The Day of the Sun, April 15, is a national holiday in North Korea honouring the nation’s founder Kim Il-Sung. So when his grandson and the “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-Un was absent for public celebrations, people naturally talked. Is he alive? Is he dead? Given the lack of independent media in North Korea, it’s always a challenge to substantiate rumours from Pyongyang.
At risk of making some fearful enemies, here’s a list of 10 of the best rumours about “The Marshal” Kim Jong-Un.
10 His Haircut Is Mandatory
In 2014 it was reported by Radio Free Asia that male North Korean university students were required to get Kim’s unique haircut. Kim’s trim is a military style that involves shaved sides, a long top and centre part. It’s hardly cutting edge fashion.
According to reports, the mandate split opinions with some people labeling the hairstyle as a “Chinese smuggler haircut”. It’s unclear if there ever actually was a mandate, with visitors not noticing any move towards the style, although North Korean TV has previously launched a campaign against long hair. More recently authorities have reportedly cracked down on “non-socialist behavior” such as unapproved hairstyles, reportedly limiting men to 10 styles and women to 18.
9 The CIA Hired A North Korean Lumberjack To Kill Kim
The North Korean government claimed in May 2014 that the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) collaborated to hire a Russia-based North Korean lumberjack in a biochemical plot to assassinate Kim. It’s reported that the method was a “biochemical substance” or weapon which was radioactive and nano-poisonous. Apparently it may have taken some months to kill Kim.
North Korean state news agency Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) cited no evidence but wrote an 1800-word report which alleged a “hideous terrorist group” had conspired to target the supreme leadership during a military parade. International outlets were never able to verify the report, but it’s worth noting it came at a time of high tension between the countries. Furious North Korean authorities said they’d seek the extradition of anyone involved in the foiled plot. A person identified only as “Kim” who worked in the timber industry in Khabarovsk, in Far East Russia, was the only suspect named publicly, albeit vaguely.
8 The Kippumjo or ‘Pleasure Squad’
It is alleged that there is a group of approximately 2,000 women whom are maintained for the purpose of providing entertainment and pleasure, often sexual, for high-ranking Workers’ Party of Korea officials and distinguished guests. This group is called the Kippumjo, or the Pleasure Squad, Pleasure Brigade or Joy Division.
Now it is believed this group was disbanded after Kim Jong-Il’s death, but in 2015 it was reported that Kim Jong-Un was recruiting new members as young as 13 or 14. It’s understood Kim’s train is staffed by Kippumjo who are certified virgins. Apparently many of the women are “retired” in their twenties and married off to military officers.
It’s worth noting that Kim is married to former singer Ri Sol-Ju and they reportedly have three children, although even that isn’t even verified.
7 NBA Obsession
Kim’s unlikely friendship with ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman hails from his love of basketball. During his school days in Switzerland, he grew his obsession for hoops, becoming fascinated with Michael Jordan. A former friend from his Swiss school said Kim’s room was covered in NBA paraphernalia. He showed off photographs with Kobe Bryant and Toni Kukoc after allegedly being driven to Paris for an exhibition game as a child.
It’s not clear who Kim officially supports but he has an affection for both the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Rodman traveled to North Korea in 2013 along with three Harlem Globetrotters at Kim’s invitation. There’s been other visits with basketball players touring the country too.
In 2019, he reportedly requested United States president Donald Trump provide access to “famous basketball players” as part of nuclear weapons talks. It runs in the family as Kim’s father Kim Jong-Il previously requested to meet Jordan during his reign, although the six-time NBA champion declined the opportunity.
He’s clearly fascinated by the sport, whether he was any good at it, is another question altogether.
6 He Blew Up A South Korean Warship
In 2010, before Kim took over from his father, he was reportedly involved in the sinking of South Korean warship ROKS Cheonan carrying 104 personnel near the two countries’ maritime border. Fourty-six South Korean sailors were killed in the unprovoked international incident, which was allegedly designed to help aid Kim’s military credentials ahead of his succession.
International experts investigated the incident and found the warship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. North Korea denied responsibility and even offered to aid the investigation but South Korea imposed sanctions preventing economic relations. Both China and Russia dismissed South Korea’s claims. A Russian investigation later suggested the sinking was more likely due to the corvette warship dredging up a mine. Until this day, nobody agrees on why the Cheonan was sunk.
5 The Compassionate Side?
For all the ‘crazy dictator’ talk, there is reportedly a human side to Kim who has improved North Korea’s relations internationally since coming into power. He’s reportedly showed his compassionate streak in 2014 when a 23-story apartment building in Pyongyang collapsed, killing more than a hundred people. According to the KCNA, “the construction of an apartment house was not done properly and officials supervised and controlled it in an irresponsible manner.”
Kim followed by issuing a rare public apology for the “unimaginable” tragedy. According to reports, Kim was so hurt he “sat up all night, feeling painful after being told about the accident”. Skeptics will point out that it took five days for the state media to report the story. No figure was ever disclosed for the number of fatalities.
4 The Secret Hangover Cure
Similar to his father, Kim allegedly likes to party. He’s also known for his extravagant tastes. His drinks of choice are Johnny Walker whisky and Hennessy gin. He’s been known to sip cognac on luxury yachts too. In fact, since he took charge of North Korea imports of wine and other spirits have increased.
However, his all-night drinking sessions reportedly led to him organizing to have sauna equipment imported from Finland and Germany to help ease his hangovers and fatigue, thus sweating out the previous night’s sins. The jury is still out if saunas are actually useful in curing hangovers.
Clearly the morning-after-headache was an issue for Kim as North Korean scientists claimed in 2016 to have created a revolutionary hangover-free liquor. Apparently ‘Koryo Liquor’ blends six-year-old ginseng and scorched rice, cutting out sugar.
3 He’s Executed Members Of His Family
Nobody is safe in North Korea! Kim’s uncle Jang Song-Thaek was arrested for treachery in December 2013 and labeled as a “traitor” at a military tribunal. He was then executed by firing squad. It’s believed Kim tried to erase Jang from history by then deleting thousands of news articles about him but also executing members of his family, including children and grand-children of close relatives.
Despite the propagandists’ efforts to whitewash Jang from history, a few years later Jang’s image appeared on state-run media in a photograph during a one-hour documentary about 11 historical North Korean figures. The editor of the documentary may have been imprisoned for this error.
Kim’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong-Nam was also killed in 2017. Malaysia authorities claim was assassinated at a busy terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2017 when two women approached him and smeared his face with a chemical agent. Kim told an airport receptionist “someone had grabbed him from behind and splashed a liquid on his face”, before later passing away as he was being transferred to hospital.
2 The Luxury Private Island
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman formed a weird friendship with the “Great Successor” and visited North Korea in 2013. Afterwards, Rodman spoke about Kim’s private island as “like Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.” We’ve all been intrigued ever since? The location of the mystery island, which has its own marina and bays with 24-hour armed troops, has never been verified but it’s believed to be close to the port of Wonson.
Rodman added the island was like a “seven-star party”, with endless cocktails and jet skis. He also revealed to get to the island he boarded Kim’s 95-foot yacht which was a “cross between a ferry and a Disney boat.”
1 The Flame-Thrower Execution
Like a scene out of ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’, it is alleged Kim ordered the execution of a deputy security minister by flame-thrower as part of a political purge in 2014. O Sang-Hon was a key figure in North Korean government’s Ministry of People’s Security but was seen to be supporting Kim’s uncle Jang Song-Thaek who was earlier executed for treachery. It’s believed O had turned the Ministry into Jang’s personal protection squad.
North Korean defector Kang Chol-Hwan said: “Kim Jong-Un personally hated him, so he personally ordered him to be executed by a flamethrower.” To exemplify the Hollywood stereotypes, it’s believed the man’s lifeless body was also crushed under a tank too.
About The Author: I am a Media/communications professional and long-time Australian freelance journalist, having written for global publications including AAP, Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and many more. Follow me on Twitter @BenSomerford