Kim Jong-un: Bizarre and Amazing Facts

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Unknown origins

Kim Jong-un is the third youngest son of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011. But because North Korea is so secretive, no comprehensive biography has ever been released. No one outside of Pyongyang really knows his precise birth date (most say it’s Jan. 8 -- 1982, 1983 or 1984) or who his mother is.

The only information on his early life has come from defectors or witnesses who have seen him abroad, including those in Switzerland, where Kim was sent to study at the $25,000-a-year International School of Berne. In 2010, his birthday was declared a public holiday.  

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Plastic surgery

Supposedly, Kim’s father had him fattened up and made him get plastic surgery to look like his pudgy grandfather, who founded North Korea. Korea, by the way, is obsessed with plastic surgery. A 2009 survey found that one in five women in Seoul has had some type of procedure. According to one plastic surgeon, you can get a face lift in Korea for $2,000-$3,000.

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Sibling rivalry

Kim’s older brother, Kim Jong-nam, was supposed to rule North Korea. But after a botched attempt to enter Japan on a forged passport to visit Disneyland in 2001, Kim Jong-nam fell out of favor with his father.

He has criticized North Korea and said his brother’s regime will fail without reform. In 2012, one North Korean agent confessed to planning an attack on Kim Jong-nam.

He is supposedly in hiding in Singapore after spending time in Macau, where he was once kicked out of a casino for not having money to pay off his debt.

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Luxurious imports

A 2012 report found that Kim Jong-un imported $645.8 million worth of luxury goods, nearly double the average of $300 million in goods his father imported.

Among Kim Jong-un’s imports: pets, pet food, sauna systems, cars, and electronics. There was also a large increase in the importation of musical instruments, cosmetics, and leather products.

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Skiing fan

Kim Jong-un ordered the North Korean military to build a world-class ski resort called Masik Pass. But because North Korea doesn’t have the technology to build ski lifts -- and many nations have imposed sanctions to sell luxury goods in the Hermit Kingdom -- North Korea was having an issue getting a lift. Even a Swiss company rejected a $7.7 million offer for a lift. Yet in December 2013 a picture emerged of Kim on a ski lift -- though it’s not known how it was acquired.

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Basketball star Dennis Rodman has said Kim Jong-un likes to live a luxurious lifestyle with lots of people around him -- and alcohol.

One report found the dictator imports about $30 million worth of high-end alcohol and reportedly loves cognac. He was said to be very drunk when he ordered the execution of associates aligned with his uncle (who was later executed as well).

South Korea’s native distilled beverage, Soju, was the most popular alcohol in the world in 2013.

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Hair cuts

Rumors surfaced in 2014 that Kim Jong Un had ordered every male student in Pyongyang to get a haircut just like his, but they appear unfounded.

Though there was a campaign in 2005 to stop men from growing out their hair too long -- encouraging them to choose a hairstyle in accordance with the socialist lifestyle. That meant men couldn’t have hair any longer than 5 centimeters.

No word on how much haircuts cost in North Korea.

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  • Thomas Claypool

    How can his birthday be a public holiday, when we don’t know when it is?