As President Donald Trump heads to a historic summit with North Korea, the world is paying close attention to the reclusive state and its secretive ruler, Kim Jong Un.
Interested in North Korea?Add North Korea as an interest to stay up to date on the latest North Korea news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
Kim is the third head of state from his family’s dictatorial dynasty, one of the last inherited absolute monarchies on earth. Yet despite his unrivaled power in North Korea and his command over nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, remarkably little is known about him.
Van Jackson, a scholar on Korean security and an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, told ABC News that North Korea’s secretive nature makes it hard to verify most information coming out of the country.
“Anybody who can answer all your questions with certainty has false confidence. Ask them to prove their answers and they won't be able to,” Jackson said.
In the absence of a reliable official biography, the information publicly available about Kim reflects a “broad consensus understanding” from experts keeping a close eye on the regime, Jackson explained.
Here is what you need to know about the North Korea's reclusive leader:
State-run media reports Kim was born January 8, 1982, though other reports indicate he may have been born in 1983 or 1984. He is the son of Kim Jong-Il and the grandson of Kim Il Sung, founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of the North Korean communist state.
Kim is his father’s third and youngest son, and was born to his father’s third wife, Ko Young Hee. In the 1990s, he attended two private schools in Switzerland, the International School of Berne in Gümligen and the Liebefeld Steinhölzli school near Bern, according to a Vanity Fair profile written by political writer Mark Bowden.
He later returned to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, where he attended the Kim Il-Sung Military University, the BBC reported.
Dr. Robert Kelly, a professor of political science at Pusan National University in South Korea, said Kim's late estranged half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam, who was murdered on Feb. 13 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia, was the would-be successor to the throne. Kim Jong-Nam was being groomed for the position until around 2009.
Kelly noted that Kim Jong-Un "lacks the deep institutional and affective relationships with Pyongyang's elite which his father and grandfather had." He "parachuted in late" when his father became ill, according to Kelly.
Rise to power
In 2009, Kim was appointed to the state’s National Defense Commission. The next year, he was promoted to the rank of four-star general and was named vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and of the Central Military Commission.
When Kim Jong-Il died in December 2011, Kim Jong-Un was placed at the head of the party, the state and the army within a matter of weeks.
In 2012, state media reported that Kim was married to Ri Sol-Ju. Kim is reportedly a basketball fan. Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has visited North Korea on Kim’s invitation several times. Rodman later told The Guardian that Kim has a daughter named Ju-Ae.
The same year, Kim assumed the title of marshal of the North Korean army, the highest military rank in the country. He briefly disappeared from the public eye in 2014 and later reappeared with a cane.