Where Kim Jong Un went to school might surprise you

Kim Jong Un North Korea
Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea. (KCNA)

North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un went to a private school in Switzerland where he pretended to be the son of a diplomat at the embassy in Bern.

Kim attended the fee-paying Liebefeld-Steinhölzli School in Koeniz, south of Bern, through some of the 1990s and left in the early 2000s, according to his contemporaries, though exactly how long and when is unclear.

He went by the false name “Pak Un” and was placed under the care of the North Korean ambassador in Switzerland, Ri Su Yong, to who Kim is said to remain close, regarding him as a mentor.

His older brother, Kim Jong Chol, and younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, were also educated in Switzerland. Both now hold senior positions in the North Korean regime.

Kim Jong Un’s friends from his school years described him as a chubby boy who was a huge basketball fan, the Chicago Bulls being his team, which explains his friendship with the American basketball superstar Dennis Rodman, a regular visitor to Pyongyang.

He also owned a collection of Nike trainers, had a temper, and loved skiing in the Alps.

“He was funny,” former classmate Marco Imhof of Bern told The Daily Beast. “Always good for a laugh. He also hated to lose. Winning was very important.”

“He was a big fan of the Chicago Bulls,” Joao Micaelo, a former classmate of Kim Jon Un’s who became a chef in Vienna, told Reuters. “His life was basketball at this time. I think 80% of our time we were playing basketball.”

Another former classmate told The Brookings Institution that “we weren’t the dimmest kids in the class but neither were we the cleverest. We were always in the second tier … The teachers would see him struggling ashamedly and then move on. They left him in peace…He left without getting any exam results at all. He was much more interested in football and basketball than lessons.”

Local education official Ueli Studer told Reuters that a boy called Pak Un who was registered as a child of an employee at the North Korean embassy attended the Steinhoelzli school from 1998 until late 2000.

“The student Pak Un attended the school for two to three years and left abruptly in the middle of a school year,” Studer said. “Pak Un attended a class for non-German speaking pupils but then quickly moved over to another class. He was described as well-integrated, diligent and ambitious. His hobby was basketball.”

Stephen Hawking held an ingenious time travel party to test the theory

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking held a party for time travellers. It was a test of the theory of time travel. (Doug Wheller)

Stephen Hawking came up with a rather novel way of testing if time travel is possible—he held a party for time travellers.

The late theoretical physicist held the party then sent out invitations after the event took place. That way, he thought, only time travellers could possibly have shown up.

Sadly for him, nobody did turn up from the future for a glass of Champagne and a few canapés with the author of A Brief History of Time.

“I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible,” Hawking told the Seattle Science Festival in 2012. “I gave a party for time travellers, but I didn’t send out the invitations until after the party. I sat there a long time, but no one came.”

His invitation gave the exact GPS coordinates of the party’s secret location in the University of Cambridge, where he was a professor.

“You are cordially invited to a reception for Time Travellers,” the invitation said. “I am hoping copies of it, in one form or another, will survive for many thousands of years. Maybe one day someone living in the future will find the information and use a wormhole time machine to come back to my party, proving that time travel will one day be possible.”

In a lecture on the possibility of time travel on Hawking’s website, he keeps an open mind.

Hawking concludes that “rapid space-travel, or travel back in time, can’t be ruled out, according to our present understanding. They would cause great logical problems, so let’s hope there’s a Chronology Protection Law, to prevent people going back, and killing our parents.”

Sharp-eyed readers will note that Hawking only references time travel backwards. That’s because the same logical problem—those travelling to the past could alter the future, disrupting the present—doesn’t exist.

So time travel to the future is more plausible. Which doesn’t really help if you want to win the lottery by knowing the numbers in advance. But it’s still pretty cool.

Hawking died aged 76 on March 14, 2018.

Everyone should read Stephen King’s essay on guns in America – especially Donald Trump

Stephen King
The novelist Stephen King (YouTube/The Late Show)

Once again, America is in the throes of a furious debate about its relationship with guns. Yet another deadly school shooting – this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where an ex-student murdered 17 people – has left a lot of Americans again asking, almost rhetorically: how many more times will this happen before the country gets tough on guns?

As the surviving high schoolers of the latest massacre do the rounds in the media, arguing for politicians to stop taking the gun lobby’s cash and get tougher on weapons so children can be safe in their own classrooms, President Donald Trump is repeating the National Rifle Association’s absurd go-to solution for school shootings: arm teachers.

But one of the best contributions to the gun debate in America, perhaps fittingly, came from a horror writer.

The novelist Stephen King wrote an essay called Guns back in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people, most of them children under the age of eight. He donates profits from its sale to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

In his thoughtful essay, King reflects on one of his own books about a school shooting called Rage, the main character in which – a mentally disturbed teenager – shoots and kills a teacher. When a student in the real world quoted from the book as he killed his teacher, and following a number of other school shootings where connections to Rage were made, King pulled it from the shelves.

King also grapples with the who, why and how of mass shootings. But it’s his conclusions on what to do about the gun issue in America that are most striking.

In the section titled, tellingly, “No Solutions, Reasonable Measures”, King argues for what amount to a range of pragmatic damage-limitation policies short of an outright ban on guns, such as restricting how much ammunition people can buy, and banning assault rifles – because who really needs an assault rifle unless you’re military or police?

“I read a jaw-dropping online defence of these weapons from a California woman recently,” King writes. “Guns, she said, are just tools. Like spoons, she said. Would you outlaw spoons simply because some people use them to eat too much? Lady, let’s see you try to kill twenty schoolkids with a fucking spoon.”

If you feel passionate about the gun debate, or are simply interested in it, you can buy Guns by Stephen King on Amazon. It’s well worth your time.