SIDEBAR: Kim Jong Il used to get "irritable when hungry"
Dec 20, 2011, 18:12 GMT
Valletta, Malta - The late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il used to get irritated when hungry, his former Maltese English teacher told dpa on Tuesday.
Little is known of the reclusive Kim, who led the world's most oppressive and secretive country.
Kim went to the Mediterranean island of Malta to learn English in the 1970s, as part of an exchange that included a secret agreement between the then Labour government and the North Korean regime for the provision of military training and weapons.
Kim's father, Kim Il Sung was also known to have befriended former Maltese premier Dom Mintoff.
Far from the gloomy, illiterate man often described by the western media, Kim was a jovial character, and motivated to learn, according to his former teacher Daniel Massa.
'I used to teach him on a one-to-one basis and it was all about situational English; learning the right words and sentences for particular day-to-day situations,' Massa told dpa.
'He used to become irritable when hungry, especially when lessons overstepped their time limit and impinged on his lunch break. He told me several times - he did not want lessons to go beyond the allotted time.'
Kim was later known for his fondness for gourmet food and drink.
The Maltese teacher said he was not at first aware of the real identity of his student.
'I only got to know who he was when somebody pointed out that Korean security agents were standing outside my office window and door while I used to teach him.'