A former neighbour has identified the house where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is likely to have lived during his time in Switzerland. It’s in a suburb of the capital Bern, where a group of people from the North Korean diplomatic mission kept to themselves and where four young boys were “constantly playing basketball”.
“They never greeted or looked at anyone,” Victor Schmid, who lived across the street at the time, told swissinfo.ch. Schmid is a communications consultant in Bern who also advised former Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti. He says the house in question is located at Kirchstrasse 10 in the Bern suburb of Liebefeld, near where the North Korean embassy was located at the time.
Schmid’s story was recently reported by Claude Longchamp, director of the gfs Bern research and polling institute, on his personal blog. Following a story in the Washington Post revealing that Kim’s aunt who accompanied him to Switzerland is now living in the United States, Longchamp inquired via Twitter whether anyone knew where the current North Korean leader had lived while in Bern. Schmid answered and personally showed him the location. Here's a look towards the group of flats from Kirchstrasse, as it appears today.
According to Schmid, Kirchstrasse 10 was one among a new cluster of buildings at the time, consisting of several multi-family flats and a few houses.
“We knew there were people from the North Korean embassy there, and there were always four young kids around with adults who were very protective of them,” he said. “We saw them when they played basketball outside.”
There was one who stuck out because he was younger than the others.
“In hindsight, I assume that was the young Kim Jong-un,” Schmid said. He remembers the four children being watched over by three adult men and one woman.
Embassy plates and ‘strange’ behaviour
The neighbours knew the group was North Korean because their cars had embassy plates, he adds. They mainly got around in a dark-coloured VW bus with tinted windows which was usually parked in the underground garage.
“At the time it was very strange, they never talked to anyone, never established contact even though we walked by each other every day.”
“If they hadn’t been playing basketball all the time, we probably never would have seen them.”
Schmid said he and his family lived across the street from Kirchstrasse 10 from approximately 1994 to 2000.
Stay in Switzerland
Kim arrived in Switzerland aged 12 in 1996 to attend an international school in the Swiss capital Bern, as swissinfo.ch and other media outlets have also reported. Kim is said to have learned German, French and English, and honed his skills in skiing and playground dispute resolution. The stay has never been confirmed by North Korea, which is a secretive state.
In May, Kim’s aunt confirmed to the Washington Post in an exclusive interview that she had lived with him in Bern, “[living] in a normal house and [acting] like a normal family”. She also told the Post that Kim was “obsessed with basketball” as a child, even going to sleep with his basketball at night.
Kim’s aunt defected to the United States in 1998, according to the Post, via the US Embassy in Bern.
Kim became the leader of the secretive North Korean state in 2011, following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il.