On Wednesday, North Korea claimed they carried out a nuclear bomb test, without prior warning.
The news quickly spread online and television bulletins and newspapers were soon full of the claims – despite the White House saying there was no evidence such a bomb had been detonated.
While the validity of the claims may never be known – there are a few things we do know about North Korea’s supreme leader.
1. He has been the butt of international jokesters since he assumed power in 2011 for many reasons, which tends to cloud the fact that when he’s not funny, he’s terrifying. Starvation and racism are two of the tragic downsides of his regime, and now we have the prospect of a hydrogen bomb. He is named by Forbes magazine as the world’s 46th most powerful person.
2. Although all reports about Kim Jong-un are hazy, it appears that he attended at least one privileged school in Switzerland, and was always accompanied by an older student who was possibly his bodyguard. He was reportedly keen on basketball, shy, awkward with girls, indifferent to political issues, fascinated by Michael Jordan, loved Nike shoes.
3. His elder half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, was favoured to take over the leadership but disqualified himself back in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in order to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
4. His father, Kim John-il, had a personal chef called Keni Fujimoto who said that Kim Jong-un was best suited to take over the leadership. “He has superb physical gifts, is a big drinker, and never admits defeat,” he said. He further said that Kim Jong-un smoked Yves Saint Laurent cigarettes, drank Johnnie Walker whisky and drove a Mercedes-Benz 600.
5. In March 2013, North Korea threatened the United States with a “pre-emptive nuclear attack”. Kim Jong-un issued a threat to wipe out Baengnyeong Island in South Korea, the scene of previous naval conflicts. In the past, North Korea has revealed plans for nuclear attacks on Los Angeles and Washington DC.
6. By 2013, five of the seven men who escorted his father’s hearse in 2011 had disappeared, including Kim’s uncle Jang Sung-taek. Also, three defence ministers and four chiefs of the army’s general staff had been replaced. Many of the members of Jang Sung-taek’s family, including children, are believed to have been liquidated.
7. You’ve got to hand it to him, for a world leader, he’s young – whatever year he was born. Assuming it was 1983 (which is most likely), he’s the same age as Aussie model Miranda Kerr, cricketer Ben Hilfenhaus, American country singer Carrie Underwood and (late) English singer Amy Winehouse. He was 28 when he assumed power.
8. American basketball star Dennis Rodman was favoured with a private visit to North Korea, and later said of Kim Jong-un’s private island: “It’s like Hawaii or Ibiza but he’s the only one who lives there.”
9. His health appears to be an ongoing problem. It has been said that he suffers from diabetes and hypertension. He has been seen limping, and with a walking stick. A South Korean report says that since becoming leader he has gained 30kg, and that he now weighs around 130kg. One report said that he had become so obese gorging Swiss cheese that he cannot see his genitals. Another says that he combats impotence with snake venom.
10. He is said to have accompanying private lavatories whenever he travels in planes, trains and cars. It has also been mysteriously reported that he does not defecate.
11. His mother was Ko Young-hee, an opera singer, and the favourite wife of Kim Jong-il. She doted on her son and called him the “morning star king”. He is said to have married Ri Sol-ju in 2012 and the couple are believed to have one child. Ri Sol-ju is believed to be from an upper class family.
12. The ordinary people of North Korea live under considerable challenges. There has long been widespread poverty and economic devastation. There was a shocking famine in the 1990s, there are always food shortages, and the school system is unstable. There have also been reports of a concentration camp prison system with torturous, horrifying conditions for thousands of prisoners.
13. He has no military training at all, despite being a four-star general and commander in chief of his country’s armed forces.
14. He loves American food and those who can afford it are now legally able to consume pizza, french fries, and hamburgers.
15. There is a giant message praising him carved into a North Korean hillside. It reads “Long Live General the Shining Sun” and stretches longer than half a kilometre.