HEIR APPARENT

Kim Jong Il's Nike-Loving Heir

Everyone wants to know: who's going to succeed the ailing Kim Jong Il? The heir apparent now seems to be his youngest son, the 26-year-old Kim Jong Un. While almost nothing is known of the dictator-in-training, The Washington Post looked for clues at Liebefeld-Steinhölzli Schule, the Swiss boarding school where Un reportedly arrived in 1998—the summer North Korea began producing highly enriched uranium—in $200 basketball shoes, the rough amount of a monthly salary in North Korea. People knew him by an alias, "Pak Un," and he told people his parents were local diplomats. It's no surprise that his parents didn't show up for parents' visiting day. In the classroom, Pak Un studied Swiss history, where he learned about the country's government—known as "direct democracy"—and current events, which included the 2000 U.S. Presidential elections. Pak Un was a fast learner, and was fluent in German and English, though he struggled in the Swiss dialect. And while he was awkward around girls, the place that he really felt at home was the basketball court. Teammates remember that he revered American basketball icons like Michael Jordan, and kept his room stocked with basketball paraphernalia. Said one teammate of Kim Jong Un: "He hated to lose. Winning was very important." And another friend adds: "We were just playing basketbal—now he is going to be a dictator."