North Korean media calls him “the greatest-ever commander.” But there is no dictator more puzzling and arguably more unpredictable than Kim Jong Un. Little is known about the third-generation leader whose recent actions and rhetoric have sparked fears of a potential confrontation with the U.S. or its allies.
“This is a leader for whom we know as little as anyone in the world,” said P.J. Crowley, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs, Friday on Jansing & Co. “In this particular case, Kim Jong Un is largely a black box.”
Despite the mystery shrouding him, a few details of the North Korea leader’s life have trickled out:
- He has a first lady named Ri Sol-ju whom South Korean media says is a former cheerleader and singer.
- It’s been widely reported he was educated in Bern, Switzerland, possibly from 1998 to 2000.
- The North Korean public did not even know he existed until a few years before his father’s death.
- South Koreans have speculated he underwent plastic surgery to look more like his father.
- He loves basketball (remember that recent trip by Dennis Rodman to North Korea?).
- His official birthday is celebrated on Jan. 8, but the actual date of his birth is not publicly known.
“The dilemma is he’s not widely known,” Crowley told msnbc’s Chris Jansing. “He’s not widely traveled. He’s very, very young. He does have a coterie of senior people, family members, others, who are guiding him. I don’t think that his position in Korean society is necessarily challenged.”