North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is, without a doubt, one of the most mysterious and terrifying individuals on the planet. But he didn’t get that way all on his own. As it turns out, his family tree is made up of many secrets and shocking events. Here’s a look at the dark underbelly of North Korea’s Kim family.
Jong-un could be a traitor, because of his grandfather
Well, at least this is potentially true. When Jong-un’s grandfather was North Korea’s ruler, he passed a law that aided imprisoning anyone in the country that had ties to enemy nation Japan. But Business Insider reveals that Japanese activist Ken Kato possesses documents showing that Jong-un’s other grandfather, Ko Gyon-tek, worked with the Japanese in World War II. If the documents are real — and if the stories are true — it would mean that Jong-un belongs in jail. Such an event could bring down the entire Kim dynasty.
His father was born in Russia
For being a guy that ruled North Korea so viciously, it’s hard to imagine that Kim Jong-il lived anywhere else in the world. In fact, the late dictator was born over the border in Russia. According to Time Magazine, he was born Yury Irsenovich Kim in the far east village of Vyatskoye. His father served as an officer in the Red Army before Stalin appointed him to rule over North Korea.
Jong-un’s mother was actually a mistress
Taking a look at the Kim family tree, we see that Jong-un’s father, late dictator Kim Jong-Il, had two wives and a few mistresses. Jong Un’s mother, Ko Yong-hui, is listed as Jung Il’s second wife. However, there are accounts that believe that Ko Yong-hui — a Japanese dancer, no less — was actually one of Jong-Il’s mistresses.
The relationship with Kim Jong-Il
Leader Kim Jong-Il was well-known for his scary military tactics. But less was known about his relationship with his family, particularly with his youngest son and successor Kim Jong-un. But judging by how alike the two erratically-behaved men are, it’s assumed that Jong-un was Jong-Il’s favorite son. Being a miniature version of his father wasn’t necessarily a good thing, however, as it’s reported that Jong-un maintained a violent disposition since a very early age.
His wife’s name can’t even be confirmed
The ins and outs of the Kim family are largely kept a secret, including information about Kim Jong-un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju. Ri is so mysterious that it’s possible her name isn’t even real. The New York Times points out that Ri’s name and age have never been officially confirmed by Jong-un’s regime, and that this could be a tactic to keep her shielded from the rest of the world — even when she makes a rare public appearance.
Ri may exist to show a specific side of her husband
Business Insider’s Anna Fifield notes two special women exist in Kim’s life. His wife Ri dresses in more feminine, high-fashion outfits, and Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jung wears conservative, functional attire indicative of the Communist Party.
Fifield says, “Each has a job to do in Kim Jong Un’s North Korea — one to be glamorous and aspirational, the other to represent the importance of hard work.” When Kim Jong Un needs to appear softer, modern, and young, Ri makes her appearance. But his sister is much more of a leader, as he’s elevated her higher within the ruling Workers’ Party.
Ri’s expensive taste has raised eyebrows
While Ri may be present to make Kim look more modern, the rest of North Korea doesn’t necessarily like her. In fact, many North Korean citizens detest the first lady because of her expensive dresses and purses. According to UPI, the criticism is heavily rooted in the fact that most North Koreans have a poorer quality of life since Kim took over the country.
Kim Jong-Il arranged the marriage
Details about the marriage ceremony are largely unknown, but analyst Cheong Seong-Chang told a South Korean newspaper he believes Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju married in 2009, BBC News reports. Cheong also believes the marriage was arranged by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il. And he did this in quite a hurry after his stroke in 2008.
Kim Jong-un’s secret son
It was previously believed that Kim Jong-un and Ri Sol-ju had two children together. However, reports began to surface in September of 2017 that there may be a third child. South Korean intelligence has reportedly uncovered evidence that the dictator and his wife had a son back in 2010 — and that Jong-un could already be grooming this son to be Korea’s next dictator.
Jong-un’s health is coming into question
The dictator reportedly made far fewer public appearances in 2017 than he did in previous years. And the few appearances that he has made have raised speculation that he is covering up an illness. Jong-un has reportedly suffered from severe fluctuation in weight and regularly looks very sweaty, and often off-balance. Between his erratic personality and reported pension for binge drinking and eating, it doesn’t surprise many that he isn’t in the best shape health-wise.
Family members were killed
Sadly, the fear and violence that the Kim family has imposed on North Korea also extends to its own family. Kim Jong-un is believed to be behind the assassination of his half-brother Kim Jong-nam, which occurred almost exactly 20 years after a cousin, Ri Il-nam, was assassinated in an elevator.
There are, happily, family members that have met a much better fate …
The secret aunt in the U.S.
In May of 2016, The Washington Post sat down with Ko Yong-sok — Kim Jong-un’s aunt who lives state-side. She and her husband defected from North Korea in the 1990s and have lived a quiet, private life in New York. Although, they have also aided the CIA, who helped bring them to the states in the first place.
Kim’s previous girlfriend was executed
Here’s where things get really strange: In 2013, a South Korean newspaper stated Hyon, Kim’s previous girlfriend, was executed in North Korea by machine gunfire for violating laws on pornography, The Telegraph says. She wasn’t the only one, either. Twelve singers, dancers, and musicians were arrested and killed.
Other theories suggest Kim’s wife Ri didn’t like how much Hyon was in the limelight because of her musical talent, which also could have led to her death.
Jong-un’s bizarre friendship with Dennis Rodman
With such a terrible temper, it’s hard to believe that Kim Jong-un would have any friends. The only public friendship that the public seems to know about is his very odd kinship with ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman. The five-time hoops champ first went to North Korea to expand basketball into the country, and famously sang “Happy Birthday” to Jong-un. Rodman’s trips to the hermit state nowadays seem to be more about heavy partying than hanging out with the North Korean dictator, however.
The regime won’t last much longer
As it turns out, the temperamental tyrant isn’t as untouchable as outsiders may think. Business Insider recently revealed that Thae Yong Ho, the highest-level diplomat to defect from North Korea, spilled the beans on the fragile state of North Korea’s government. The former ambassador believes the Kim regime will fall in the next decade.”The chasm between the Kim Jong-un regime and the general public is widening every year,” Thae told South Korea’s JoongAng Daily. “And some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band,”
Additional reporting by Lauren Weiler.
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