Kim Jong Un Is Even More Secretive About His Kids Than He Is About Himself

Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Details of the North Korea dictator's personal life are hard to come by, and that's by design: the country is notoriously secretive and its ruler, even more so. The strict control of information only adds to the fascination with the hermit kingdom's reigning family, and to this day, the nation's state-owned media has supposedly never mentioned if the dictator has children, according to Newsweek. But that cat's out of the bag, courtesy of a flamboyant former NBA star: in the past, Dennis Rodman revealed that Kim Jong Un does have kids. In fact, he claims that during a trip to the country, he even held one of them.

South Korea intelligence agencies and institutions have always kept tabs on their northern neighbor. Newsweek cites Cheong Seong Chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, who confirmed that Kim has a wife, Ri Sol Ju, and that the two had been married since 2009, with their first child, a son, arriving in 2010. But knowledge that South Korean government officials seem to only be able to gather through spies came easily to someone else. After Rodman's visit in 2013, he told media outlets that he spent time with the dictator, his wife, and their baby daughter, whose existence was entirely unknown to the public.

"The Marshal Kim and I had a relaxing time by the sea with his family," Rodman said in 2013 to The Guardian. "We shared many meals and drinks where we discussed our plans to play a historic friendship basketball game between North Korea and the US as well as ways to develop their basketball team."

"I held their baby Ju-ae and spoke with Ms Ri [Sol-Ju, Kim's wife] as well. He's a good dad and has a beautiful family," Rodman added. "Kim told me, 'I'll see you in December.'"

Rodman's information has since been confirmed by other sources. One South Korean lawmaker later said he heard from his sources that the couple's first child was a boy, born in 2010, while the second was a daughter, born in 2013, CNN reported. Though information of the first child has been out for years, there has been no evidence or mention of the firstborn since.

The most recent report on Kim's family came in August, when South Korea's National Intelligence Service revealed that a third child was reportedly born in February 2017, according to CNN. South Korean government officials said the gender, exact birthday, and name of the new child was not known.

Kim, who is thought to be 34, is the third generation in his family to act as the ruler of North Korea. His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was the first supreme ruler, when North Korea was established in 1948. When his grandfather died, his father, Kim Jong Il, took over power in 1994. Seventeen years later, Kim's father died in 2011, making Kim the youngest leader in the world, according to Newsweek.

Little is also known about Kim's wife, Ri. North Korea's first lady is believed to be around 28 years old and is reportedly from an upper-class family, with a father who was a professor and a mother who was a gynecologist, according to Business Insider. Ri received part of her education in China and traveled to South Korea for the 2005 Asian Athletic Championships as a part of North Korea's cheering squad, CNN reported. Ri was by Kim's side during his father's funeral in 2011, and that appearance led to wild speculation about her status, since Kim was not known to be married at the time. A year later, South Korean intelligence was able to confirm their marriage in 2009, according to CNN.

These bare minimum details only add to the intrigue surrounding North Korea's reclusive leader. But with the upcoming meeting between President Trump and Kim, a willingness to work together is apparent, and this unprecedented summit could be the gateway to a more transparent North Korea.