For 18 Years, an Ordinary Korean Couple Have Kept a Big Secret

Ko Yong Suk tells the 'Washington Post' she is Kim Jong Un's aunt
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2016 8:34 AM CDT
Updated May 29, 2016 10:58 AM CDT
For 18 Years, an Ordinary Korean Couple Has Kept a Big Secret
Kim Jong Un speaks in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

For 18 years, a North Korean couple have lived a life in America that their friends call "lucky"—they run a dry-cleaning business and have three successful children. But these are no ordinary immigrants. For the first time, Ko Yong Suk and husband Ri Gang are revealing their identities: as aunt and uncle to Kim Jong Un. Those names are their Korean ones; in a bid to protect their privacy, the Washington Post isn't sharing the names they use here or the town where they live in a house paid for with $200,000 they say was given to them by the CIA. But the paper is sharing plenty of tidbits it gained in nearly 20 hours of interviews about the Hermit Kingdom—like Kim's real age. Ko, the 60-year-old sister of Kim's late mother, says Kim was born in 1984, not 1982 or 1983 as thought.

And she's sure of that, as her own son was born that year. "I changed both of their diapers," she says. While the couple doesn't have "any nuclear or military secrets" to share, they do know a lot about the man they repeatedly called "Marshal Kim Jong Un," including that he was groomed to be leader from age 8. Top generals even attended his birthday party and bowed to him, according to the pair. As for his love of basketball, Ko says Kim's mother told him playing the sport would help him grow taller, closing the height gap between him and his friends. As for their 1998 decision to defect, made while they were living in Switzerland, "this is where Ko and Ri's version of events starts to become opaque," the Post writes. "Given that Ri is trying [to] get back into Kim Jong Un's good graces, he has reason to present their defection as nothing but altruistic." Read more about that here. (More North Korea stories.)

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