The aunt of North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un apparently resides in the unlikeliest of places: New York City.
According to a new report by the Washington Post, 60-year-old Ko Yong Suk has been living in the U.S. since 1998, when she immigrated here with her husband, Ri Gang. Both Suk and Gang changed their names upon arriving in the U.S., and they requested the Post not to reveal their current identities.
Suk lives a remarkably quotidian life—she and her husband run a dry-cleaning business and have done so for the past 18 years. She has three children, all of whom attended college and now work professionally.
Suk was the sister of Kim Jong Un’s mother, and it was in 1998 (when Un was 14 and his brother, Kim Jong Chol, was 17) when Suk and Gang decided to leave North Korea, unexpectedly choosing the U.S. rather than South Korea to flee to.
Suk and Gang allegedly received $200,000 from the CIA in order to buy their first home in the U.S., although the CIA declined to comment or confirm this.
The Post asked Suk details about living with Kim Jong Un and taking care of him as a child—according to Suk, they lived a relatively normal lifestyle. She took him and her children to Euro Disney; she made them snacks and bought them toys, essentially acting as an additional maternal figure to the future North Korean ruler.
However, when Kim Jong Un’s mother contracted breast cancer, she was flown with Gang and Suk to Europe for treatment, which is reportedly when the husband and wife sought asylum at a U.S. embassy in Bern, Switzerland.
Suk and Gang moved quietly around for a few years before settling in New York City. Their children are disinterested in North Korea completely, and all work in different fields: “The oldest son is a mathematician. Their second son helps out in the business, while their daughter works in computer science,” the Post reports.
Both husband and wife are apparently reluctant to speak ill of North Korea’s regime, even today, and Gang told the Post he would like to act as a negotiator between the two countries in the future, stating, “My ultimate goal is to go back to North Korea. I understand America and I understand North Korea, so I think I can be a negotiator between the two. If Kim Jong Un is how I remembered he used to be, I would be able to meet him and talk to him.”
However, he also noted that he is thankful for all the opportunity he has found in the U.S.: “I think we have achieved the American Dream.”
This fascinating glimpse into a humanitarian side of Kim Jong Un’s immediate family provides some context for the upbringing of the dictator, and how those who were close to him view his regime.
Banner Image Credit: Reuters