KIM IL-SUNG Biography - Polititians


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Name: Kim Il-sung                                                                           
Born: 15 April 1912 Pyongyang, Japanese Korea                                               
Died: 8 July 1994 Pyongyang, DPRK                                                           
Kim Il-sung (15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994) was the North Korean leader from its             
founding in early 1948 until his death, when he was succeeded by his son Kim                 
Jong-il. 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 where he exercised autocratic power. As leader of North Korea, he ended             
up switching from a Marxist-Leninist ideology to his self-developed Juche idea               
and established a personality cult. North Korea officially refers to him as the             
"Great Leader" and he is designated in the constitution as the country's "Eternal           
President". His birthday and the day of his death are public holidays in North               
Much 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. He was born in Nam-ri, Kophyŏng           
District, Taedong County, South P'yŏngan Province (currently the Mangyŏngdae               
area of P'yŏngyang), then under Japanese occupation. The ancestral seat (pon’gwan)       
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. Moreover, a persistent rumour alleges that during the               
North Korean occupation of Seoul in the Korean War, the North Koreans collected             
all the available Chŏnju Kim genealogies and took them to the Democratic People's           
Republic of Korea.                                                                           
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 Protestant Christian family with strong ties to the church: his             
maternal grandfather was a Protestant minister, his father had gone to a                     
missionary school, and both his parents were reportedly very active in the                   
religious community. According to the official version, Kim's family                         
participated in Japanese opposition activities and in 1920 they fled to                     
Manchuria, where he became fluent in Chinese. 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 Yulin             
Middle School in Jilin, 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 subversive activities. At               
seventeen, Kim had become the youngest member of an underground Marxist                     
organization with less 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.                 
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 March 8, 1941.                           
Also in 1935 Kim took the name Kim Il-sung, meaning "become the sun." By the                 
end of the war, this name would be legendary in Korea, and some historians have             
claimed that it was not Kim Sŏng-ju who originally made the name famous. 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 someone as young as Kim could have anything to do with the             
legend. 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               
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 June 4. 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 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.                                         
The Communist Party of Korea had been founded in 1925, but had soon been                     
disbanded due to internal strife. In 1931, Kim had joined the Communist Party of             
China. When he returned to Korea, in September 1945, with the Soviet forces, he             
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 U.S.-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.                   
One of Kim's most enduring accomplishments was his establishment of a                       
professional army, the North Korean People's Army (NKPA), 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 NKPA with modern heavy tanks, trucks, artillery,             
and small arms (at the time, the South Korean Army had nothing remotely                     
comparable either in numbers of troops or equipment). 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.                                       
By 1948, it was apparent that, due to political and ideological polarization                 
between the two emerging Korean governments, immediate peaceful re-unification               
would not be possible. After the South formally declared independence as the                 
Republic of Korea, the people of northern Korea chose Kim Il Sung as the prime               
minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), forming a new                 
country that would henceforth be commonly known as "North Korea". 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.                                                           
U.S. occupied South Korea (ROK) usurped power from locally controlled "People's             
Committees" and reinstalled many of the former land owners and police that had               
held office when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. These moves were met               
with heavy resistance and open rebellion in some parts of South Korea such as               
the southern islands. After several altercations at the border (allegedly                   
instigated in part by the U.S. command), it appeared that civil war might be                 
inevitable. North Korean troops crossed the border on 25 June 1950 intending to             
unify the country under a communist government. Evidence suggests that the North's           
bid to reunify the country was met with a wide range of popular support across               
the south. Archival material suggests that the decision was Kim's                           
own initiative rather than a Soviet one. Evidence suggests that Soviet                       
intelligence, through its espionage sources in the U.S. government and British               
SIS, had obtained information on the limitations of U.S. atomic bomb stockpiles             
as well as defence program cuts, leading Stalin to conclude that the Truman                 
administration would not intervene in Korea.                                                 
The People's Republic of China acquiesced only reluctantly to the idea of Korean             
reunification after being told by Kim that Stalin had approved the action,                   
and did not provide direct military support (other than logistics channels)                 
until United Nations troops, largely comprised of U.S. forces, had nearly                   
reached the Yalu River late in 1950. North Korean forces captured Seoul and                 
occupied most of the South, but were soon driven back by the U.S. led invasion.             
By October, U.S. forces had retaken Seoul and on October 19 captured P’yŏngyang,         
forcing Kim and his government to flee to China.                                             
On 25 October 1950, after sending various warnings of their intent to intervene             
if UN forces did not halt their advance, Chinese troops in their thousands                   
crossed the Yalu River and entered the war as allies of the NKPA. The UN troops             
were forced to withdraw and Chinese troops retook P’yŏngyang in December and             
Seoul in January 1951. In March U.N. and U.S. forces began a new offensive,                 
retaking Seoul. After a series of offensives and counter-offensives by both                 
sides, followed by a gruelling period of largely static trench warfare, the                 
front was stabilized along what eventually became the permanent "Armistice Line"             
of 27 July 1953. North Korea was devastated by U.S. bombardment with few                     
buildings left standing. Upwards of 3.5 million Koreans were killed in the                   
battles, and a long list of North Korean war crimes have been documented                     
including use of biological warfare such as a constituted effort to spread                   
cholera, and the widespread massacre of civilians.                                           
Restored as leader of North Korea, Kim embarked on the reconstruction of 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 ceasefire line, although no foreign troops were permanently stationed in               
North Korea.                                                                                 
During the 1950s, Kim was seen as an orthodox Communist leader. He rejected the             
USSR's destalinization and began to distance himself from his sponsor, including             
the removal of any mention of his Red Army career from official history. Kim was             
seen by many 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 found guilty of treason               
and forcing the rest into exile. When the Sino-Soviet split developed in the                 
1960s, Kim initially sided with the Chinese but never severed his relations with             
the Soviets. When the Cultural Revolution broke out in China after 1966, Kim                 
veered back to the Soviet side. At the same time, he established an extensive               
personality cult, and all North Koreans began to address him as "Great Leader".             
Kim developed the policy and ideology of Juche (self-reliance)                               
rather than becoming a soviet satellite state.                                               
In the mid-1960s, Kim became impressed with the efforts of Hồ Chí Minh to                 
reunify Vietnam through guerrilla warfare and thought something similar might be             
possible in Korea. Infiltration and subversion efforts were thus greatly stepped             
up against U.S. occupying forces and the leadership that they supported. Efforts             
that 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 U.S. forces in and around South Korea, engaging U.S. Army troops in                   
firefights 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. By this time, 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.                                                                               
From about this time, however, North Korea encountered increasing economic                   
difficulties after many successful decades of economic development. The economic             
reforms of Deng Xiaoping in China from 1979 onward meant that trade with                     
socialist 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 along with economic sanctions                 
imposed by the U.S. led to mounting economic difficulties. North Korea                       
experienced more rapid industrialization, a lower infant mortality rate, and                 
higher life expectancy than South Korea for several decades. However, by the                 
1990's the lack of trading partners after the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S.             
sanctions, and damaging floods, caused North Korea to face years of hardship.               
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 U.S. military presence continues)                 
made such a venture impossible.                                                             
As he aged, Kim developed a large growth on the back of his neck - a calcium                 
deposit, or hok in Korean, usually resulting from childhood malnutrition. Its               
location near his brain and spinal cord made it inoperable. Because of its                   
unappealing nature, North Korean photographers always shot from the same slight-left         
angle, which became a difficult task as the growth reached the size of a                     
In 1994, Kim began investing in nuclear power to offset energy issues brought on             
by economic problems. This was the first of many "nuclear                                   
crises", although the U.S. had nuclear weapons in South Korea as early as 1953,             
and threatened to use them on numerous occasions. 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 program. In June 1994, former President Jimmy Carter travelled to                 
Pyongyang for talks with Kim. To the astonishment of the United States and the               
IAEA, Kim agreed to stop his nuclear research program and seemed to be embarking             
upon a new opening to the West.                                                             
By the 1990s, North Korea was nearly isolated from the outside world, except for             
limited contacts with China. Its economy was virtually bankrupt, crippled by                 
huge expenditure on armaments and sanctions, with an agricultural sector unable             
to feed its population due to a lack of arable land, but North Korean media                 
continued to lionize Kim. Kim died suddenly of a heart attack in Pyongyang on               
July 8, 1994, bequeathing the country's mounting crisis to Kim Jong-il. His                 
funeral in Pyongyang was attended by hundreds of thousands of people, many of               
whom were weeping and crying Kim's name during the funeral procession. Kim Il-sung's         
body was placed in a public mausoleum at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Now his               
preserved and embalmed body lies under a glass coffin. His head rests on a                   
pillow and he is covered by a red flag acting as a blanket, possibly a symbol of             
communism. Video of the funeral at Pyongyang was broadcast on several networks,             
and can now be found on various internet sites.