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His Excellency

Kim Il-sung
Official portrait (posthumous, issued 1994)
Eternal President of the Republic (Appellation)
Assumed office
8 July 1994
Supreme Leader of North Korea

In office
9 September 1948 – 8 July 1994
Succeeded by Kim Jong-il
President of North Korea

In office
28 December 1972 – 8 July 1994
Preceded by Position created
Choi Yong-kun, Head of State as President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly
Succeeded by Position abolished
(Proclaimed Eternal President of the Republic after his death)
Prime Minister of North Korea

In office
9 September 1948 – 28 December 1972
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Kim Il (Premier)
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea

In office
11 October 1966 – 8 July 1994
Preceded by Himself as Chairman
Succeeded by Kim Jong-il
Chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers Party of Korea

In office
30 June 1949 – 11 October 1966
Preceded by Kim Tu-bong
Succeeded by Himself as General Secretary
Vice-Chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of North Korea

In office
28 August 1946 – 30 June 1949
Chairman Kim Tu-bong
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Position abolished
Chairman of the North Korea Bureau of the Communist Party of Korea

In office
17 December 1945 – 28 August 1946
General Secretary Pak Hon-yong
Preceded by Kim Yong-bom
Succeeded by Position abolished
Personal details
Born Kim Sŏng-ju
(1912-04-15)15 April 1912
Mangyŏngdae, Heian-nandō, Japanese Korea
Died 8 July 1994(1994-07-08) (aged 82)
Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Resting place Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Nationality North Korean
Political party Workers’ Party of Korea
Spouse(s) Kim Jong-suk (d. 1949)
Kim Song-ae
Children Kim Jong-il
Kim Man-il
Kim Kyong-hui
Kim Kyong-jin
Kim Pyong-il
Kim Yong-il
Residence Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Occupation Eternal President of the Republic
Profession President of North Korea
Religion None (Atheist) (formerly Presbyterian)
Military service
Allegiance  Soviet Union
North Korea Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Service/branch Soviet Armed Forces
Korean People's Army
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank Dae wonsu (Grand Marshal)
Commands All (supreme commander)
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War

Kim Il-sung Korean pronunciation: [͈ɔŋ], also romanised as Kim Il Sung (15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994) was the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly referred to as North Korea, from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994.[1] He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death. He was also the leader of the Workers' Party of Korea from 1949 to 1994 (titled as chairman from 1949 to 1966 and as general secretary after 1966). He invaded South Korea in 1950, and almost succeeded in overrunning the entire peninsula but for UN intervention. The Korean War, sometimes referred to as the Korean Civil War, was stopped with a cease-fire signed on 27 July 1953. As of now, the Korean War has technically not ended.

His tenure as leader of North Korea has often been described as, and he established an all-pervasive cult of personality. From the mid-1960s, he promoted his self-developed Juche variant of socialist organisation,[2] which later replaced Marxism–Leninism as the ideology of the state in 1972. In the Library of Congress Country Study on North Korea in 2009, he was described as "one of the most intriguing figures of the twentieth century". He outlived Joseph Stalin by four decades, Mao Zedong by two, and remained in power during the terms of office of six South Korean presidents, seven Soviet leaders, ten U.S. presidents, ten UK Prime Ministers, twenty-one Japanese prime ministers, five popes of the Roman Catholic Church and coincided with the entire apartheid era of South Africa.

His son Kim Jong-il became his formal successor at the 6th WPK Congress, and he succeeded him in 1994. The North Korean government refers to Kim Il-sung as "The Great Leader" (위대한 수령, widaehan suryŏng)[3] and he is designated in the North Korean constitution as the country's "Eternal President". His birthday is a public holiday in North Korea and is called the Day of the Sun.[4]

Early life

Kim Hyong-jik

Kim Il-sung's birthplace1

Kim Il-sung's birthplace2

Kang Pan-sok

Young Kim Il-sung, age c. 13

Many of the early records of his life come from his own personal accounts and official North Korean government publications, which often conflict with external 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 in the small village of Mangyungbong on 15 April 1912.[5] Mangyungbong sits on a peak in the Rangrim Range of mountains near Pyongyang, Korea.[6] Indeed, the name "Mangyungbong" means "All Seeing Peak."[7] From Mangyungbong there is a panoramic view of the Daidong River far below, where small steamers can be seen carrying trade from the Western Sea to Pyongyang and back again.[7] Born to Kim Hyŏng-jik and Kang Pan-sŏk, who gave him the name Kim Sŏng-ju; Kim also had two younger brothers, Ch’ŏl-chu (or Kim Chul Joo) and Yŏng-ju.[8]

The exact history of Kim's family is somewhat obscure. According to Kim himself the family was neither very poor nor comfortably well-off, but was always a step away from poverty. Kim claims he was raised in a Presbyterian family, that his maternal grandfather was a Protestant minister, that his father had gone to a missionary school and was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and that his parents were very active in the religious community.[9][10][11] According to the official version, Kim's family participated in anti-Japanese activities and in 1920 they fled to Manchuria. Like most Korean families, they resented the Japanese occupation of the entire Korean peninsula, which began on August 29, 1910.[7] Another view seems to be that his family settled in Manchuria like many Koreans at the time to escape famine. Nonetheless, Kim's parents, especially Kim's mother (Kang Ban Suk) played a role in some of the activist anti-Japanese struggle that was sweeping the peninsula.[12] But, their exact involvement - whether their cause was missionary, nationalist, or both - is unclear.[13][14] Still, Japanese repression of any and all opposition was brutal, resulting in the arrest and detention of more than 52,000 Korean citizens in 1912 alone.[15] The repression forced many Korean families to flee Korea and settle in Manchuria. The whole Kim family fled to Manchuria in 1920.

Communist and guerrilla activities

There is much controversy about Kim's political career before the founding of North Korea, with some sources indicating he was an imposter. Several sources indicate that the Kim Il-sung name had previously been used by a prominent early leader of the Korean resistance, Kim Kyung-cheon(김경천).[14] Grigory Mekler, who is 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.[16] 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.[14]

However, historian Andrei Lankov has stated that the claim that the name Kim Il-sung was switched with the name of 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.[17] Historian Bruce Cumings argues that the assertion Kim was an imposter parallels the North's propaganda that he singlehandedly defeated the Japanese.[18] The official version of Kim's guerrilla life is believed to be heavily embellished as a part of the subsequent personality cult, particularly his portrayal as a boy-conspirator who joined the resistance at 14 and had founded a battle-ready army at 19.[14]

The following details of his career are therefore disputed.

In October 1926, Kim founded the Down-With-Imperialism Union.[citation needed] Kim attended Whasung Military Academy in 1926, but when later finding the academy's training methods outdated, he quit in 1927. From that time, he attended Yuwen Middle School in Jilin up to 1930,[19] 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.[20][21]

In 1931, Kim joined the Communist Party of China. (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.) He joined various anti-Japanese guerrilla groups in northern China. Feelings against the Japanese ran high in Manchuria, but as of May 1930 Manchuria was not occupied by the Japanese. On 30 May 1930 a spontaneous violent uprising in eastern Manchuria arose in which peasants attacked some local villages in the name of resisting "Japanese aggression."[22] This unplanned reckless and unfocused uprising was easily put down by the authorities. Because of the attack, the Japanese began to plan an occupation of Manchuria. In a speech before a meeting of Young Communist League delegates meeting on 20 May 1931 in Yenchi County in Manchuria, Kim warned the delegates against such unplanned uprisings as the May 30, 1930 uprising in eastern Manchuria.[23]

Four months later, on 18 September 1931, the "Mukden Incident" occurred in which a relatively weak dynamite explosive charge went off near a Japanese railroad in the town of Mukden in Manchuria. Although no damage occurred, the Japanese used the incident to send armed forces into Manchuria and appoint a new puppet government.

Kim Il Sung's birthplace in Mangyongdae-guyok

Kim Il-sung in 1946

The Soviet Union declared war on Japan in August 1945. The United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945).

Kim developed the policy and ideology of Juche (self-reliance 주체 사상) and turned North Korea into a powerful and prosperous nation.

In 1980, he 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.


Kim Il-sung was the author of many works which are published by the Workers' Party of Korea Publishing House, such as the 100-volume Complete Collection of Kim Il Sung's Works (김일성전집)[24] and his 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.[25][26][27]

Kim Il-sung also broadcast a radio broadcast called, "Go All Out For Victory in the War."


See also

  • Cold War
  • Kimilsungia
  • Song of General Kim Il-sung
  • Kim Tu-bong


  1. "김일성, 쿠바의 ‘혁명영웅’ 체게바라를 만난 날" (in Korean). DailyNK. 15 April 2008. 
  2. Herman, Steve (13 July 2004). "North Korea: ten years later". Asian Research. Retrieved 2 November 2008. 
  3. Hoare, James E. (2012) Historical Dictionary of Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  4. "Congratulations to supreme leader on Day of the Sun". George Washington University. 21 April 2012. p. 4. 
  5. Baik Bong, Kim il Sung: Volume I: From Birth to Triumphant Return to Homeland (Dar Al-talia: Beirut, Lebaon, 1973) p. 12.
  6. Baik Bong, Kim Il Sung: Volume I, p. 11.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Baik Bong, Kim Il Sung: Volume I, p. 12.
  8. Baik Bong, Kim Il Sung: Volume I, p. 15.
  9. Kimjongilia – The Movie – Learn More
  10. "PETER HITCHENS: North Korea, the last great Marxist bastion, is a real-life Truman show". Daily Mail. London. 8 October 2007. 
  11. Byrnes, Sholto (7 May 2010). "The Rage Against God, By Peter Hitchens". The Independent. London. 
  12. Baik Bong, Kim Il Sung:Volume I, p. 16.
  13. Lankov, Andrei (2002). From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea 1945–1960. Rutgers University Press. p. 53. ISBN 0813531179. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Becker, Jasper (2005). Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-517044-3. 
  15. Baik Bong, Kim Il Sung: Volume I, p. 13.
  16. Staff writer. "Soviets groomed Kim Il Sung for leadership". Vladivostok News. 
  17. Lankov, Andrei (2002). From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea 1945–1960. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-8135-3117-9. 
  18. Cumings, Bruce (1997). Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York: W W Norton & Co. p. 160. ISBN 0-393-04011-9. 
  19. Sang-Hun, Choe; Lafraniere, Sharon (27 August 2010). "Carter Wins Release of American in North Korea". The New York Times. 
  20. Lankov, Andrei, From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea 1945–1960, Rutgers University Press (2002), p. 52.
  21. Suh Dae-Sook, Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader, Columbia University Press (1998) p. 7.
  22. Kim Il-Sung, "Let Us Repudiate the 'Left' Adventurist Line and Follow the Revolutionary Organizational Line" contained in On Juche in Our Revolution (Foreign Languages Publishers: Pyongyang, Korea, 1973)3.
  23. Kim Il-Sung, "Let Us Repudiate the 'Left' Adventurist Line and Follow the Revolutionary Organizational Line" contained in On Juche in Our Revolution, pp.1-15.
  24. "Complete Collection of Kim Il Sung's Works" Off Press
  25. 가극 작품 – NK Chosun
  26. 2008年03月26日, 金日成原创《卖花姑娘》5月上海唱响《卖花歌》 – 搜狐娱乐
  27. "With the Century" – Complete biography of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung –

Further reading

  • Blair, Clay, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, Naval Institute Press (2003)
  • Goncharov, Sergei N., Lewis, John W. and Xue Litai, Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War (1993)
  • Kim Il-sung (1993). With the Century. Korean Friendship Association. 
  • Lee Chong-sik. "Kim Il-Song of North Korea." Asian Survey. University of California Press. Vol. 7, No. 6, June 1967. DOI 10.2307/2642612. Available at Jstor.
  • Mansourov, Aleksandr Y., Stalin, Mao, Kim, and China's Decision to Enter the Korean War, 16 September – 15 October 1950: New Evidence from the Russian Archives, Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issues 6–7 (Winter 1995/1996)
  • Martin, Bradley (2004). Under The Loving Care Of The Fatherly Leader: North Korea And The Kim Dynasty. St. Martins. 
  • Sudoplatov, Pavel Anatoli, Schecter, Jerrold L., and Schecter, Leona P., Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness — A Soviet Spymaster, Little Brown, Boston (1994)
  • Suh Dae-Sook, Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader. New York: Columbia University Press (1988)
  • Weathersby, Kathryn, The Soviet Role in the Early Phase of the Korean War, The Journal of American-East Asian Relations 2, no. 4 (Winter 1993)
  • Christian Kracht, Eva Munz, Lukas Nikol, The Ministry Of Truth: Kim Jong Il's North Korea, Feral House, October 2007, 132 pages, 88 color photographs, ISBN 978-1-932595-27-7
  • NKIDP: Crisis and Confrontation on the Korean Peninsula: 1968–1969, A Critical Oral History
  • Baik Bong, "From Birth to Triumphant Return to Homeland," "From Building Democratic Korea to Chollima Flight," and "From Independent National Economy to 10-Point Political Programme"

External links

Political offices
New title Prime Minister of the DPRK
Succeeded by
Kim Il (As Premier)
Preceded by
Choi Yong-kun
as President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly
President of the DPRK
(Eternal President of the Republic since 5 September 1998)

Succeeded by
Yang Hyong-sop
as President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly
Party political offices
New title Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea
Himself as General Secretary
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of Worker's Party
Succeeded by
Kim Jong-il
Vacant until 1997
General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea
Military offices
New title Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army
Succeeded by
Kim Jong-il

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