Kim Jong-un unmasked: How friends exposed what North Korean dictator is REALLY like

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Despite Kim Jong-un being at the helm of North Korea for eight years, relatively little is known about his rule and the goings-on inside the state remain a mystery to the outside world. Details about Kim’s life are so heavily guarded that even his date of birth – supposedly January 8, 1982 – is still unconfirmed. The secret life of Kim Jong-un sparked so much intrigue that eventually accounts from those who were close to him began to emerge – including his best friend from school, his former sushi chef and statements from defectors. Maintaining an extreme level of privacy remains a common theme of the Kim dynasty, most recently highlighted by no details emerging to explain the leader’s two disappearances from the public eye over the last few months. Kim Jong-un’s whereabouts during both of those three-week absences remain unknown. Even after it was speculated that he was “gravely ill”, “brain dead” or had died during “botched” surgery to fit a stent in his heart, no official statements were made to give any clarification. Despite the many mysteries of the leader’s life so far, those who have been able to spend time with him have been able to reveal important details that help us understand the man he is today.

Kim Jong-un was reported to have attended Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school, in Switzerland from 1998 to 2001, but was known under the alias ‘Pak Un’.

His friend Joao Micaelo, who buddied up with him on his first day, initially dismissed the rare, candid admission that he would someday be the rule of North Korea.

He claimed to have been the “best friend” of the future leader when they were 16 and at first described him as a “normal guy” during a 2010 interview with CNN.

Mr Micaelo said: “He played basketball, he had basketball games on his Playstation. The whole world for him was just basketball all the time.

“He was competitive at sports. He didn’t like to lose, like any of us. For him, basketball was everything.”

This passion for the sport and extreme competitiveness was likely what led him to spark a bizarre friendship with former US NBA star Dennis Rodman – who featured in Netflix show ‘The Last Dance’.

The sportsman, who was notoriously known for his ruthless antics on the court, was invited to holiday with Kim Jong-un at one of his luxury villas in Wonsan, back in 2013.

Mr Rodman said: “Everything is just like five-star, six-star, seven-star. It’s just a great day every day. 

“There was so much entertainment, so much fun, just so much relaxation. Everything was just so, so perfect.”

Despite Kim Jong-un’s lavish lifestyle and partying with the celebrities today, during his school years he was known to be a “loner” who “absolutely avoided contact with girls”.

This was further compounded by Mr Micaelo’s claims that the future leader didn’t go out at night and rarely, if ever, attended parties or discos. 

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He said: “He was very quiet and he didn’t speak with anyone. Maybe it was because most of the people did not take the time to understand him.

“And he was not that type of guy who goes to another and says, ‘Hello, how are you?’ He was always quiet.”

Trust in only a small handful of people is a theme that has continued, with only his inner circle and sister Kim Yo-jong privy to his thoughts and discussions.

These characteristics described by those who knew him, mirror the theories held by Chris Mikul, who penned the 2019 book ‘My Favourite Dictators’.

He believes that Kim Jong-un could be the nation’s most progressive leader to date despite enforcing his rule with brutal executions, torture and other actions.

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Mr Mikul told “He is different because he was schooled outside of North Korea, Kim Jong-il barely left and essentially was exposed to western culture more than most because he was a film buff. 

“Kim Jong-un spent a lot of years in Switzerland where he became westernised, he loved video games and basketball so you can see why there is a big difference between them.

“To me there are a lot of signs that he is a more benevolent character than father and grandfather, he has more concern for welfare of people and the economy.

“He’s known for putting on concerts, one showed a woman dressed in a Disney costume, which never would have happened under Kim Jong-il.”

While Mr Mikul believes that Kim Jong-un is “different at heart” from his predecessors, he maintains that the leader still remains a “brutal dictator”.

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