Kim Il Sung
(1912-1994)

Born in Man'gyongdae, near P'yongyang in what is now North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), formerly the province of Korea, a part of the Japanese Imperium. Kim attended high school in the state of Manchuria, also under Japanese rule at the time. Arrested and jailed at age sixteen he left school to join the guerilla movement against Japan, rising to the position of unit commander in 1941. Fighting alongside both Chinese and Soviet regulars for the duration of the war, he returned to his homeland in autumn 1945 in the vanguard of the Soviet liberation force.

Under the auspices of the Soviets it was inevitable that the Northern half of the Korean peninsula would be ruled by communists and so it came to pass that Kim became the head of the head the Provisional People's Committee in February 1946, adding the titles of Chairman of the local Communist Party Premier of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in September 1948.

Seemingly not content with just the northern part of the peninsula Kim launched a massive invasion of the Republic of Korea in June 1950. This was the first test of the newly instituted United Nations which sent an allied force to repulse the invading armies. The war lasted until 1953 and left massive fatalities on both sides of the conflict - not least the 900,000 Chinese dead sent into battle by fellow communist Mao Tse Tung (qv) - but after the smoke cleared the two countries remained apart and the Southern Koreans became more hardened toward their Northern neighbours.

By far the wealthiest part of the peninsula before 1950 the industrialised North was virtually destroyed in the war and had to be rebuilt. To do accomplish this task Kim (who escaped any blame for the devastation by continually accusing the South of starting the war) went the way of most Marxist autocrats by launching a series of three, five and seven year economic revival plans. Concurrently he purged the political class of potential rivals and replaced them with his loyalists. At this time Kim also gave birth to his own interpretation of Marxist-Leninism called Juche. Also known as Kim Il Sung Thought it is essentially a policy of self reliance it urged ideological self-reliance (for the DPRK - not it's individual citizens, natch), independence in political work, economic self-sustenance, and a vigourous self-defense of the country.

With a new constitution written and rubber stamped in 1972, Kim reorganized the bureaucracy which gave him absolute control over the government and declared himself President. Groomed from an early age to take over from the Great Leader, Kim's son, Kim Jong Il (qv) took over the daily to day running of the Party. He continued to run the economy into the ground and make life miserable for the people under his suzereinty while he himself lived a luxurious life until his untimely (in as much that he should have been strangled at birth) death in 1994.

Length of Rule - Forty Six years

Related Links

CIA factbook on North Korea

Out There News

Korean Central News Agency

Books

The Korean War

Max Hastings

The Two Koreas

Don Oberdorfer

Kim Il Sung

Dae Sook-Suh

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