Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Vanity Fair‘s website offers a short essay on Kim Jong Un’s alma mater. KJU’s few years studying in Switzerland have been the subject of previous media reports. This particular vignette is a weekly online column penned by Jamie Johnson, a doumentary filmmaker. Mr. Johnson is a descendant of Robert Wood Johnson (founder of Johnson & Johnson). Mr. Johnson writes:
What I find most interesting about Kim Jong-un is that he is presumed to have attended an English-language Swiss boarding school, where he developed an appreciation for the NBA superstar Michael Jordan. Reports identify the school as the International School of Berne, which educates the children of diplomatic and business families from countries all around the globe.
Swiss boarding schools have long been a haven for the offspring of prominent political families. Their dormitories have famously housed the children of European royalty, as well as the descendents of notable Middle Eastern and African autocrats. It is rare, however, for nations that are entirely hostile to the West to send their favorite sons to such schools, which tend to place an emphasis on assimilation and integration.
That’s why the case of Kim Jong-un seems so curious. It’s hard to imagine what the motivating factors might have been for the individuals who allegedly sent him to school in Berne. Most alumni of elite Swiss institutions say that autocrats normally ship their kids off to board in Switzerland because they want their child to experience everything a fancy elite school has to offer. But the International School of Berne, though technically in Switzerland and international, doesn’t qualify in the minds of discriminating rich folk as a proper Swiss academy.
One graduate of Le Rose, arguably the most prestigious of all Swiss boarding schools, responded to questions about the reputation of the International School of Berne by saying, “No, no, no. It’s nothing. I’ve never heard of it.”
De eruditione filiorum nobilium Recently departed diplorep Ri Chol was responsible for looking after Kim Jong Un and his siblings during their time in Berne. However, Jong-un and Jong-chol lived under the cover as children of embassy housekeeping staff. This may explain, in part, why they attended a lower profile school.
One further note about KJI’s children who have studied in Europe; two of his older children, Kim Jong-nam and Kim Sul-song, studied in French and English, and his three children with Ko Yong-hui studied in German and English.