A Look Back at Kim Jong-un’s Life While Attending School in Switzerland

The Daily Beast has an article published that looks back on the childhood of Kim Jong-un as he was attending school in Geneva, Switzerland:

“It’s one of the great mysteries why Kim Jong Nam studied in Geneva and learned French and the other kids who came later were sent to Bern where it’s German-speaking,” says Michael Madden, a North Korea expert affiliated with Johns Hopkins who runs North Korea Leadership Watch. “All I can think is that North Korea is always a little bit on the run. They like to change things up.”

The Kim family began building what Madden calls a “necessary network” in Paris in the 1970s and it maintains a home there to this day.

“You can’t send the kids of a dictator abroad without a network, people and institutions in place to help take care of them,” Madden said. “The Kims started all of this in Paris.”

Last year, Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Ko Yong Suk, told The Washington Post, that she and her husband took care of Kim and his two siblings in Switzerland. Kim Jong Chol arrived in 1992; Kim Jong Un came in 1996, when he was 12.

“We lived in a normal house and acted like a normal family. I acted like their mother,” Ko said about her time in Bern. “I encouraged [Kim Jong Un] to bring his friends home, because we wanted them to live a normal life. I made snacks for the kids. They ate cake and played with Legos.”

During school breaks, Ko and her husband took the kids skiing in the Swiss Alps, swimming on the French Riviera, and to Italy.

In Bern, Kim liked playing with machinery in addition to obsessing about basketball and Michael Jordan.

“He wasn’t a troublemaker, but he was short-tempered and had a lack of tolerance,” Ko recalled. “When his mother tried to tell him off for playing with these things too much and not studying enough, he wouldn’t talk back, but he would protest in other ways, like going on a hunger strike.”

He had begun showing signs of a complicated personality, and he reportedly was caught once with a BDSM porn magazine, it’s not clear how significant that is, if it is true at all.

A local education official confirmed to Reuters that a student known only as Pak Un who was registered as the child of a North Korean embassy worker attended the Steinhoelzli school from 1998 until late 2000. “Pak Un attended a class for non-German speaking pupils but then quickly moved to another class,” said Ueli Studer in a 2011 report.  “He was described as well-integrated, diligent and ambitious. His hobby was basketball.”  [The Daily Beast]

You can read more at the link, but it is clear his love for Dennis Rodman and his development of the ski industry in North Korea came at a young age while in school in Switzerland.



I am a US military veteran that has served all over the world to include in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. I have been blogging about Korea, Northeast Asia, and the US military for over 10 years.


  1. A 12-year-old doing hunger strikes because he had to study? Wow. Sounds like a fairly spoiled young lad.

    If I had tried that, my parents and or grandparents, would have assumed I was bored and added yardwork and more.

  2. Great photo of business ideas that didn’t make it:
    The Adam’s family Mouseketeer show.
    Or The Nightmare Before Disney.
    Or Hell Disney
    (seriously…this is the dourest picture of any child wearing a Mickey mouse hat I have ever seen…and by the look of his jowls they stopped making him do his homework)

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