Skiplink Navigation

Main Features

North Korea-Switzerland New details emerge about Kim Jong-un

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves at parade participants at the Kim Il Sung Square on May 10, 2016, in Pyongyang


The aunt of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un has been discovered in New York. In an interview with the Washington Post, she has given more details of the dictator’s time in Bern.

Ko Yong-suk, whose sister is Kim’s mother, defected to the United States in 1998. She lives with her husband Ri and her three children in New York and runs a dry cleaner there, the newspaper reported external linkon Friday.

Breaking her silence, Ko explained that the couple were so close to North Korea’s ruling family that they were entrusted with looking after members of the clan studying in Switzerland.

Kim arrived aged 12 in 1996 to attend an international school in the Swiss capital Bern, as 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.

Lego and cake

Ko gave details about daily life in Bern. “We lived in a normal house and acted like a normal family. I acted like their mother,” Ko remembered. “I encouraged him to bring his friends home because we wanted them to live a normal life. I made snacks for the kids. They ate cake and played with Legos,” she said.

Ko said that Kim wasn’t a troublemaker but “he was short-tempered and had a lack of tolerance”.

The future leader’s main interest appears to have been basketball at the time. He knew about his destiny from a young age, his aunt claims.

The Kim family has ruled North Korea for 70 years. The younger Kim succeeded his hardline father in December 2011.

The couple still proclaim loyalty to their nephew. But for reasons not fully explained, they defected to the US in 1998. This, they say, happened via the US Embassy in Bern.

They were eventually resettled in New York under new names. Their full pictures do not appear in the article.

The CIA declined to confirm or comment on any of Ko and Ri’s claims, the Washington Post said. Some parts of the couple’s history can be verified but other parts cannot, or seem incomplete, the article pointed out.

Neuer Inhalt

Horizontal Line

WEF 2018

WEF Teaser 2018

Why Switzerland struggles with dirty gold

subscription form

Form for signing up for free newsletter.

Sign up for our free newsletters and get the top stories delivered to your inbox.

Click here to see more newsletters