How a quiet boy from North Korea became one of the world's scariest dictators

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Kim Jong-Un in Numbers

For the past 50 years, the world has grown used to crazy threats from North Korea that don't lead anywhere.

READ MORE: North Korean rocket puts object into space, angers neighbors, US

But the threats have taken a decidedly sharper and more ominous tone under Kim Jong Un, the third Supreme Leader of the hermit kingdom.

On Saturday, North Korea fired a long-range rocket. This follows Pyongyang's claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb last month.

These tests have sent the UN into full crisis mode, and the organization has declared an emergency meeting on how to handle North Korea and Kim.

Here is how Kim Jong Un grew to be one of the world's most concerning world leaders:

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15 facts about Kim Jong Un
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How a quiet boy from North Korea became one of the world's scariest dictators

1) Kim Jong Un was born on January 8 -- 1982, 1983, or 1984.

His parents were future North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Young Hee. He had an older brother named Kim Jong Chul and would later have a younger sister named Kim Yo Jong.

(Photo: DPRK propaganda via http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/NG14Dg02.html)

2) Jong Un -- here with his mother -- lived at home as a child.

During this period, North Korea was ruled by "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung. While Jong Il was the heir apparent, Jong Un's path to command was far less certain.

(DPRK propaganda via http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/NG14Dg02.html)

3) Then it was off to Switzerland to attend boarding school.

Called "Pak Un" and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Jong Un is thought to have attended an English-language international school in Gümligen near Bern.

4) Jong Un loved basketball and idolized Michael Jordan.

The young Korean reportedly had posters of Jordan all over his walls during his Swiss school days. Although Jong Un was overweight and only 5-6, he was a decent basketball player.

(Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

5) After school in Switzerland, he returned home for military schooling.

Upon his return to North Korea, Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University with his older brother. Some reports say they started to attend their father's military field inspections around 2007.

(Photo by Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

6) Jong Un has a theme song known as "Footsteps."

"Footsteps" looks and sounds like a propaganda song from the Soviet Union.

7) Many North Koreans see Jong Un as a youthful version of "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung.

Kim bears a clear resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, in appearance, haircut, and mannerisms.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

8) After his father died, Jong Un was quickly declared "Supreme Leader" of North Korea.

When Jong Il died of a heart attack on December 17, 2011, the young Jong Un inherited the world's fourth-largest military, a nuclear arsenal, and absolute control over North Korea.

(AP Photo/NHK)

9) Some originally believed that Jong Un's aunt and uncle were actually calling the shots.

Among Jong Un's most trusted advisers were his aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Sung Taek, both 66. The couple was reportedly ordered by Jong Il to control the country's military and help the young leader consolidate his position while he gains more experience.

(AP Photo/Kyodo News)

10) But at the end of December 2013, Jong Un had his uncle and his uncle's family executed, apparently in a bid to stop a coup against his rule.

11) He's married to a former cheerleader and may have two kids.

North Korean media revealed in July that he was married to Ri Sol Ju -- a former cheerleader and singer -- but no one knows exactly when they were married, according to NBC News.

(AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service, File)

12) Jong Un lived out a childhood fantasy when former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman visited.

Everyone in the family is apparently a huge Chicago Bulls fans.

(Photo courtesy of VICE)

13) But recently, things haven't been going so well.

In 2013 he was reportedly the target of an assassination attempt. South Korean intelligence believes the young leader was targeted by "disgruntled people inside the North" after he demoted a four-star general, which resulted in a power struggle.

(Photo courtesy: DPRK)

14) Jong Un has continued to be belligerent with South Korea and the West throughout his rule in hopes of bolstering his authority.

North Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles and nuclear devices under Jong Un's rule, despite the threat of sanctions. In 2012, the country launched its first satellite into space. And since Jong Un has taken over, the country has continued to push ahead with its construction of ballistic and nuclear weapons.

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

15) Jong Un's belligerence reached a peak in 2016.

On January 5, North Korea conducted its fourth-ever nuclear test and its second under Jong Un. Pyongyang claims the test was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.

(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

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1) Kim Jong Un was born on January 8 -- 1982, 1983, or 1984.

DPRK propaganda via http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/NG14Dg02.html

His parents were future North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Young Hee. He had an older brother named Kim Jong Chul and would later have a younger sister named Kim Yo Jong.

While Jong Un's official birth year is 1982, various reports suggest that the year was changed for symbolic reasons, including that it was 70 years after the birth of Kim Il Sung and 40 years after the birth of Jong Il.


2) Jong Un -- here with his mother -- lived at home as a child.

DPRK propaganda via http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/NG14Dg02.html

During this period, North Korea was ruled by "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung. While Jong Il was the heir apparent, Jong Un's path to command was far less certain.


3) Then it was off to Switzerland to attend boarding school.

Called "Pak Un" and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Jong Un is thought to have attended an English-language international school in Gümligen near Bern.

Jong Un is described by former classmates as a quiet student who spent most of his time at home, but he had a sense of humor, too.

"He was funny," former classmate Marco Imhof told The Mirror. "Always good for a laugh."

"He had a sense of humour; got on well with everyone, even those pupils who came from countries that were enemies of North Korea," another former classmate told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. "Politics was a taboo subject at school ... we would argue about football, not politics."


4) Jong Un loved basketball and idolized Michael Jordan.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The young Korean reportedly had posters of Jordan all over his walls during his Swiss school days. Although Jong Un was overweight and only 5-6, he was a decent basketball player.

"He was a fiercely competitive player, very explosive," former classmate Nikola Kovacevic told The Mirror. "He was the play maker. He made things happen."

"He hated to lose. Winning was very important," said former classmate Marco Imhof.

He also had a "fantastic" collection of Nike sneakers.


5) After school in Switzerland, he returned home for military schooling.

North Korea

Getty

Upon his return to North Korea, Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University with his older brother. Some reports say they started to attend their father's military field inspections around 2007.

While his father faced death, Jong Un was rapidly promoted up the chain of political and military leadership, despite having little experience in either.

He was made a four-star general, deputy chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party, and a member of the Central Committee, according to the BBC.


6) Jong Un has a theme song known as "Footsteps."

"Footsteps" looks and sounds like a propaganda song from the Soviet Union.

The song calls people to follow in "Our Admiral Kim's footsteps." Here's a sampling of the lyrics:

Footsteps, Footsteps ... spreading out further the sound of a brilliant future ahead ... tramp, tramp, tramp, ah, footsteps.


7) Many North Koreans see Jong Un as a youthful version of "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung.

Wikimedia Commons

Kim bears a clear resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, in appearance, haircut, and mannerisms.

Rumors had circulated that Kim Jong Un had received plastic surgery to enhance the resemblance even further, although the North finally responded and called the allegations "sordid hackwork by rubbish media."

"The false report ... released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate," said the official Korean Central News Agency.

8) After his father died, Jong Un was quickly declared "Supreme Leader" of North Korea.

Getty Images

When Jong Il died of a heart attack on December 17, 2011, the young Jong Un inherited the world's fourth-largest military, a nuclear arsenal, and absolute control over North Korea.

He took over ahead of his older brother Jong Chol, who their father thought was "effeminate" and weak. His other brother Jong Nam apparently said negative things about the regime, according to The Australian.

Around 30 when he took power, Jong Un is the youngest head of state in the world.


9. Some originally believed that Jong Un's aunt and uncle were actually calling the shots.

AP

Among Jong Un's most trusted advisers were his aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Sung Taek, both 66. The couple was reportedly ordered by Jong Il to control the country's military and help the young leader consolidate his position while he gains more experience.

At a recent meeting of the DPRK Workers' Party, both were photographed sitting close by. Their most important job, it seems, is to push his role as a powerful figure among some generals who do not trust him, according to The Telegraph.


10. But at the end of December 2013, Jong Un had his uncle and his uncle's family executed, apparently in a bid to stop a coup against his rule.

Martyn Williams/Rodong

On December 12, 2013, Kim Jong Un had his uncle Sung Taek executed. He was charged with having tried to take control of North Korea through a military coup. Following the uncle's execution, there were reports that Jong Un continued to purge the rest of the uncle's family.

But North Korea's ambassador to the UK denied that Sung Taek's family was also executed. Instead, the ambassador claimed that only Sung Taek was killed by firing squad following a trial.


11. He's married to a former cheerleader and may have two kids.

KCNA via AP

Leaders in the hermit kingdom are often very secretive when it comes to their significant others, but Jong Un often has his wife join him and allows photographs.

North Korean media revealed in July that he was married to Ri Sol Ju -- a former cheerleader and singer -- but no one knows exactly when they were married, according to NBC News.

South Korean intelligence believe the couple probably married in 2009 and already had one child. There are rumors Sol Ju gave birth to a child in 2012, with many believing it was a girl.

The couple is believed to have had another child, in 2015.


12. Jong Un lived out a childhood fantasy when former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman visited.

Courtesy of Vice

Everyone in the family is apparently a huge Chicago Bulls fans.

His father owned a video library of "practically every game Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls."Jong Il tried unsuccessfully to get Jordan to visit in 2001.

Jong Un had tons of Jordan posters as a kid. Brother Jong Chol was photographed as a child wearing a Bulls Jersey: No. 91 -- Rodman.


13. But recently, things haven't been going so well.

DPRK

In 2013 he was reportedly the target of an assassination attempt. South Korean intelligence believes the young leader was targeted by "disgruntled people inside the North" after he demoted a four-star general, which resulted in a power struggle.

Perhaps as a means of reasserting control, Jong Un has become extremely belligerent, shutting down all links with South Korea and threatening thermonuclear war against his neighbor and the US. His father and grandfather used to make these threats all the time without following through.


14. Jong Un has continued to be belligerent with South Korea and the West throughout his rule in hopes of bolstering his authority.

Ahn Young-oon/AP

North Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles and nuclear devices under Jong Un's rule, despite the threat of sanctions. In 2012, the country launched its first satellite into space. And since Jong Un has taken over, the country has continued to push ahead with its construction of ballistic and nuclear weapons.

In 2013, North Korea conducted its third-ever nuclear test and its first under Jong Un. And in April 2015, a top US general warned that North Korea could develop nuclear missiles capable of reaching the shores of the western US.


15. Jong Un's belligerence reached a peak in 2016.

North Korea facts

AP

On January 5, North Korea conducted its fourth-ever nuclear test and its second under Jong Un. Pyongyang claims the test was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.

In response to the detonation, world leaders have strongly come out against North Korea. Even China, North Korea's main ally, has said that it strongly opposes the tests.

In response to the bomb, the UN is planning further sanctions against North Korea.

RELATED: More on the life of Kim Jong Un:

26 PHOTOS
Kim Jong Un's adventures: pointing, being ridiculous (Kim Jong-Un)
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How a quiet boy from North Korea became one of the world's scariest dictators
In this Wednesday, July 25, 2012 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Thursday, July 26, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju, left, touches a display as they inspect the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 12, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un celebrating the launch of the Unha-3 rocket, carrying the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, at the general satellite control and command center in Pyongyang. Hundreds of thousands of North Korean soldiers and civilians rallied on December 14 in the centre of Pyongyang for a mass celebration of the country's long-range rocket launch, state television showed. (Photo by KNS via AFP/Getty Images)
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Thursday, July 26, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, reacts on a ride as he attends the completion ceremony of the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 12, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the command of Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 534. (Photo by KNS via AFP/Getty Images)
Photo provided by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 26, 2014, shows top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the completed Pyongyang Baby Home and Orphanage. The facility has over 250 rooms for nursing, education, physical exercise, and treatment, as well as outdoor and indoor wading pools, parks and various amusement equipment for children. (Photo: Xinhua/KCNA/Corbis)
In this Tuesday, May 1, 2012 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed by the Korea News Service Wednesday, May 2, 2012, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, center, is applauded by military personnel during his visit to the Machine Plant managed by Ho Chol Yong in North Korea, to mark May Day. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second left, rides a boat when he visited Unit 158 of the navy of the North Korean People's Army. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
In this Wednesday, July 25, 2012 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Thursday, July 26, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, waves to the crowd as they inspect the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
In this undated file image made from KRT video, North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un rides a horse at an undisclosed place in North Korea, aired Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012. North Korea said Wednesday Jan. 11, 2011 that before Kim Jong Il's death the United States offered to provide food aid if it halted its uranium enrichment program, and although Pyongyang blasted Washington for "politicizing" food shipments, it appeared to leave the door open for a deal. (AP Photo/KRT via APTN, File)
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Jan. 25, 2012, North Korean new leader Kim Jong Un greets students at Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea, on the occasion of Chinese New Year. Young Kim gets rock star treatment when he visits his troops, just as his father did. But while the late Kim Jong Il mostly stayed aloof in dark shades, his son holds hands and hugs. He seems to want to bond. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
In this undated photo released by the Korea Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shoots to check the quality of the sporting bullets at the Meari Shooting Gallery in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
Photo provided by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 26, 2014, shows top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the completed Pyongyang Baby Home and Orphanage. The facility has over 250 rooms for nursing, education, physical exercise, and treatment, as well as outdoor and indoor wading pools, parks and various amusement equipment for children. (Photo: Xinhua/KCNA/Corbis)
In this Aug. 2, 2012 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second right, toasts with Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party, during a dinner in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, looks at a guitar at an undisclosed location in North Korea. KCNA reported he was inspecting a military unit. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
In this Wednesday, July 25, 2012 file photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Friday, July 27, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right in the middle, reacts as he takes a ride of an amusement attraction with Barnaby Jones, the first secretary and charges d’affaires at the British Embassy, second from left in bottom, during the completion ceremony of the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang, North Korea. Foreign diplomats and officials were among those invited to attend the ceremony. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service, File)
This picture taken from North Korean paper Rodong Sinmun on October 14, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) during an inspection tour of a newly-built housing complex in Pyongyang.  North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un has finally resurfaced with the help of a walking stick after an unexplained and prolonged absence that fuelled rampant speculation about his health and even rumours of a coup in the nuclear-armed state. (AFP PHOTO / Rodong Sinmun)
In this Wednesday, April 9, 2014 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds up parliament membership certificate during the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea's newly-selected parliament met for the first time on Wednesday in Pyongyang. It was the first time that North Korea has reassembled its parliament under new leader Kim. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video)
This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 12, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (lower L) celebrating with staffs from the satellite control center during the launch of the Unha-3 rocket, carrying the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, at the general satellite control and command center in Pyongyang. North Korea's leader has ordered more satellite launches, state media said on December 14, 2012, two days after Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch triggered global outrage and UN condemnation. (Photo by KNS via AFP/Getty Images)
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accompanied by Korean People's Army soldiers visits a KPA unit at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
In this Wednesday, July 25, 2012 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Thursday, July 26, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a swimming pool as he attends the completion ceremony of the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
This undated picture, released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 17, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) inspecting the February 20 factory of the Korean People's Army (KPA), producing varieties of foodstuff at undisclosed place in North Korea. (Photo by KNS via AFP/Getty Images)
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has a small talk at an undisclosed location in North Korea. KCNA reported he was inspecting a military unit. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
Kim Jong Un flashes his computer skills for gathered North Korean officials. (KCNA/Reuters/Corbis)
This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 28, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) inspecting the August 25 Fishery Station under the Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 313.(Photo by KCNA via AFP/Getty Images)
In this July 27, 2013 photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to war veterans during a mass military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea. From "Saturday Night Live" on Oct. 11, 2014 spoofs to the wild theories of journalists across the globe trying to parse his five-week absence from the public eye, the 30-something leader of North Korea has captured as many headlines as he did when he threatened to nuke his enemies last year. This bewildering ability to command attention by doing nothing says a lot about the North's total mastery of a propaganda apparatus that puts Kim at the center of everything. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
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