‘He wasn’t a trou­ble­maker, but he was short-tem­pered and had a lack of tol­er­ance’

SundayXtra - - WORLD -

Trav­el­ling on a di­plo­matic pass­port, Ri went back and forth be­tween North Korea and Switzer­land, some­times fer­ry­ing their youngest daugh­ter and Kim Jong-un’s younger sis­ter back and forth.

The fam­ily spoke Korean at home and ate Korean food but also en­joyed the ben­e­fits of an ex­pa­tri­ate fam­ily in an ex­otic lo­cale. Ko took the Kim chil­dren to Euro Dis­ney, now Dis­ney­land Paris. Kim Jongun had been to Tokyo Dis­ney­land with his mother some years be­fore — and her photo al­bums are full of pic­tures of them ski­ing in the Swiss Alps, swim­ming on the French Riviera and eat­ing at al fresco restau­rants in Italy.

Kim Jong-un loved games and ma­chin­ery, try­ing to fig­ure out how ships float and planes fly. He was al­ready show­ing per­son­al­ity traits that would later be­come much more ev­i­dent.

“He wasn’t a trou­ble­maker, but he was short­tem­pered 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.”

Kim loved go­ing home for the sum­mer, spend­ing time in Won­san, where the fam­ily has a huge beach­front com­pound, or at their main res­i­dence in Py­ongyang, with its movie theatre and plenty of room to hang out.

“He started play­ing bas­ket­ball, and he be­came ob­sessed with it,” his aunt said of the young Kim, who was a Michael Jor­dan fan and later hosted bas­ket­ball player Den­nis Rod­man as a guest sev­eral times in North Korea. “He used to sleep... with his bas­ket­ball.” He was shorter than his friends, and his mother told him if he played bas­ket­ball, he would be­come taller, Ko said.

Later, at their house, Ri pro­duced a nev­er­pub­licly seen photo, lam­i­nated and stored in an en­ve­lope, of a slightly built Kim, aged 13, and his older brother among a team wear­ing bas­ket­ball

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