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.”