korean leadership moved the official date so that Kim will turn 30 on the 100th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. The North Koreans like round numbers.
- He is one of three officially recognized sons (and one daughter) of Kim Jong-il. None of the other siblings seem to be in the running to succeed their dad — though again, details are sketchy.
- He went to boarding school in Switzerland for a time in the late 1990s — probably from 1998-2000.
- He was named a four-star general in the North Korean Army last year.
For more details, see Kim Jong-un: Five Craziest Rumors, our blog post from his debut last year.
Or see our biography of Kim Jong-un »