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North Korea Main Page


Kim Il-sung


Eternal President of the Republic
(Ceremonial (Constitution of North Korea Amendment, 5 September 1998))


Kim Il-sung (15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994) was a Korean communist politician who led North Korea from its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death. He was also the General Secretary of the Workers Party of Korea.

During his tenure as leader of North Korea, he ruled the nation with autocratic power and established an all-pervasive cult of personality. From the mid-1960s, he promoted his self-developed Juche variant of communist national organisation. Along with South Korean leader Park Chung-hee, Kim Il-sung was named one of the top 100 Asians of the Century by Time magazine (1999), and in the latest (2009) Library of Congress Country Study on North Korea, he is described as "one of the most intriguing figures of the twentieth century", outliving Joseph Stalin by four decades, Mao Zedong by two, and remaining in power during the terms of office of six South Korean presidents, nine U.S. presidents, and 21 Japanese prime ministers.

Following his death in 1994, he was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-il. North Korea officially refers to Kim Il-sung as the "Great Leader" (Suryong in Korean 수령) and he is designated in the constitution as the country's "Eternal President". His birthday is a public holiday in North Korea.


Early years

Many of the early records of his life come from his own personal accounts and official North Korean government publications, which often conflict with independent sources. Nevertheless, there is some consensus on at least the basic story of his early life, corroborated by witnesses from the period.

Kim was born to Kim Hyŏng-jik and Kang Pan-sŏk, who gave him the name Kim Sŏng-ju, and had two younger brothers, Ch’ŏl-chu and Yŏng-ju. The ancestral seat of Kim's family is Chŏnju, North Chŏlla Province, and what little that is known about the family contends that sometime around the time of the Korean-Japanese war of 1592–98, a direct ancestor moved north. The claim may be understood in light of the fact that the early Chosŏn government’s policy of populating the north resulted in mass resettlement of southern farmers in Phyŏngan and Hamgyŏng regions in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. At any rate, the majority of the Chŏnju Kim today live in North Korea, and extant Chŏnju Kim genealogies provide spotty records.

The exact history of Kim's family is somewhat obscure. The family was neither very poor nor comfortably well-off, but was always a step away from poverty. Kim was raised in a Presbyterian family; his maternal grandfather was a Protestant minister, his father had gone to a missionary school and was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and both his parents were reportedly very active in the religious community. Kim was an accomplished church organist. According to the official version, Kim’s family participated in anti-Japanese activities and in 1920 they fled to Manchuria. The more objective view seems to be that his family settled in Manchuria like many Koreans at the time to escape famine. Nonetheless, Kim’s parents apparently did play a minor role in some activist groups, though whether their cause was missionary, nationalist, or both is unclear.

Kim's father died in 1926, when Kim was fourteen years old. Kim attended Yuwen Middle School in Jilin from 1927 to 1930, where he rejected the feudal traditions of older generation Koreans and became interested in Communist ideologies; his formal education ended when he was arrested and jailed for his subversive activities. At seventeen, Kim had become the youngest member of an underground Marxist organization with fewer than twenty members, led by Hŏ So, who belonged to the South Manchurian Communist Youth Association. The police discovered the group three weeks after it was formed in 1929, and jailed Kim for several months.

Communist and guerrilla activities

The Communist Party of Korea had been founded in 1925, but had been thrown out of the Comintern in the early 1930s for being too nationalist. In 1931, Kim had joined the Communist Party of China. He joined various anti-Japanese guerrilla groups in northern China, and in 1935 he became a member of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army, a guerrilla group led by the Communist Party of China. Kim was appointed the same year to serve as political commissar for the 3rd detachment of the second division, around 160 soldiers. It was here that Kim met the man who would become his mentor as a Communist, Wei Zhengmin, Kim’s immediate superior officer, who was serving at the time as chairman of the Political Committee of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. Wei reported directly to Kang Sheng, a high-ranking party member close to Mao Zedong in Yan'an, until Wei’s death on 8 March 1941.

Also in 1935 Kim took the name Kim Il-sung, meaning "become the sun." The name had previously been used by a prominent early leader of the Korean resistance. Soviet propagandist Grigory Mekler, who claims to have prepared Kim to lead North Korea, says that Kim assumed this name while in the Soviet Union in the early 1940s from a former commander who had died. On the other hand, some Koreans simply did not believe that Kim, in his 30s at the time of the DPRK's founding, could have done everything that state propaganda claimed. Historian Andrei Lankov has claimed that the rumor Kim Il-Sung was somehow switched with the “original” Kim is unlikely to be true. Several witnesses knew Kim before and after his time in the Soviet Union, including his superior, Zhou Baozhong, who dismissed the claim of a “second” Kim in his diaries.

Kim was appointed commander of the 6th division in 1937, at the age of 24, controlling a few hundred men in a group that came to be known as “Kim Il Sung’s division.” It was while he was in command of this division that he executed a raid on Poch’onbo, on 4 June. Although Kim’s division only captured a small Japanese-held town just across the Korean border for a few hours, it was nonetheless considered a military success at this time, when the guerrilla units had experienced difficulty in capturing any enemy territory. This accomplishment would grant Kim some measure of fame among Chinese guerrillas, and North Korean biographies would later exploit it as a great victory for Korea. Kim was appointed commander of the 2nd operational region for the 1st Army, but by the end of 1940, he was the only 1st Army leader still alive. Pursued by Japanese troops, Kim and what remained of his army escaped by crossing the Amur River into the Soviet Union. Kim was sent to a camp near Khabarovsk, where the Korean Communist guerrillas were retrained by the Soviets. Kim became a Captain in the Soviet Red Army and served in it until the end of World War II.

In later years, Kim would heavily embellish his guerrilla feats in order to build up his personality cult. He was portrayed as a boy-conspirator who joined the resistance at 14 and had founded a battle-ready army at 19. North Korean students are taught that this Kim-led army singlehandedly drove the Japanese off the peninsula.

Return to Korea

When the Soviet Union declared war on Japan in August 1945, it fully expected a long, drawn-out conflict. However, much to Stalin's surprise, the Red Army churned into Pyongyang with almost no resistance on 15 August. Stalin realized he needed someone to head a puppet regime. He asked Lavrenty Beria to recommend possible candidates. Beria met Kim several times before recommending him to Stalin. It is widely believed that Kim was selected over several more qualified candidates because he had no ties to the native Communist movement.

Kim arrived in North Korea on 22 August after 26 years in exile. According to Leonid Vassin, an officer with the Soviet MVD, Kim was essentially "created from zero." For one, his Korean was marginal at best; he'd only had eight years of formal education, all of it in Chinese. He needed considerable coaching to read a speech the MVD prepared for him at a Communist Party congress three days after he arrived. They also systematically destroyed most of the true leaders of the resistance who ended up north of the 38th parallel.

In September 1945, Kim was installed by the Soviets as head of the Provisional People’s Committee. He was not, at this time, the head of the Communist Party, whose headquarters were in Seoul in the US-occupied south. During his early years as leader, he assumed a position of influence largely due to the backing of the Korean population which was supportive of his fight against Japanese occupation.

Kim Il-sung in 1946

One of Kim’s accomplishments was his establishment of a professional army, the Korean People's Army (KPA) aligned with the Communists, formed from a cadre of guerrillas and former soldiers who had gained combat experience in battles against the Japanese and later Nationalist Chinese troops. From their ranks, using Soviet advisers and equipment, Kim constructed a large army skilled in infiltration tactics and guerrilla warfare. Before the outbreak of the Korean War, Joseph Stalin equipped the KPA with modern heavy tanks, trucks, artillery, and small arms. Kim also formed an air force, equipped at first with ex-Soviet propeller-driven fighter and attack aircraft. Later, North Korean pilot candidates were sent to the Soviet Union and China to train in MiG-15 jet aircraft at secret bases.

Prime Minister of North Korea

Although original plans called for all-Korean elections sponsored by the United Nations, in May 1948 the South declared statehood as the Republic of Korea, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was proclaimed on 9 September, with Kim as premier. On 12 October, the Soviet Union declared that Kim's regime was the only lawful government on the peninsula. The Communist Party merged with the New People's Party to form the Workers Party of North Korea (of which Kim was vice-chairman). In 1949, the Workers Party of North Korea merged with its southern counterpart to become the Workers Party of Korea (WPK) with Kim as party chairman.

By 1949, North Korea was a full-fledged Communist dictatorship. All parties and mass organizations were cajoled into the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, ostensibly a popular front but in reality dominated by the Communists. Around this time, Kim built the first of many statues of himself and began calling himself "the Great Leader."

Leader of North Korea

Restored as the leader of North Korea, Kim returned to the country after war's end and immediately embarked on a large reconstruction effort for the country devastated by the war. He launched a five-year national economic plan to establish a command economy, with all industry owned by the state and all agriculture collectivised. The nation was founded on egalitarian principles intent on eliminating class differences and the economy was based upon the needs of workers and peasants. The economy was focused on heavy industry and arms production. Both South and North Korea retained huge armed forces to defend the 1953 Demilitarized Zone, although no foreign troops were permanently stationed in North Korea.

Kim's hold on power was rather shaky. To strengthen it, he claimed that the United States deliberately spread diseases among the North Korean population. While Moscow and Beijing later determined that these charges were false, they continued to help spread this rumour for many years to come. He also conducted North Korea's first large-scale purges in part to scare the people into accepting this false account. Unlike Stalin's Great Purge, these took place without even the formalities of a trial. Victims often simply disappeared into the growing network of prison camps.

During the late 1950s, Kim was seen as an orthodox Communist leader, and an enthusiastic satellite of the Soviet Union. His speeches were liberally sprinkled with praises to Stalin. However, he sided with China during the Sino-Soviet split, opposing the reforms brought by Nikita Khrushchev, whom he believed was acting in opposition to Communism. He distanced himself from the Soviet Union, removing mention of his Red Army career from official history, and began reforming the country to his own radical Stalinist tastes. Kim was seen by many in North Korea, and in some parts elsewhere in the world, as an influential anti-revisionist leader in the communist movement. In 1956, anti-Kim elements encouraged by de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union emerged within the Party to criticize Kim and demand reforms. After a period of vacillation, Kim instituted a purge, executing some who had been found guilty of treason and forcing the rest into exile.

By the 1960s, Kim's relationship with the great Communist powers in the region became difficult. Despite his opposition to de-Stalinization, Kim never severed his relations with the Soviets, since he found the Chinese as unreliable allies due to the unstable state of affairs under Mao, leaving the DPRK somewhere in between the two sides. The Cultural Revolution, however, prompted Kim to side with the Soviets, the decision reinforced by the neo-Stalinist policies of Leonid Brezhnev. This infuriated Mao and the anti-Soviet Red Guards. As a result, the PRC immediately denounced Kim's leadership, produced anti-Kim propaganda, and subsequently began reconciliation with the United States

In the mid-1960s, Kim became impressed with the efforts of Hồ Chí Minh to reunify Vietnam through guerilla warfare and thought something similar might be possible in Korea. Infiltration and subversion efforts were thus greatly stepped up against US forces and the leadership that they supported. These efforts culminated in an attempt to storm the Blue House and assassinate President Park Chung-hee. North Korean troops thus took a much more aggressive stance toward US forces in and around South Korea, engaging US Army troops in fire-fights along the Demilitarized Zone. The 1968 capture of the crew of the spy ship USS Pueblo was a part of this campaign.

A new constitution was proclaimed in December 1972, under which Kim became President of North Korea. In 1980 he had decided that his son Kim Jong-il would succeed him, and increasingly delegated the running of the government to him. The Kim family was supported by the army, due to Kim Il-sung’s revolutionary record and the support of the veteran defense minister, O Chin-u. At the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980, Kim publicly designated his son as his successor.

Later yeas

From about this time, however, North Korea encountered increasing economic difficulties. The practical effect of Juche was to cut the country off from virtually all foreign trade. The economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping in China from 1979 onward meant that trade with the moribund economy of North Korea held decreasing interest for China. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, during 1989–1991, completed North Korea's virtual isolation. These events led to mounting economic difficulties.

North Korea repeatedly predicted that Korea would be re-united before Kim’s 70th birthday in 1982, and there were fears in the West that Kim would launch a new Korean War. But by this time, the disparity in economic and military power between the North and the South (where the US military presence continues) made such a venture impossible.

As he aged, starting the late 1970s, Kim developed a growth on the back of his neck which was a calcium deposit. Its location near his brain and spinal cord made it inoperable. Because of its unappealing nature, North Korean photographers always shot and filmed him from the same slight-left angle, which became a difficult task as the growth reached the size of a baseball.This growth is still visible on his embalmed body.

In early 1994, Kim began investing in nuclear power to offset energy shortages brought on by economic problems. This was the first of many "nuclear crises". On 19 May 1994, Kim ordered spent fuel to be unloaded from the already disputed nuclear research facility in Yongbyon. Despite repeated chiding from Western nations, Kim continued to conduct nuclear research and carry on with the uranium enrichment programme. In June 1994, former President Jimmy Carter travelled to Pyongyang for talks with Kim. To the astonishment of the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kim agreed to stop his nuclear research program and seemed to be embarking upon a new opening to the West.


By the early 1990s, North Korea was nearly completely isolated from the outside world, except for limited trade and contacts with China, Russia, Vietnam and Cuba. Its economy was virtually bankrupt, crippled by huge expenditures on armaments, with an agricultural sector unable to feed its population, but state-run North Korean media continued to lionize Kim.

On 8 July 1994, at age 82, Kim Il-sung collapsed from a sudden heart attack. After the heart attack, Kim Jong-il ordered the team of doctors who were constantly at his father's side to leave, and for the country's best doctors to be flown in from Pyongyang. After several hours, the doctors from Pyongyang arrived, and despite their best efforts to save him, Kim Il-sung died. After the traditional Confucian Mourning period, his death was declared thirty hours later.

Kim Il-sung's death caused a nationwide mourning crisis, and a ten-day mourning period was declared by Kim Jong-il. His funeral in Pyongyang was attended by hundreds of thousands of people from all over North Korea, many of whom were mourning dramatically (there were reports that many people committed suicide or were killed in the resulting mass mourning crushes), weeping and crying Kim Il-sung's name during the funeral procession. Kim Il-sung's body was placed in a public mausoleum at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his preserved and embalmed body lies under a glass coffin for viewing purposes. His head rests on a Korean-style pillow and he is covered by the flag of the Workers Party of Korea. Video of the funeral at Pyongyang was broadcast on several networks, and can now be found on various websites.

Family life

Kim Il-sung married twice. His first wife, Kim Jong-suk, bore him two sons and a daughter. Kim Jong-il is his oldest son. The other son (Kim Man-il, or Shura Kim) of this marriage died in 1947 in a swimming accident and his wife Kim Jong-suk died at the age of 31 while giving birth to a stillborn baby girl. Kim married Kim Sŏng-ae in 1952, and it is believed he had three children with her: Kim Yŏng-il, Kim Kyŏng-il and Kim Pyong-il. Kim Pyong-il was prominent in Korean politics until he became ambassador to Hungary. Since 1998 he is ambassador to Poland.

Kim was reported to have other illegitimate children, as he was well known for having numerous affairs and secret relationships. They included Kim Hyŏn-nam (born 1972, head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers' Party since 2002) and Chang-hyŏn (born 1971, adopted by Kim Jong-il's sister Kim Kyŏng-hŭi).

Kim's name and image

There are over 500 statues of Kim Il-sung in North Korea. The most prominent are at Kim Il-sung University, Kim Il-sung Stadium, Kim Il-sung Square, Kim Il-sung Bridge and the Immortal Statue of Kim Il-sung. Some statues have been destroyed by explosions or damaged with graffiti. Yeong Saeng ("eternal life") monuments have been erected throughout the country, each dedicated to the departed "Eternal Leader", at which citizens are expected to pay annual tribute on his official birthday or the commemoration of his death.] It is also traditional that North Korean newly weds, immediately after their wedding, go to the nearest statue of Kim Il Sung to lay flowers at his feet.

Kim Il-sung's image is prominent in places associated with public transportation, hanging at every North Korean train station and airport. It is also placed prominently at the border crossings between China and North Korea. His portrait is featured on the front of all recent North Korean won banknotes. Thousands of gifts to Kim Il-sung from foreign leaders are housed in the International Friendship Exhibition.


Kim Il-sung was the author of many works and they are published in books. His works are published by the Workers' Party of Korea Publishing House and among them are "Complete Collection of Kim Il Sung's Works" and "Collection of Kim Il Sung's Selected Works". These include new year speeches, and other speeches delivered on different occasions. Shortly before his death, he also published an autobiography entitled "With the Century" in 8 volumes.

According to official North Korean sources, Kim Il-sung was also the original writer of The Flower Girl, a revolutionary theatrical opera, which was made into a film adaptation in 1972.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia supports I.C.E.Y. - H.O.P.E. (non-profit org)
(International Cooperation of Environmental Youth - Helping Our Polluted Earth) Any advertisement you view helps save the environment!  Thanks!


13 Year Old US Boy to Protest for Peace at G20

Jonathan Lee, 13, from Mississippi is in Seoul, South Korea to promote peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula at the G20 Summit. It is in an effort to bring awareness of the situation in Korea and his suggestion of a Children's Peace Forest in the DMZ.

He is asking the G20 leaders to support:
1.The end of the Korean War with the signing of a peace treaty between the two Koreas and the U.S.
2.A nuclear free Korean peninsula.
3.The creation of a Children's Peace Forest in the DMZ. It's motto is Above Politics, Above Borders, Above Conflicts, Above Ideology. It's all about giving hope to people and children around the world. More......

Music by Misty Edwards (Forerunner Music). Used with permission. 


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