Kim Il-sung

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Kim Il-sung
김일성
金日成
Image:Kim il sung.jpg

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In office
1946 – 1994
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Kim Jong-il

In office
1972 – present (deceased, 1994)
Preceded by Choi Yong-kun

Born 15 April 1912
Died 8 July 1994
Pyongyang, North Korea
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Kim Il-sung
Chosŏn'gŭl: 김일성
Hanja: 金日成
McCune-Reischauer: Kim Ilsŏng
Revised Romanization: Gim Il-seong
North Korea
Image:Flag of North Korea.svg

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
North Korea



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Kim Il-sung (15 April 19128 July 1994) was the leader of North Korea from its founding in 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 does however continue as 'eternal president' post mortem), although his real power came from his position as General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party where he exercised dictatorial power. As leader of North Korea, he ended up switching from a Marxist-Leninist ideology to the 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 Korea.

Contents

[edit] Early years

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, the eldest of the three sons of Kim Hyŏng-jik and Kang Pan-sŏk, was born Kim Sŏng-ju, 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 rumor 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 North.

The exact history of Kim's family is obscure, due ironically to the deification of all things related to Kim in North Korea. According to the official version, Kim's family was active in opposition to the Japanese, 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. Kim attended 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. He joined various anti-Japanese guerrilla groups in northern China, eventually becoming a member of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army, a guerrilla group led by the Communist Party of China.

While in Manchuria 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 from a former commander who had died.<ref>Staff writer. "Soviets groomed Kim Il Sung for leadership", Vladivostok News, 2003-01-10. Retrieved on 2006-11-16.</ref> On the other hand, some Koreans simply did not believe that someone as young as Kim could have anything to do with the legend.<ref>Hong An. Interview. The Cold War. CNN, Washington, DC. 1997-02-05. (Transcript).

</ref> Kim stayed in this unit from about 1935, rising in the ranks and becoming a commander in 1941, when the Japanese drove the guerrillas from northern China. Kim had to escape to the Soviet Union and 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 Korean Communist Party had been founded in 1925, but soon was disbanded due to internal strife. In 1931, Kim had joined the Chinese Communist Party. 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. (See also Korean Workers' Party.) During his early years as leader, he consolidated his power through purges, including assassination and execution of dissident elements within the Party.

One of Kim's most lasting accomplishments was his establishment of a professional army, the North Korean People's Army (NKPA), formed from a cadre of guerillas and former soldiers who had gained combat experience in battles against the Japanese and later Nationalist Chinese troops. From their ranks, using Soviet advisors 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.<ref>Blair, Clay, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, Naval Institute Press (2003)</ref>

[edit] Korean War

By 1948, it was apparent that, due to political and ideological polarization between the two emerging Korean governments, immediate re-unification would not be possible. The Soviets responded by appointing Kim Prime Minister of the new Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), forming a new country that would henceforth be commonly known as "North Korea". Following the standard pattern in the Soviet allies, the Communist Party "merged" with several smaller groups to form the North Korean Workers' Party which, in 1949, merged with its southern counterpart to become the Korean Workers Party (KWP) with Kim as party chairman.

On June 25, 1950, North Korea launched an attack on the anti-communist, capitalist Republic of Korea (see Korean War) with the stated intent being the "liberation" of southern Korea and the unification of the country under a communist government. At the time, leaders of the United States and its allies believed that Joseph Stalin had ordered this attack. Archival material now suggests<ref>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): 432</ref><ref>Goncharov, Sergei N., Lewis, John W. and Xue Litai, Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War (1993)</ref><ref>Mansourov, Aleksandr Y., Stalin, Mao, Kim, and China's Decision to Enter the Korean War, September 16-October 15, 1950: New Evidence from the Russian Archives, Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issues 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 94-107</ref> the decision was Kim's own initiative. However, the fact that Stalin had provided military advisors to Kim and extensively armed North Korean army and air forces just prior to the invasion (far in excess of any conceivable defensive need) makes it clear that Stalin was perfectly aware of and was instrumental in facilitating Kim's military aggression. Moreover, it is now also known 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 defense program cuts, leading Stalin to conclude that the Truman administration would not intervene in Korea.<ref>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)</ref>

In contrast, the People's Republic of China acquiesced only reluctantly to the invasion after being told (erroneously) by Kim that Stalin had approved the action,<ref>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): 432</ref><ref>Goncharov, Sergei N., Lewis, John W. and Xue Litai, Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War (1993)</ref><ref>Mansourov, Aleksandr Y., Stalin, Mao, Kim, and China's Decision to Enter the Korean War, September 16-October 15, 1950: New Evidence from the Russian Archives, Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issues 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 94-107</ref> and did not provide direct military support (other than logistics channels) until United Nations 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 U.N. forces led by the U.S. By October, the U.N. forces had retaken Seoul and on October 19 captured P’yŏngyang, forcing Kim and his government to flee to China.

On October 25, 1950, after sending various warnings of their intent to intervene if UN forces did not halt their advance, Chinese troops in the thousands crossed the Yalu River and entered the war as allies of the NKPA. Greatly outnumbered, UN troops were forced to withdraw; Chinese troops retook P’yŏngyang in December and Seoul in January 1951. In March U.N. forces began a new offensive, retaking Seoul. After a series of offensives and counter-offensives by both sides, followed by a grueling period of largely static trench warfare, the front was stabilized along what eventually became the permanent "Armistice Line" of July 27, 1953.

[edit] Leader of North Korea

Restored as leader of North Korea, Kim continued purging his rivals, particularly the former southern Korean Communist leadership, and embarked on the reconstruction of the country devastated by the war. He launched a five-year national economic plan to establish a Soviet-style command economy, with all industry owned by the state and all agriculture collectivised. The economy was based on heavy industry, particularly arms production. North Korea retained huge armed forces to defend the 1953 ceasefire line.

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. In 1956, anti-Kim elements encouraged by de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union emerged within the Party to criticize Kim and demand reforms.<ref>Lankov, Andrei N., Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956. Honolulu:Hawaii University Press (2004)</ref> After a period of vacillation, Kim instituted a brutal purge, executing some opponents and forcing the rest into exile.<ref>Lankov, Andrei N., Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956. Honolulu:Hawaii University Press (2004)</ref> 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 were required to address him as "Great Leader" (widaehan suryŏng 위대한 수령). Kim developed the policy and ideology of Juche (self-reliance), and North Korea became increasingly isolated from the rest of the world.

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, 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 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 defence minister, O Chin-u. At the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980, Kim publicly designated his son as his successor.

[edit] Later years

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 backward 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, added to the continuing high level of military expenditure, led to a mounting economic crisis. The contrast between North Korea's poverty and the booming economy of South Korea became increasingly glaring, but the residents of North Korea were shut off from news of the outside world.

During the 1970s, Kim's personality cult grew more extensive. The state propaganda claimed that Kim personally supervised virtually every aspect of life in North Korea, and almost supernatural powers were attributed to him. The North Korean government established 'Pleasure Brigades' of young girls selected from secondary schools to service Kim and other high Party officials.<ref>The Real Picture of Human Rights in North Korea</ref><ref>Martin, Bradley, Under The Loving Care Of The Fatherly Leader: North Korea And The Kim Dynasty, St. Martins (October 2004)ISBN 0-312-32221</ref> Citizens believed hostile to the Kim regime were either executed or deported to special dictatorship target areas, where they were imprisoned in labor camps and worked in conditions similar to Soviet gulags.<ref>The Real Picture of Human Rights in North Korea</ref><ref>Martin, Bradley, Under The Loving Care Of The Fatherly Leader: North Korea And The Kim Dynasty, St. Martins (October 2004)ISBN 0-312-32221</ref>

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. Instead, Kim placed his son in charge of developing nuclear weapons.

As he aged, Kim developed a large growth on the back of his neck. Its location near his brain and spinal cord made it inoperable. Photographs showing the enormous tumor were forbidden, which was a difficult task as the tumor became larger than a canteloupe, which is why in later life, all photographs of Kim are from the same slight-left profile angle.

[edit] Death

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, with an agricultural sector unable to feed its population, but North Korean media continued to lionize Kim. Kim died suddenly of a heart attack in P’yŏngyang 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 Kŭmsusan Memorial Palace. A three-year period of "official mourning" took place after his death; during this time, North Koreans could be punished for not expressing enough grief at the loss of their leader. As a result, the people seemed to be exaggerating and forcing their grief, for fear that they would be disciplined if they didn't do so. In actuality, it is arguable that many North Koreans were indifferent to, if not content with, Kim's passing. Video of the funeral at Pyongyang was broadcast on several networks, and can now be found on various internet sites.

[edit] 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 eldest son, and the other son (Kim Man-il, or Shura Kim) died in 1947 in a swimming accident. Kim Jong-suk died in 1949 while giving birth to a stillborn baby. Kim married Kim Sŏng-ae in 1962, and it is believed he had three or four children with her: Kim Yŏng-il, Kim Kyŏng-il and Kim P’yŏng-il. Kim P’yŏng-il was prominent in Korean politics until he became ambassador to Hungary.

Kim was reported to have other illegitimate children, including Kim Hyŏn-nam (born 1972, head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers' Party since 2002)<ref>[1]</ref> and Chang-hyŏn (born 1971, adopted by Kim Jong-il's sister Kim Kyŏng-hŭi).[2]

After his death, his son Kim Jong-Il replaced the Gregorian calendar in North Korea and put in place a calendar in which the years begin with the birth of Kim Il-sung. For more information about this, see Juche.

[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Blair, Clay, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, 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 (2003). With the Century. Korean Friendship Association.
  • Lankov, Andrei N., Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956. Honolulu:Hawaii University Press (2004)
  • Mansourov, Aleksandr Y., Stalin, Mao, Kim, and China's Decision to Enter the Korean War, September 16-October 15, 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. ISBN 0-312-32221.
  • 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)

[edit] External links


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Kim Il-sung

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