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.”

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.