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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kim Jong-un: He who must not be named

Kim Jong-un: He who must not be named

Kim Jong-un: He who must not be named

When North Korea’s chef de mission at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South visited an athletes’ village fitness centre he made a point of cheerily greeting each volunteer by name, reading them off their badges.

But Won Gil-u came to a screeching halt when he met a young woman called Ko Jong-un, a report said.

Her forename matches that of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Won – who is also Pyongyang’s vice sports minister – was stunned into silence.

After some moments he found his voice.

“When he turned to me, he stared at my name tag and froze for a few seconds without a word,” Ko was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

“Then, he said: ‘I wouldn’t dare to pronounce your name.’ We all broke into hearty laughter.”

The ruling Kim dynasty are revered within North Korea, where Kim Jong-un is normally referred to as “Supreme Leader” or “Respected Marshal”.

North Korean children are taught from an early age about the exploits of his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung, the North’s founder, and the two predecessors’ portraits are on display in every home and on propaganda billboards throughout the country.

Like some other Korean forenames, Jong-un can be used for both men and women – although it is predominantly female.

Another North Korean official asked Ko about her job. She told him she is a student majoring in American culture at Sogang University in Seoul.

“Then he responded: ‘All Yankees must be punched,’” she said. “This sparked more laughter.”.