North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s classmates have struggled to reconcile their childhood memories of him when he went to a German-speaking public school near Bern, Switzerland.
“He was a good friend,” Joao Micaelo, who now works as a chef in Bern, told The Daily Beast.
“We had a lot of fun together. He was a good guy. Lots of kids liked him. I don’t know anything about his life today. All I know is the guy I knew in school,” he said. “He loved basketball. We played a lot together. I’d like to say to him, if you ever have the time, please contact me again so we can catch up.”
Kim was called “Pak Un” and was described as the son of an employee at the North Korean embassy—rather than the son of communist dictator Kim Il Jong.
“He was funny,” another ex-classmate, Marco Imhof, told the Beast. “Always good for a laugh. He also hated to lose. Winning was very important.”
When Kim Jong Un's mother tried to tell him off for not studying enough, "he wouldn’t talk back, but he would protest in other ways, like going on a hunger strike" https://t.co/ZlVLuf5ch2
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) January 15, 2018
Another former classmate said, “He had a sense of humor and got on well with everyone, even those pupils who came from countries who were enemies of North Korea.”
“He only spoke about his life in the ‘homeland’ rarely. But I knew he had a certain homesickness,” said another former classmate. “On his stereo, he only played North Korean songs. Western music didn’t do it for him.”
Kim also had a big enviable collection of Nike sneakers and was a good basketball player, the report said.
But Ko Yong Suk, Kim’s aunt on the maternal side and his guardian in Switzerland, said that as a child, the boy showed some signs of trouble.
Ko added that Kim “wasn’t a troublemaker, but he was short-tempered and had a lack of tolerance,” according to the Washington Post. And one time, she said he was caught with a pornographic magazine in Switzerland.
Lee Young Guk, a former bodyguard, told ABC New that Kim had an “explosive personality” and “when he was angry, he acted without considering the consequences.”
Kim Jong Un is one of five known children of Kim Jong Il. His brother, Kim Jong Nam, was assassinated in Malaysia last year, with many blaming the North Korean regime for the crime.
“But don’t think that just because Kim spent time in Switzerland that it would change him,” said Gordon Chang, who is the author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World.”
“This guy has the same dictator gene as his grandfather,” Chang said. “He is also very aware of what a balancing act it is to run North Korea. The toughest thing about heading a totalitarian regime is making sure you don’t get killed yourself. He is heartless. He is ruthless. And he has to be.”
According to a recent Human Rights Watch update, Kim’s North Korea “remains among the world’s most repressive countries,” and “abuses in North Korea were without parallel in the contemporary world” including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence.”
Not to mention the “secretive prison camps where perceived opponents of the government are sent to face torture and abuse, starvation rations, and forced labor,” the update states.