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NORTH KOREA

Next N. Korea leader got Swiss education: reports

The man tipped to be North Korea's next leader was schooled in Switzerland where he was an ambitious pupil who enjoyed basketball and even picked up the local dialect, reports said on Monday.

Kim Jong-Un, now in his late 20s, is said to have received his early education at the private International School of Berne in the suburb of Gümligen, and then went to secondary school in Liebefeld, also just outside the capital.

When his father Kim Jong-Il nominated him as successor two years ago, media descended on the suburb to try to get a glimspe of the famous pupil.

Such was the interest the local authorities issued a press statement.

No-one named Kim Jong-Un had been on the rolls at the Liebefeld Steinhölzli school, they said, but “a young North Korean” had been a pupil from August 1998 to autumn 2000, registered as the son of an embassy employee.

“The pupil was considered well-integrated, hard working and ambitious. He played basketball in his spare time,” said the Köniz commune in June 2009.

The heir apparent previously attended the International School of Berne between 1993 and 1998 under the name Chol-Pak or Pak-chol, media reports said.

A staff member told AFP on Monday that the institution was “not in a position to say anything on the subject.”

The young boy is said to have learnt the local Swiss-German dialect when in Bern, renowned as difficult to master for non-natives.

“We don’t know much about the third son of Kim Jong-Il,” said North Korea specialist Pauline Plagnat from Geneva University.

But he is the only one who studied and is interested in politics, she said, “and was his father’s preferred choice for this reason.”

The academic said he was very close to his aunt Kim Kyong-Hui, the sister of his late father, and her husband Jang Song-Taek, the country’s unofficial number two leader.

The foreign ministry said on Monday it was not able to comment on any links between Switzerland and Kim Jong-Un.

NORTH KOREA

22 North Korean athletes will compete at 2018 Games: IOC

North Korea will send 22 athletes to next month's Winter Games in the South, the International Olympic Committee said in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday. The IOC also confirmed that the two nations will march together at the opening ceremony.

22 North Korean athletes will compete at 2018 Games: IOC
2018 Olympics President Lee Hee-beom, North Korea's Sports Minister Kim Il Guk, IOC President Thomas Bach, South Korean Minister of Culture Do Jong-hwan and South Korea's National Olympic Committee Pr
The IOC has further approved a plan for North and South to field a unified women's hockey team, Olympic chief Thomas Bach told reporters following a meeting in Lausanne with sport and government officials from the two countries.
 
The announcement from Bach marked the approval of a landmark deal between the two Koreas that has eased tensions building for months.
 
The 22 athletes will compete in three sports and a total of five disciplines, including figure skating, short-track speed skating, cross-country skiing and Alpine skiing, in addition to hockey.
 
North Korea will also send 24 officials and 21 media representatives to the Games in Pyeongchang, which start on February 9.
 
At the opening ceremony, the joint delegation “will be led into the Olympic stadium by the Korean unification flag” carried together by an athlete from each country, the IOC said. A special unity uniform will be created for the event.
 
“Today marks a milestone on a long journey,” Bach said after the meeting, which finalised details previously agreed between the two countries. “The Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula, and inviting the world to join in a celebration of hope.”
 
North and South Korea remain technically at war since the Korean war ended with armistice, not a peace treaty, in 1953.
 
The North's decision to compete in  Pyeongchang — just 80 kilometres south of the demilitarised zone that divides the Koreas — is an historic diplomatic coup, especially after months that saw nuclear and missile tensions surge to new heights.