We can exercise the power of choice every day. We decide what we’re going to eat, whether or not we should kiss the girl, who our true friends are, and whether or not we should move across the country. But there are some things in life that we can’t choose, like our parents.
When we’re younger, we might make the mistake of judging and criticizing our parents despite all they’ve done for us. They might hold a job that is too embarrassing to say out loud to your friends, even though it pays the bills. They might not be up to speed with the latest trends, or they might be too up to speed. But as we grow older and wiser, most of us learn to love and respect our parents just as they are.
But what about the kids who are born to dictators? What are their lives like? Not only do they bear a bad name, they bear a history of pain that can never be erased, which is a heavy burden to be placed on a child who had nothing to do with it.
Scroll below to learn about the children of some of the world’s most ruthless people in history, such as Attila the Hun and Joseph Stalin. In some cases, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and in others, change is in the forecast, for good. And for the most unfortunate, sudden death.
#1. Kim Jong-nam (Kim Jong-il): When Dreams Get Crushed
Kim Jong-nam (right) is the firstborn son of Kim Jong-il (left), the former supreme leader of North Korea who took over after the death of his own father, Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-il stuck to a broken economic system, resulting in up to three million deaths related to starvation, all while indulging himself. He rarely left his country, but when he did, he enjoyed the best cuisine, such as lobster, on his private armored train.
Kim Jong-nam was first in line to succeed his father, but reportedly fell out of favor after an attempt to enter Japan with a fake passport in May 2001. He wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
He is currently in exile and is an advocate for reform. His younger half-brother Kim Jong-un was made heir apparent in 2010.
Polaris / eyevine
#2. Kim Jong-un (Kim Jong-il): Successor
Kim Jong-un, pictured right, is the youngest son of Kim Jong-il. He was educated in Physics at Kim Il-sung University and as an Army officer at the Kim Il-sung Military University. Both schools bear the same name as his grandfather.
After his father’s death in 2011, his cult of personality blossomed, which was meant to help him begin leading despite a lack of experience.
Little is known about him except for the tidbits that trickle in through reports. For example, we’ve learned that he attended a private English-language International School in Switzerland and enjoys listening to Eric Clapton. We also know that he met Dennis Rodman back in 2013.
He may be held accountable for the crimes against humanity that have continued from his father’s regime.
#3. Sar Patchata (Pol Pot): An Educated Young Woman
From 1975 to 1979, as leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Pol Pot carried out a series of agrarian socialist plans which required populations from city centers to relocate onto farmlands. This resulted in the deaths of up to three million people.
His only child, daughter Sar Patchata (born Mea Sith), earned a Master’s degree in English from Malaysia, where she met now husband, Sar Patchata.
During her teenage years, the headmaster said of her situation, “I have the opinion that the young generation should not bear responsibility for the older [generation].”
Many people who have met Sar Patchata have been able to separate the extreme hardships they had because of her father from the fondness they’ve developed for her.
Alex Willemyns / The Cambodia Daily
#4. The Daughters of King Leopold II: Marrying Crowns
Leopold II, second king of the Belgians, was known for bringing in money for his country, but at the expense of the Congo’s resources, ivory and rubber, and people. In the end, his policies of forced labor killed millions of Congolese.
Altogether, he had four legitimate children. His three daughters married well; the eldest, Louise Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Stéphanie’s hand was taken by Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, and the youngest, Clémentine, married into the Bonaparte family against her father’s wishes.
Leopold’s only son died at the age of 10.
Pictured here is daughter Stéphanie with Rudolf, who later committed an apparent murder-suicide with his mistress, Mary Vetsera.
#5. Edda Mussolini (Benito Mussolini): A Father’s Betrayal
Benito Mussolini’s eldest daughter Edda Mussolini became Countess Ciano after marrying Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano. According to her obituary in the New York Times, she lived an independent life at a time when Italian women enjoyed few rights.
However, her Fascist dictator father showed little mercy, even to her. When her husband voted against him at a Cabinet Meeting, the Count was found guilty of treason and despite desperate pleas from Edda, both Hitler and Mussolini saw to his execution in 1944. Following their decision, she renounced the family name.
The Cianos’s bore three children, including son Fabrizio, who penned the memoir Quando Il Nonno Fece Fucilare Papà (‘When Grandpa had Daddy Shot’).