BERN, Switzerland – Swiss school officials said Monday a North Korean youth attended a public school here for two years but distanced themselves from reports that it may have been the youngest son of authoritarian leader Kim Jong Il.
The Liebefeld school in Bern issued a statement saying that from August 1998 until the fall of 2000 a youth from North Korea attended the school. It declined to give the student’s name.
The statement came after Japanese media reports that Kim Jong Un – reportedly the designated successor to North Korea’s authoritarian leader – could have moved to the school from the nearby International School of Berne.
“There was never a pupil registered at Liebefeld School under the name of North Korea’s ruling family Kim Jong,” said the statement by town education director Ueli Studer.
However, the statement left open the possibility that the youth had attended under another name as he reportedly did at the international school.
“He was registered as the son of an embassy employee,” the Liebefeld school said.
Jong Un studied at the International School of Berne, a private school, until 1998 under the pseudonym Pak Chol, learning to speak English, German and French, the Swiss weekly news magazine L’Hebdo reported earlier this year, citing classmates and school officials.
The Liebefeld school said the North Korean student started in a class for foreign-language children, but later changed to the regular class of the sixth school year and then completed both the seventh and eighth years. He started the ninth year, but then suddenly left the school.
“The pupil was well integrated, industrious and ambitious,” the statement said. “His hobby was basketball.”
He also was said to come to the school by car every day.
Little has emerged about Jong Un in the tightly controlled North Korean news media. Now 26, he has reportedly been tapped to become the next leader of nuclear-armed North Korea.
After returning to Pyongyang, he attended the Kim Il Sung Military University, graduating in 2007, the South Korean agency Yonhap said.
There are rumours the 2004 death of his mother, Japanese-born former dancer Ko Yong Hi, took a toll on the young man, Yonhap said. Recent reports describe him as overweight and a heavy drinker.
Associated Press correspondent Alexander G. Higgins in Geneva contributed to this report.