Has Kim Jong Un Ever Been Out Of North Korea? He's Made Big Moves For His Country
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump have the world's eyes on Singapore as they attempt to mend diplomatic ties between two historic enemies. Trump is known for his frequent (and luxury) travel, like on private planes. But when it comes to this historic neutral-territory meeting and one notoriously secretive dictator, has Kim Jong Un ever left North Korea?
He certainly has. One of his most crucial visits outside the Korean peninsula was for his education. Kim attended the Liebefeld-Steinhölzli school in Koeniz near Bern. Reporters seem to agree, though, that during this time Kim may have traveled and went to school under the name Pak Un.
The British tabloid, The Sun, published photos claiming to be of Kim in a production of Grease during his time in school, but The Washington Post disputes the timeline. (The newspaper says the photos are likely of one of his Kim's brothers at a different Swiss boarding school.)
Joao Micaelo, a former classmate at the Swiss boarding school, recalls Kim with fondness. Micaelo told The Daily Beast that he thought Pak Un was the son of a North Korean embassy staffer. "He was a good friend," Micaelo told The Daily Beast. "We had a lot of fun together. He was a good guy. Lots of kids liked him. I don’t know anything about his life today. All I know is the guy I knew in school."
Kim apparently had an extensive sneaker collection, and loved basketball while in school. Despite his small size (rumored to be around 5-foot-6 or 5-foot-7), he was a good player, his former classmate said. "He loved basketball. We played a lot together. I’d like to say to him, if you ever have the time, please contact me again so we can catch up," Micaelo told The Daily Beast.
Another classmate told online outlet that winning was crucial to the young Korean student. "He was funny," Marco Imhof, a former classmate, told The Daily Beast. "[He was] always good for a laugh. He also hated to lose. Winning was very important."
Apparently Kim shied away from politics while at school. "Politics were a taboo subject at school. We argued about football, not politics," another former classmate told Welt am Sonntag, a German newspaper, in 2009.
Kim's first visit overseas since he assumed power in 2011 was to China this year. State media from both countries confirmed the ruler's March trip, where Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That trip was also his first meeting with another head of state, according to The New York Times.
His second visit to China was in early May to the port city of Dalian, where Kim again met with Xi. After the second visit, a joint statement issued by Chinese media said that Kim gave his “gratitude to China for its longstanding and significant contribution in realizing denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula," according to The New York Times.
But one of Kim's most important trips outside his own country wasn't all that long of a journey. In April, the North Korean leader met with South Korean President Moon Moon Jae-in at the raised Military Demarcation Line in the Korean demilitarized zone. When he stepped briefly into South Korea, Kim became the first leader from his country to do so since the 1950s, according to BBC.
Moon also briefly crossed into North Korea. "I was truly moved that you have come all the way to receive me at the Military Demarcation Line at Panmunjom," Kim told his counterpart, according to a transcript published by CNN.
Kim's trip to the summit in Singapore will continue his recent out-of-country travels.