Kim Jong Il.
Credit: Alexander Nemenov

1. Divine birth

Legend has it that a double rainbow and a glowing new star appeared in the heavens to herald the birth of Kim Jong Il, in 1942, on North Korea's cherished Baekdu Mountain. Soviet records, however, indicate he was born in the Siberian village of Vyatskoye, in 1941. The people of North Korea, many of whom are reportedly battling famine, are apparently told that Kim's birthday is celebrated throughout the world.

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2. Fear of flying

Perhaps one of the reasons the North Korean leader was so reclusive was his fear of flying, which he inherited from his father, Kim Il Sung. Kim rarely traveled abroad, and when he did it was by train – once taking a luxury rail car all the way to Moscow. In August GlobalPost reported that Kim visited Russia for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev, in an effort to shore up support for a transfer of power to his third son Kim Jong Un. Kim's preference for rail travel is poignant because his death reportedly occurred during a train journey to a region outside of the capital, Pyongyang.

3. Wanted to breed giant rabbits

German media reported in 2007 that Kim hoped to solve the famine in his country by breeding giant rabbits. An east German farmer who bred rabbits the size of dogs was apparently asked by North Korea to help set up a big bunny farm to alleviate food shortages. To get things going, he sent a batch of 12 giant rabbits to North Korea, but was shocked to hear they were eaten at Kim's birthday banquet that year.

4. Liked to eat roast donkey

While Kim was on his famous 2001 train trip to Moscow, a Russian envoy who traveled with him said roast donkey and fresh lobsters were flown to the train every day. Kim also reportedly ate the food with silver chopsticks, and washed it down with French wine and Champagne. Kim was also said to be one of the world's biggest buyers of Hennessey cognac.

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5. High achiever

Official records reportedly show that Kim learned to walk at the age of three weeks, and was talking at eight weeks. While at Kim Il Sung University, he apparently wrote 1,500 books over a period of three years, along with six full operas. According to his official biography, all of his operas are “better than any in the history of music." Then there's his sporting prowess. In 1994, Pyongyang media reported that the first time Kim picked up a golf club, he shot a 38-under par round on North Korea's only golf course, including 11 holes-in-one. Reports say each of his 17 bodyguards verified the record-breaking feat. He then decided to retire from the sport forever.

6. Built a city for propaganda

In the 1950s Kim built an entire city called Kijong-Dong, also known in North Korea as the Peace Village, which was designed only for propaganda. It is situated in the North's half of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and to this day it has no residents. Western media, particularly in South Korea, refer to it as Propaganda Village.

7. Fashion icon

Standing at at 5-foot-3, Kim was a curious figure with his bouffant hairdo, platform shoes and collection of jumpsuits. And let's not forget those sunglasses. But nevertheless, Rodong Sinmun, a communist party newspaper, reported that Kim Jong Il's suits had become a global fashion phenomenon. His “fashion icon” status has also reportedly been transferred to son and successor, Kim Jong Un. Word is that the slick, trimmed haircut of Kim the younger, who may have had plastic surgery to look more like his father, is being mimicked by countless youths on the streets of Pyongyang.

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8. Film buff

Kim was said to be an avid film collector, amassing more than 20,000 video tapes and DVDs. His favourite flicks reportedly included Friday the 13th, Rambo, Godzilla, Hong Kong action fims, and anything starring Elizabeth Taylor. In 1978, he ordered the kidnapping of South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and his actress wife Choi Eun-hee so they could build a North Korean film industry. A decade later, they reportedly escaped while on a trip to Austria, and have since been granted refuge in the United States.

9. Child killer?

When Kim was aged five or six, his younger brother Shura Kim drowned in the family's swimming pool. Unconfirmed Soviet reports said that Kim was responsible for the accident. His mother died in childbirth the following year.

10. Didn't defecate

It is reported that Kim's official biography on the North Korean state web site, which has since been taken down, claimed that Kim did not defecate. Enough said.

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In this photo taken on December 28, 2011, a car carries a portrait of Kim Jong Il during the funeral procession in Pyongyang.
In this photo taken on December 28, 2011, mourners react as a car Kim Jong Il's body passes by during the funeral procession in Pyongyang.
This handout picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 28, 2011, shows Kim Jong Un (center R) and Jang Song-Thaek (C) besides the convoy carrying the body of Kim's father and late leader Kim Jong Il at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang.
Credit: KCNA
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il peers out of a car window after a meeting with Russian officials on August 24, 2011.
#182 — North Korea North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, accompanied by senior officials of the Workers' Party of Korea and Korean People's Army officials, attends the 15th anniversary memorial service of the country's late President Kim Il-Sung at the Pyongyang gymnasium on July 8, 2009.
Credit: KNS
Kim Jong Il.
Credit: Alexander Nemenov
A South Korean veteran holds a placard showing North Korean flags and portraits of Kim Jong-Il (L) and his son Jong-Un (R) during a rally in Seoul.
A South Korean protester holds a portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a rally in central Seoul on March 25, 2011.
Credit: Park Ji-hwan
In this frame grab made off undated North Korea's Korean Central Television (KCTV) footage aired on October 11, 2008, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il inspects a female military unit in North Korea.
Credit: Handout
South Korean protesters hold placards showing the faces of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his youngest son and likely-successor Kim Jong-un as they shout during an anti-North Korea rally near the US embassy in Seoul on Feb. 16, 2011. North Korea was in festive mood as leader Kim Jong-Il turned 69 on Feb. 16, state media reported, but a defector group said birthday handouts were cut back as the regime struggles to feed its people.
Credit: Park Ji-hwan
his 25 April 2007 picture, released from Korean Central News Agency 26 April, shows North Korean soldiers, carrying a large portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, marching during a grand military parade to celebrate the 75th founding anniversary of the KPA at the Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang.
Credit: KCNA
This undated picture, released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on September 13, 2009 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (C, front row) posing with the Combined Unit 597 of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Navy.
Credit: KNS
This undated picture, released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on September 13, 2009 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (C, front row) posing with the Combined Unit 597 of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Navy.
A North Korean defector burns the North Korean Flag in protest in front of the South Korean Defense Ministry on November 29, 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. Tensions between the two Koreas remain high following an artillery exchange on the disputed island of Yeonpyeong on November 24.
Credit: Chung Sung-Jun

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