More and more reports are suggesting that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has died, or is in danger of doing so soon. As people all over the world wait for an answer on the 36-year-old's fate, many are looking back on his short reign and his limited time in the public eye. Some insiders have even pointed out that Kim had a "tyrannical" reputation within his country, where he was known as "the little dictator."
Details on Kim's early life come from his biography The Great Successor: The Secret Rise and Rule of Kim Jong-un, written by journalist Anna Fifield from New Zealand. After at least 12 visits to the notoriously closed-off North Korea, Fifield relayed all the facts, rumors and urban legends she could dig up on Kim, going all the way back to his childhood. She learned that he was nicknamed "the little dictator" as young as age 11, due mostly to his treatment of his classmates. Kim would reportedly kick, spit on and threaten anyone he wanted in grade school, knowing that his status protected him from retribution.
It was said that Kim began wearing a gun on his hip at all times at the age of 11, and and wore a military uniform as well. He reportedly had a personal staff dedicated to him 24/7, and he freely bossed around servants, chefs and other aides in spite of his age. According to Fifield, Kim got away with all of this not only because he was from the ruling family, but because he was favored by his father, Kim Jong-il.
"The boy grew up thinking he was special," she wrote. She shared many stories of his childhood power struggles as well — in one anecdote, Kim's choice for an eighth birthday party was not to have other children celebrate with him, but instead to have high-ranking North Korean officials attend and present him with bouquets of flowers. He loomed over them in a black suit.
Fifield's book also enumerated how Kim came to be the leader of North Korea over his two older brothers — Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-chol. She wrote that it was his childhood acts of ruthlessness that led Kim to be favored by their father as his successor. Kim Jong-il reportedly felt that his "arrogant personality" would suit leadership best, especially compared to his "rebellious" brother Kim Jong-nam and his "introverted" brother Kim Jong-chol.
Fifield's book traces Kim's growth into adulthood as well, including his time outside of North Korea as a young man. He reportedly studied in Germany and traveled Europe under a fake name, visiting theme parks and playing basketball. Meanwhile, Fifield claims that his brother, Kim Jong-nam became an informant for the United States' CIA in the years before he was assassinated. It is still widely believed that Kim Jong-un himself ordered the assassination. So far, the North Korean state-run media outlets have not given a clear answer on Kim Jong-un's current health. Many news outlets around the world are reporting that he died in a botched heart surgery this month.