Boyhood Photo of N.Korea's Heir Apparent Revealed

A 10-year-old photograph of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's heir apparent Jong-un at the age of 16 was published in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper on Sunday. The Japanese daily said the photo was taken in June 1999, when Jong-un, then at junior high school in Switzerland under the assumed name Park Un, posed with his classmates.

The paper said Jong-un was in Bern from the summer of 1996 until January 2001. He originally studied at Bern International School, which his older brother Jong-chol (28), also attended. But Jong-un transferred to a public school there a few months later. His teacher at the time said Kim Jong-un "came to the teacher's room one day and said he was going back to his home country tomorrow and did not show up the next day."

A picture of on North Korean heir apparent Kim Jong-un at the age of 16 on the front page of Mainichi Shimbun on Sunday A picture of on North Korean heir apparent Kim Jong-un at the age of 16 on the front page of Mainichi Shimbun on Sunday

The teacher recalls Jong-un as a taciturn and secretive boy. "A few years later, I was surprised to hear from the police that he was the son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il." His math teacher and now principal of the school said, "He worked hard at everything. He was good at math and his grades were not bad in English and German either."

According to the daily, Jong-un walked the 200 m from his home to his school alone without a bodyguard. It said that he was able to attend a public school without restrictions was due to the fact that he was not then considered a candidate to succeed his father and South Korean president Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy" of rapprochement with North Korea led to a halt in surveillance by the South.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 15, 2009 10:52 KST