Classmates Recall Kim Jong-un's Basketball Obsession

A picture of on North Korean heir apparent Kim Jong-un at the age of 16 A picture of on North Korean heir apparent Kim Jong-un at the age of 16

Fellow students at Bern's German-speaking Liebefeld-Steinhölzli School recall North Korean heir apparent Kim Jong-un as unremarkable and obsessed with basketball, the Washington Post said Wednesday.

Those who knew "Pak Un," the name he used at the Swiss school, say he was indifferent to political issues and never made any anti-American comments. He worshipped basketball players in the NBA. A friend who visited his apartment at #10, Kirchstrasse, Liebefeld, recalls that Kim had a room filled with NBA-memorabilia.

"He proudly showed off photographs of himself standing with Toni Kukoc of the Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. It is unclear where the pictures were taken. On at least one occasion, a car from the North Korean Embassy drove Pak Un to Paris to watch an NBA exhibition game," the daily said.  

In class, Pak Un was generally shy and awkward with girls, but he became a different person on basketball court, according to his classmates. "A fiercely competitive player," said classmate Nikola Kovacevic. "He was very explosive. He could make things happen. He was the playmaker."

Kim also had a collection of Nike sneakers. "We only dreamed about having such shoes. He was wearing them," recalled Kovacevic, who estimated the price of each pair at around US$200.

Another friend, Marco Imhof, who used to play basketball with Kim, said two Korean women often observed their play and videotaped it at times. "It was a bit strange," Imhof said, but he thought this was just "a Korean thing."

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 17, 2009 11:51 KST