KIM IL SUNG
Kim Il Sung (1912-1994, ruled 1948-1994) was the world's longest serving ruler. He ruled formally from August 25, 1948 to his death on July 8, 1994. He was known to his people as "Great Leader," "the Sun of the Nation," and the "Legendary Hero." According to James Walsh of Time magazine, Kim Il Sung was "a god-king to his own people, a monster to those who waged war against him and a riddle to almost everyone else.”
The extraordinary reign of this extraordinary man began on September 19, 1945 when a chubby 33-year old manclaiming to be Kim Il Sung — a famous Koreans guerrilla fighter who was thought to have been killed by the Japanese in Manchuria — arrived in North Korea, dressed in a the uniform of Soviet captain, a few weeks after the end of World War II after spending the previous five years in the Soviet Union.
Kim Il Sung’s regime established a socialist command economy, with priority development of heavy industry. Agriculture was collectivized. A Marxist-Leninist political model of autonomy and self-reliance — called juche (sometimes rendered juch’e) — was popularized starting in 1955 as the guiding ideology in politics, economics, national defense, and foreign policy. By 1956, Kim Il Sung had achieved unchallenged supremacy in the KWP. With tight control over all aspects of the North Korean polity and society, Kim Il Sung became the “Great Leader” and the object of a pervasive personality cult.
David E. Sanger wrote in the New York Times: “By the time Kim Il Sung died” in 1994 “at the age of 82, there was not one "Great Leader" running North Korea. There were three. There was the man seen around the world as a Stalinist maniac, who 44 years ago sent his troops pouring over the 38th parallel to unify the Korean Peninsula on his own terms, and who four decades later burst again onto the front pages as a man in search of a nuclear bomb to save his regime. This was the Kim who intimidated his neighbors into silence, who used his unpredictability as a weapon. [Source: David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 10, 1994]
“There was the Kim Il Sung of North Korean myth, whose likeness dominates Pyongyang and every town square in the form of 30,000 statues, the man who was lionized in song as the "sun of the country" for single-handedly defeating two enemies in one generation: Japan and the United States. And, in recent years, there was the grandfatherly Kim Il Sung, the smiling leader seeking respect for his economically disabled nation, the man who three weeks ago embraced Jimmy Carter and used him as a conduit to President Clinton, who was not yet born when Mr. Kim was installed as North Korea's leader. It was that incarnation of Mr. Kim that led the former President to declare, with little hint of skepticism, that a "miracle" had occurred. One of the world's most fearsome dictators actually sounded reasonable and eager to end his confrontation with the West.
They were all images that Mr. Kim, the peasants' son who went on to become the longest-surviving Communist leader of the cold war, knew how to exploit brilliantly. When his death came early Friday morning, he had been staging a remarkable international comeback, a shadow from the old newsreels of the Korean War who thrust himself into the atomic glare of the 1990's: An Enduring Puzzle To the Outside World.”
Books: “The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History” by Dan Oberdorfer (Basic Books, 1999); “Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty” by Bradley K. Martin (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, 2005) “Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea” by Jasper Becker. Oxford University, 2005]
Kim Il Sung's Early Life
According to North Korean legend, Kim Il Sung was possessed by the spirit of Mount Paeku the extinct volcano in North Korea where the founder the Korean race descended to earth. When he was 12 he walked 250 miles back to Korea to obverse the suffering of his people in Korea; when he was 15 he founded the "Down with Imperial Union”; at 17 he was teaching fourth graders the basic doctrines Marx and dialectical materialism; and at 19 he founded the precursor to the Korean army.
According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Il Sing was the son of freedom fighters who fought against the Japanese occupiers and his father was the leader of the anti-Japanese resistance and his grandfather was a tenant farmer. Framed on the walls of many homes in North Korea is a poem said to have been written by Kim Il Sung's father called "Pine Trees of Namsan." "I will be unyielding while restoring the country," it reads, "though I am torn to pieces."
In truth Kim Il Sung was the son of a tenant farmer, born as Kim Song Ju on April 15, 1912 in a province rural southwest of Pyongyang. At the age of eight his family moved to Manchuria to escape Japanese persecution. His father ran an herbal pharmacy in Manchuria. Kim Il Sung’s father died when he was 14 and his mother when he was 16.
Kim was brought up in a Christian family and played a church organ in his youth. His parents and first wife were Christians. The first wife was the mother of Kim Jong Il. Kim Il Sung’s mother — Kang Pan-sok — was a Presbyterian named after St Peter (Pan-sok means "rock").
Describing 14-year-old Kim Il Sung, an old friend recalled, "he was tall, even then, and he smiled a lot. But he didn't say much." His formal education ended after the eighth grade. In the mid-1920s, Kim was put in jail for reading anti-Japanese literature in his school book club. After six months in jail he was released with the help of a Methodist minister.
David E. Sanger wrote in the New York Times: “Kim Il Sung was born to a peasant couple in a small, mud-walled house on the outskirts of Pyongyang...shortly after the Japanese began their formal occupation of Korea. For years that house has been visited daily by thousands of North Koreans. Mr. Kim often used his simple birthplace to contrast his own early life with Pyongyang's American missionaries and Japanese residents. "In the 'Westerners village,' at the time inhabited by Americans and the Japanese settlers, brick houses, shops and churches increased in number," he recalled vividly many decades later, but across town "the slum quarters were getting bigger." [Source: David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 10, 1994]
“It is nearly impossible to separate truth and fiction in the state-sponsored mythology about Kim Il Sung's youth, but in all the stories there is a constant subtext: Mr. Kim's struggles against greater powers around him, particularly America and Japan. Those two countries controlled the world in Mr. Kim's view, and it was the Kim family's destiny to battle them. In his memoirs, published two years ago, Mr. Kim maintained that his great-grandfather set fire to the General Sherman, a "U.S. imperialist aggressors' ship" because its crew went about "stealing the people's possessions and raping the women" while sailing up the Taedong River to Pyongyang in 1866. Mr. Kim's biographer at the University of Hawaii, Suh Dae Sook, calls these stories "politically motivated fabrications." but most of them seem impossible to verify or disprove. Whether the stories are true or not, the myths have become the man.”
Kim Il Sung’s Account of His Childhood and Family
Christopher Richardson wrote in SinoNK: “To this day, the childhood hagiography of Kim Il-sung remains one of the key didactic tools of the North Korean state. The stories of his childhood resound from the walls of “Kim Il-sung Research Institutes” in schools, to the books children enjoy, to the texts electronically loaded on their Samjiyeon tablets. He was born an ordinary man named Kim Song-ju on 15 April 1912, at the zenith of western and Japanese imperialism. In the first of his eight-volume memoir, he describes the era before his birth as a time of subjugation and national humiliation for the Korean race, and trumpets the new era of his guerrilla struggle. [Source: Christopher Richardson, SinoNK, part of the North Korea network. The Guardian, February 16, 2015]
“Yet his birth also coincided with an omen of imperialism’s doom; it was the day the Titanic disappeared beneath the waters of the North Atlantic. In North Korea’s revolutionary cosmology, there is no such thing as chance. There is only destiny. According to Kim Il-sung, his great-grandfather moved from North Jeolla Province, settling his family in Mangyongdae, then a village on the outskirts of the capital Pyongyang. For generations his family laboured there as farmers and grave keepers, and their suffering would come to symbolise the Korean nation under feudalism and Japanese imperialism. Kim describing them as “the epitome of the misfortune and distress that befell our people after they lost their country”.
“In the memoir, Kim Il-sung’s childhood reminiscences lurch from affectations of modesty to statements of self-aggrandisement. In his preface, for example, the Great Leader claims: “I have never considered my life to be extraordinary.” Two pages later he declares: “my whole life… is the epitome of the history of my country and my people.” Kim even insists it was his own great-grandfather who led the attack on the General Sherman when it sailed the Taedong into Pyongyang in 1866, achieving one of Korea’s first great victories against western economic and military might. Kim’s ancestors glories foreshadow the greater ones to come.
Kim Il Sung's Early Revolutionary Life
There is some evidence that Kim Il Sung was a guerilla leader of some note, fighting against the Japanese in the 1930s before fleeing to the Soviet Union. Manchuria, like Korea, was occupied by the Japanese. Kim Il Sung is believed to have joined an anti-Japanese militia and picked up the name Kim Il Sung (a common nickname among fighters). He was reportedly a seasoned guerrilla fighter who often subsisted on little food or water and once commanded a force of 300 men. He became well known enough that the Japanese put a price on his head. But whether these achievements were in fact achieved by Kim Il Sung, the leader, or someone else is matter of some dispute.
When the Japanese Imperial Army began a major offensive against the guerrillas in Manchuria in 1940, Kim Il Sung fled to the Soviet Union where he attained the rank of captain at the Khabarovsk Infantry Officers School and was put in charge or Soviet battalion made up of ethnic Koreans — the Soviet Army 88th Brigade — which engaged in reconnaissance missions against Japanese troops. In Khabarovsk, a small city in the Soviet Far East, he married Kim Jong Suk, Korean guerrilla fighter from Manchuria who joined him in the Soviet Union. She gave birth there to Kim Jong Il.
According to legend Kim Il Sung never lost an engagement and often showed up on the battlefield astride a white horse. "During the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle," one pamphlet reads, "the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung set up more than ten districts of secret camps in the primitive forests of Mt. Paekdu and led to victory the Korean revolution as a whole centered on the anti-Japanese struggle." Adrian Buzo argued in “The Guerilla Dynasty: Politics and Leadership in North Korea” (1999), that the history of North Korea has been decisively shaped by Kim's time in Russia. "In Stalinism, Kim saw a model for the rapid construction of a modern industrial nation-state under the aegis of a revolutionary party, capable of expelling all vestiges of imperialism from the Korean peninsula", he wrote. [Source: Ian Sansom, The Guardian, April 30, 2011]
David E. Sanger wrote in the New York Times: “Mr. Kim said he was a schoolchild when he committed his first act of rebellion against the Japanese occupiers, using a pocket knife to scratch off the title "Mother Tongue Reader" from the textbook issued by the Japanese colonial government, which required children to speak only Japanese. He said he wrote "Japanese Reader" on the cover, and from that moment, "whenever I saw children trying to learn Japanese, I told them Koreans must speak Korean." [Source: David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 10, 1994]
“Neither his memoirs nor official biographies dwell on the fact that he spent most of his youth in Manchuria, where he learned Chinese. That later turned out to be a crucial skill, as he joined China's communist guerrillas. And it was from China that Kim obtained the Communist philosophy that he combined with the nationalist mission his father bequeathed him — along with two pistols — on his deathbed in 1926: to free the peninsula from Japanese domination.
“Mr. Kim served as an anti-Japanese guerrilla in Manchuria, Siberia and the North Korean border areas, but it is impossible to verify the claims of his astounding feats, including the killing of a unit of Japanese special police who were tracking him in 1940. The next year, he was forced to retreat to the Soviet Union for the remainder of the war. He makes no mention of that time, perhaps because it would be too obvious that his son, the "Dear Leader," was born there in February 1942, instead of on Korea's own soil.”
According to Mike Mochizuki: In his book “Rogue Regime”, Jasper Becker “dismisses the heroic image of Kim Il Sung, who liked to portray himself as the guerrilla leader who bravely fought Japanese imperialists, and suggests that the elder Kim may have been an impostor, a puppet posing as a war hero. He quotes (without any footnote) a Soviet intelligence officer who brags that "we created him [Kim Il Sung] from zero." In “Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader,” Bradley K. Martin, on the other hand, argues that Kim was "the genuine article: a Korean patriot of unusual determination and resiliency." He supports this conclusion by relying on South Korean intelligence reports as well as the work of scholars. [Source: Mike Mochizuki, Washington Post June 19, 2005, Mike Mochizuki is director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University]
Kim Il Sung on His Family’s Resistance Against the Japanese
Christopher Richardson wrote in SinoNK: “The greatest influence upon the young Kim Il-sung is said to be his father, Kim Hyong-jik. A charismatic teacher and self-taught physician, Kim Hyong-jik becomes a prophetic figure in the history of his nation, raising an heir who will return as saviour to a liberated homeland. Kim Il-sung’s account says he prepared for his vocation from a tender age; he recalls vowing to defeat the forces of imperialism at the age of five, when he was playing on a swing in his mother’s arms. There could be no clearer distillation of North Korean children’s culture, rehearsed to this day via the Korean Children’s Union and military games in which toddlers and primary school students eviscerate effigies of American and Japanese imperialists. In the revolutionary imagination there is no difference between warriors and innocents. [Source: Christopher Richardson, SinoNK, part of the North Korea network. The Guardian, February 16, 2015]
“He wrote himself into the history of the March 1st Movement of 1919, when Korean protests against Japanese imperial rule were violently crushed. “I, then six years old, also joined the ranks of demonstrators,” he says. “When the adults cheered for independence, I joined them. The enemy used swords and guns indiscriminately against the masses … This was the day when I witnessed Korean blood being spilled for the first time. My young heart burned with indignation.” From that point, the Kim family’s instinctive resistance to Japanese imperialism becomes increasingly bound to the political vision articulated by the Soviet Union. Kim Il-sung recalls his father’s realisation that “the national liberation movement in our country should shift from a nationalist movement to a communist movement.” Instead of bedtime stories of old Korea, his father teaches Kim of Lenin and the October Revolution.
“In a series of semi-comic interludes, the young Kim Il-sung scores early victories against the enemy, setting the model for countless juvenile heroes in North Korean children’s literature. For instance, he recalls “wrestling with a Japanese boy bigger than me who I got down with a belly throw.” In other acts of resistance, Kim lines roads with spikes to tear the wheels of Japanese police bicycles, and defaces Japanese primary school textbooks in protest at linguistic imperialism. Such antics are undoubtedly exaggerated, yet the hagiography is careful to limit Kim Il-sung’s proto-guerrilla struggle to plausible feats of childhood derring-do. Unlike his son, Kim Jong-il, he is not depicted as a Napoleonic genius at 10 years-old.
“Kim Hyong-jik does not live to see Korea free with his own eyes. Before he dies in exile in Manchuria, he issues a command to his now 14-year-old son: “You must not forget that you belong to the country and the people. You must win back your country at all costs, even if your bones are broken and your bodies are torn apart.” Despite his father’s rousing words, Kim Il-sung is still too young to lead a guerrilla war that many North Koreans, until recently, could still recall from living memory. So before Kim’s war begins he studies in Manchuria, albeit in a middle school transformed into a kind of revolutionary Hogwarts.
“Even today, the legend of Yuwen Middle School endures. During Kim Jong-il’s state visit to China in September 2010 he detoured to Jilin, undertaking a pilgrimage to his father’s school. There, according to state television, the Dear Leader became “immersed in thoughts while looking at the precious historic objects that contain the bodily odour of our Supreme Leader from his school years some 80 years back.” It was an exquisite act of political theatre. Only days later, returning to Pyongyang, Kim Jong-il revealed that Kim Jong-un would be his young successor.”
Kim Il Sung’s Character
Kim Il Sung was a very dynamic and charismatic leader and had a populist touch. Isaac Stone Fish wrote in Foreign Policy that he was natural a politician who “kissed babies, gave speeches that lasted hours, and gave dozens, if not hundreds, of interviews to foreign journalists.” By many accounts, the affection and love for him by the North Korean people was genuine. Kim Il Sung reportedly was quite fond of reminiscing about his past when he entertained people in his palace or on his boat. He reportedly was quite fond of talking a beautiful young girl that brought him clothing when he was imprisoned as a teenager in Manchuria. But compared to Kim Jong Il, his son, Kim Il Sung was relatively straight-laced. There were no stories about heavy drinking, parties with young Swedish women and jet ski races as there was with Kim Jong Il.
The famous North Korean defector Hwang Jang Yop told the Washington Post, he was "a dictator, of course, but he asked for the opinions of others and showed flexibility. One the whole, I respected him.” David E. Sanger wrote in the New York Times: “For those who met him, he was the incongruous dictator of a hard and unforgiving land. Former Representative Stephen J. Solarz of Brooklyn, who met Mr. Kim twice, said: "He has this avuncular persona that stands in stark contrast to the reality of the regime, which is without question the most ruthless and tyrannical anywhere in the world. It is like meeting Hitler at Berchtesgaden and commenting on how he got along with the dogs and the children. He has the blood of millions on his hands; he has a society based on Orwell's '1984.' "So you expect someone who will act like Saddam Hussein, a forbidding, threatening presence. And he is just the opposite, always smiling, always speaking softly." [Source: David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 10, 1994]
Ian Buruma wrote in The New Yorker: “The charm of dictators has been known to reduce the hardest men to jelly. I remember a tough-minded Japanese photographer returning from Pyongyang in the nineteen-seventies still aglow from the experience of Kim Il Sung's “warm handshake.” Similar reports have come from some of those allowed into Hitler's mesmerizing presence: warm handshakes and piercing eyes appear to go with the position. [Source: Ian Buruma, The New Yorker, August 22, 2005]
▪“Kim Il Sung, the son of pious Christians, was a great admirer of the Eastern Learning school. Like Hong Xiuquan, Choe Che-u, and, indeed, Chairman Mao, Kim Il Sung wanted to be seen as a messiah and not just a Stalinist dictator.” Jasper Becker in “Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea” “convincingly places the Kim cult in a Sino-Korean tradition of millenarian priest-kings, autocratic sages, and holy saviors. It's a tradition in which the source of power is also the source of virtue, spiritual wisdom, and truth — hence the total intolerance of any heterodoxy or dissent. The same idea prevails, in a milder form, in South Korean, and Japanese, corporate life, where workers must learn the “philosophies” of their company founders. It has also spawned such cults as the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.”
“Bradley K. Martin, whose “Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty” is the heaviest tome to appear in English on the subject, has spent decades penetrating the mysteries of North Korea. He paints a grim picture in exhaustive detail, backed by many first-person accounts. But, though he is no apologist, he is perhaps fair to a fault. “There might be two sides to the story,” he cautions. Kim Il Sung possessed “considerable personal charm that only increased with age and experience.”
Kim Il Sung had a large visible lump on the back of his head — a benign brain tumor. On meeting, Kim Il Sung, Michael Breen wrote: “Up close, he seemed rather distracted and didn’t appear to take things in. I later learned that, by then, he was unable to contain his flatulence, and I wonder now whether maybe at that very moment he was struggling to hold in a big one.”
Kim Il Sung’s Family
Kim Il Sung’s first wife, Kim Jong Suk, a Korean guerrilla fighter and Christian from Manchuria who joined him in the Soviet Union, bore him three children, including Kim Jong Il. She died in 1949. He married his second wife. Kim Song Ae, a typist, in 1963. She became a member of the Korean Worker’s Party Central Committee and bore Kim Il Sung sons.
Kim Jong Il, the leader of North Korea from 1994 to 2011, was the eldest son of Kim Il Sung. He was born Yuri Irsenovich Kim in a hospital in Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East. The year of his birth was originally listed as 1941. In the early 1990s, it was changed to 1942, because that year is more auspicious and a better fit with Kim Il Sung’s birthday. All history books had be changed to reflect the new "reality." Through high school, Kim Jong Il was known as Yura, a Russian name. The first photographs of Kim, show him dressed as young boy in the uniform of a Soviet naval cadet. His younger brother also had a Russian nickname, Shura. He died in 1948 in drowning accident while swimming in a pond with Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Il’s sister, Kim Kyung Hee, was born in 1945.
After his mother’s death and especially after Kim Il Sung remarried in 1963, Kim Jong Il complained that his father had no time for him. He was brought up primarily by nurses and tutors. During the Korean War he lived out of harms way in Manchuria with his sister.
Kim Jong Il never accepted his father’s second wife Kim Song Ae. According to high-level defector Hwang Jang Yop, Kim Jong Il did not call Kim Song Ae his mother. “He used to call Kim Song Ae his aunt, considering her simply a woman who takes care of him,” Hwang said. In 1974 when Kim Jong Il was named as Kim Il Sung’s successor, Kim Song Ae and his half brothers were removed from the center of power.
Kim Jong Suk: First Wife of Kim Il Sung and Mother of Kim Jong Il
Kim Jong Suk, first wife of Kim Il Sung and the birth mother of Kim Jong Il,died at the age of 32 when was 7 years old. In 2002, Kim Jong Il told a Russian journalist his mother was “the most important person.” “My mother, who died when I was a boy, was a revolutionary fighter. I owe my mother a great debt of gratitude.” [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]
In 1994, when Kim Jong Il became leader of North Korea, he launched a campaign to raise the status of his mother, calling his father Kim Il Sung, mother Kim Song Suk and himself the “the three generals of Mt. Paektu.” This deification of his mother helped to sure up his leadership claims. A 2002 document given members of the North Korean armed forces read “The respectable mother is the most loyal among infinitely faithful loyalists of the dear supreme commander.”
Choi Jin I wrote: In North Korea, Kim Jong Suk “is typified as a model of a revolutionary, wife, and maternal figure, and the whole society was to learn from her. Kim Jong Suk is good at sewing, cooking, fighting, shooting guns, riding horses, assisting her husband……. Anyway, there was nothing that Kim Jong Suk can’t do, they insisted. The feature that people in North Korea accept from this super, almighty figure of Kim Jong Suk that underneath all rhetoric that exists, lies not a Kim Jong Suk as a heroine, but a real figure of Kim Jong Suk as dry robot who has no warmth or emotion. But there were opportunities to understand Kim Jong Suk as a Human being. [Source: Choi Jin I, Daily NK, February 25, 2005, Choi is a North Korean defector and columnist and former poet with the Chosun Writer Union]
Choi Jin I wrote: In the early 1970s, anti-Japanese resistance fighter Whang Sun Hye came to recuperate at the home for honored soldiers in Whanghaenam Do Samchun Gun Dalchun, where I spent my childhood. She was the one who did the child corps work with Kim Jong Suk, the birth mother of Kim Jong Il, during the period of anti-Japanese partisan fighting. She was appointed as manager of the Chosun Revolution Museum as she gained recognition as the first meritorious retainer on raising Kim Jong Il as the successor of Kim Il Sung and recieved the best treatment among the champions of former anti-Japanese fighters. However, at that time her existence was not remarkable and I visited her office often because my elder brother and his fiancée were there. [Source: Choi Jin I, Daily NK, February 25, 2005, Choi is a North Korean defector and columnist and former poet with the Chosun Writer Union]
Once she mentioned the birth mother of Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Suk, like this. “It was in early spring of 1933 if I remember right, It was the day that comrade Kim Jong Suk met comrade Kim Il Sung for the first time, she was too excited to sleep. Even though all other comrades had no special reactions……… Anyhow there was something in comrade Kim Jong Suk.” This signifies there must have been an initial chemical attraction between Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Suk. At that time, other female members had no reaction. This fact presents that Kim Il Sung was not a valuable person to covet at the time...Kim Jong Suk married Kim Il Sung after a decade. It is impossible to put off their marriage for 10 years without a particular secret reason for lovers who fell in love at first sight.
Kim Il Sung and His Love for Choi Hye Suk
The reason it was so long between the time Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Suk met and got married is perhaps because of Choi Hye Suk, a female revolutionary who caught Kim Il Sung’s eye.Choi Jin I wrote: “Once the one I knew in North Korea, a writer who knows every high quality information since he came from the Bo-we-bu(security police), tipped-off a reliable piece of information to me. The love of Kim Jong Suk toward Kim Il Sung had to kept as a one-sided love for a while. Kim Il Sung was already in love with a married partisan Choi Hye Suk. Kim Jong Suk was not a person who can make little of Choi Hye Suk in any aspect such as personality, intelligence or appearance. She was able to make all kinds of clothes from underwear to outerwear for every season for Kim Il Sung with her fine sewing skills, and her cooking which she presented at every meal were impossible for other female associates even to pretend to measure up to in variety and taste. [Source: Choi Jin I, Daily NK, February 25, 2005, Choi is a North Korean defector and columnist and former poet with the Chosun Writer Union]
The love of Choi Hye Suk, who was not only a perfect model of a wise mother, good wife but also outstanding woman, toward Kim Il Sung was stronger than the concern she felt for the safety of her former husband, who had been captured by the Japanese. Their marriage was arranged by her parents under the feudal Confucianist system. Choi Hye Suk left the base camp to care for injured soldiers while Kim Il Sung was in action, Japanese soldiers attacked her with the help of an inside informer.
The base camp was burned and Choi Hye Suk was caught by Japanese soldiers, she suffered a disastrous accident that caused her eyes to be scooped out and her breasts to be cut with military swords. ‘The victory of Revolution Can be Seen’ chapter in the "Volumes of Anti-Japanese Partisans" memoirs is the story about the ruthless murder incident of Choi Hye Suk.
In the history of Anti-Japanese armed struggle, Choi Hye Suk was the first and last case of a female partisan caught and punished in this way. It is said that the Japanese soldiers who got the information that Choi Hye Suk is the lover of Kim Il Sung vented their rage on their failure to catch Kim Il Sung toward Choi Hye Suk. This occured around the end of the year 1930.
Those who were former partisans are buried in Pyongyang Daesung Mountain Revolutionists Cementary, and those placed on the first row with their facial statues are the most famous figures such as Choi Yong Gun, Kim Chek, and Kim Jung Suk. It clearly shows the strong hierarchical system in North Korea, and in the row it includes facial statue of Choi Hee Suk. That was the position she obtained by being a lover of Kim Il Sung.
Kim Jung Suk’s Death and Kim Sung Ae (Kim Il Sung’s Second Wife)
Choi Jin I wrote: “Kim Jung Suk could finally secure her position as Kim Il Sung's lover only after Choi Hee Suk's death. However, five years later, Kim Jung Suk was to fight for her love once again with a young woman called Kim Sung Ae. This was because Kim Il Sung approached to Kim Sung Ae , who was the typist for the highest Soviet Military commander stationed in North Korea, with much affection. [Source: Choi Jin I, Daily NK, February 25, 2005, Choi is a North Korean defector and columnist and former poet with the Chosun Writer Union]
“It seemed not only was the attraction that Kim Sung Ae received was appealing but also her desperate political needs to grasp the mind of Nomanikov headquarter attracted Kim Il Sung. Kim Il Sung’s family (ManKyung Dae family) who didn’t like people from HamKyung Do, took their part with Kim Sung Ae rather than the one from HamKyung Do, Kim Jong Suk, was worked as a reason also. [Source: Choi Jin I, Daily NK, February 25, 2005, Choi is a North Korean defector and columnist and former poet with the Chosun Writer Union]
“The lonely Kim Jong Suk locked the door inside and refused to let doctors in the room even though it was a difficult birth, and delivered the baby alone and died, while Kim Il Sung was out on work. (There’s a story that she was shot by Kim Il Sung during a marital fight under the influence of anger.) In short, Kim Jong Suk, the birth mother of Kim Jong Il, was pushed to death before she was able have to hold the faith of the people because she abused her love for her whole life, it was an insecure life of the one who ended up with deliquence toward the world.
Kim Il Sung Ate Dog Meat Everyday: the CIA
CIA documents released in 2017 said that Kim Il Sung, the founder and first leader of North Korean consumed meals containing dog meat at least twice a day. The North Korean revolutionary favored dishes of dog meat crammed with chicken everyday and demanded his “favourite food” for both morning and evening meals. [Source: Joshua Nevett, Daily Star, 25th January 2017
The Democratic People's Republic's “Eternal President” was so fond of the meat, it drove him to “obesity”, it the CIA claimed. The document states: “Kim preferred all kinds of meats to other foods and ate fish and vegetables only rarely. A basic item of each meal was rice mixed with Indian millet. “His favourite food, however, was dog meat stuffed with chicken, which he demanded every day at both the morning and evening meals.
“It was rumoured in Pyongyang that his fondness for this dish was responsible for his growing obesity.” Kim Il-sung, who ruled for 46 years until his death in 1994, was also lent a hand in the kitchen. The May 1951 document adds: “Kim’s relations with his staff were good, and he would occasionally step into the kitchen to discuss the method of cooking some dish or to demonstrate it, for cooking was his hobby.”
Kim Il Sung’s Personal Shopper
Kim Jong Ryul’s job was procuring luxury items for Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and their families and associates. Julia Damianova wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “For 20 years, the mechanical engineer and onetime army colonel who went to college in the former East Germany purchased industrial goods, luxury Mercedes-Benz cars and weapons for the North Korean leadership. His shopping list also included such sensitive items as mass spectrometers that can be used, among other purposes, in identifying uranium and plutonium particles. Kim spoke fluent German, English and Japanese, having learned the latter, he says, from watching TV. Young, intelligent and well educated, he was the perfect person to send on lavish shopping sprees to Europe. Vienna was the ideal hub for business dealings in Germany, Switzerland and France, he says. [Source: Julia Damianova, Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2010]
“Through intermediary companies, he even bought goods from the United States, including the spectrometers, which are on the Nuclear Suppliers Group's list of restricted, dual-use equipment, and pistols that North Korean leaders ardently collected. "They all knew this was for North Korea," he says, speaking of the middlemen he worked with. But his offers were difficult to resist, he says, because he paid in cash, 30 percent over the usual asking price. At the same time, he says, he was secretly making a Western-style profit for himself. Without the knowledge of his comrades, he generally kept about 3 percent of the money from each deal, setting up a secret account in the Austrian private bank Schoellerbank, where he eventually amassed about US$300,000. In October 1994, Kim says, he fled to Austria, faking his death and going into hiding.
Malcolm Moore wrote in the Los Angeles Times: In his book, “At the Dictator's Service, “ Kim Jong Ryul “recounts the luxury in which North Korea's leaders live. Using the code name Emil, Kim travelled through Europe on a diplomatic passport and with a suitcase full of cash, procuring cars, planes, guns and special food for both Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il. The goods and money would be channelled through Vienna, to take advantage of banking secrecy, lax trade rules and minimal checks on aircraft. [Source: Malcolm Moore, Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2010]
“Mr Kim said the North Korean leaders had dozens of villas, some of which were built underground, that were stuffed with chandeliers, silk wallpaper and expensive furniture. He said some of the villas were equipped with special ventilation systems in case of a nuclear attack. He said Kim Il-sung would "only eat foreign food". He added: "In Vienna, there was a special attache, a friend of mine, who only procured special foreign food for the dictator." Troupes of chefs would be sent from North Korea to Austria to study how to cook.
Kim Il Sung’s Last Years and Death
Kim Il Sung established a medical institute in Pyongyang whose sole purpose was to extend his life. He was fed food specially grown for him. He used a toilet that analyzed his excrement. An army of Western doctors, nutritionists and masseuses looked after his every need.
In his last years, Hwang wrote: “Kim Il Sung was not the Kim Il Sung of years past. Most of his vitality had disappeared, and he was turning into an old man concerned only with successfully handing over power to Kim Jong Il.” In the 1970s, Kim Il Sung helped establish a cult of personality cult for his son "Dear Leader Kim Jong Il." This move angered North Korea's Marxist allies, who saw the creation of a heredity succession as a serious breach of Communist ideology.
Kim Il Sung's died of a heart attack at the age of 82 on July 8th, 1994. Broadcasting the news of his death, announcers on radio Pyongyang wept. Mourners lined the streets carrying flowers and children reportedly "broke out spontaneously in tears. "Our country is enveloped in the deepest sorrow in the 5,000-year-history of the Korean nation," a North Korean television announcer lamented. "Could it, could it really be true that the nations's leader has gone to the hereafter."
Announcers on radio Pyongyang also said that violent storms erupted over Mount Paekdu, the legendary birthplace of the Korean people. Inside the crater of Mount Paekdu: "Lake Chon, which had been calm under a thick fog, suddenly stirred up violent waves. It rained uninterrupted for three days. Tens of thousands of big and small streams flowed into the lake like falls from the cliffs of the crater atop the mountain, and sometimes they rose into the air in sprays. The waves did not subside for days. raging waves beat upon the shore and rose high in a whirlwind."
Kim Il Sung's Funeral
A video-tape from Pyongyang's state run television showed Kim Jong Il, wearing a black arm band and gray Mao suit, weeping into a large handkerchief while standing over the glass-covered coffin of his father. He was surrounded by top military leaders, Kim Young (Kim Il Sung’s younger brother) and Han Duck Son, leader of the North Korean support group in Japan. Neither Kim Jong Il's stepmother, or his half brother, Kim Pyong Il were present.
The stretch Lincoln Continental limousine carrying Kim Il Sung's coffin and the procession of goose-stepping soldiers, brass bands and Mercedes Benz limousines bearing 20 foot high pictures of the later leader took two turns around Kim Il Sung plaza, passed by Kim Il Sung university and the 100-foot Kim Il Sung statue before continuing through the Revolutionary Arch constructed to honor Kim Il Sung's 70 the birthday.
Lining the streets were mourners who cried, wailed and beat their chests when the funeral cortege of the "Great Leader" passed by. North Korean television said that two million people or nearly 10 percent of North Korea's population was present at the funeral. Soldiers and old women who were interviewed on television were unable to utter a single word through frantic bout of moaning and crying.' "Some the outpouring of grief was clearly orchestrated," wrote Andrew Pollack of the New York Times. "Plainclothesmen controlled the crowds, and the mourners in the front rows shook and moaned far more than those in the back rows." Second-guessers were thankful that Kim Il Sung didn't die two weeks before when he softened his position on the inspection of nuclear facilities and headed off a potentially dangerous test of nerves with the U.S.
Spirit of Kim Il Sung and Reaction to His Death
The morning period following Kim Il Sung's death lasted for three years. Kim Il Sung was laid in state in an ornate palace during that time. His body was embalmed and enshrined at great expense. The official period of mourning for Kim Il Sung was declared over in July, 1997. Even though he had been dead for years, Kim Il Sung was named "Eternal President" in September 1998. Even after his death people continued to treat him as if he were still alive. The spirit of Kim Il Sung reportedly still lives on. Signs around North Korea read, "The Great Leader Kim Il Sung is with us forever.
According to some reports in North Korea the spirit of Kim Il Sung resided in Kim Jong Il. About a year after Kim Il Sung's death tourist guides began "fusing two personalities" and referring to the two Kims interchangeably. Slogans also began appearing that read: COMRADE KIM IL SUNG IS KIM JONG IL.
Even after his death Kim Il Sung dominated North Korea's television programs, publications and cultural presentations. Everyday groups of school children place flowers at the foot of the huge bronze statue of he former North Korean leader on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang. Boarding the biweekly flights from Beijing to Pyongyang were dozens of North Korean men in dark suits carrying massive bouquets of flowers — some of them so large they barely squeeze through the X-ray security machines. Most of these men are North Korean officials who spent the little hard currency they havd on garlands to place in front of the Grand Monument, a 220-foot bronze statue of Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang.
According to the Washington Post the South Korean government refused to express any kind of condolences in connection with Kim Il Sung's death. Instead it ordered a military alert, prevented would-be mourners from South Korea from traveling to the north and arrested people who were present in a room with an altar set up in Kim Il Sung's memory. Any mourning of the late North Korean leader was seen as a criminal act. "We are confused," a South Korean official told the New York Times. "There is a sense of letdown here." Korea watchers had waited for years for the Great Leader's death as opportunity to improve relations between North and South, but somehow after his death the situation seemed more unfathomable than ever.
Outpouring of Grief at Kim Il Sung’s Funeral: How Real Was It?
Hwang Jang Yop, the North Korean defector and former high-level official, said North Korean authorities punished mourners who failed to exhibit sincere sadness and despair after the death of Kim Il Sung. He wrote: "The party conducted surveys to see who displayed the most grief, and made this an important criterion in assessing party members' loyalty. Patients who remained in hospitals and people who drank and made merry even after hearing news of their leader's death were all singled out for punishment." [Source: Ben Forer. ABC News, Associated Press, January 12, 2012]
Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “As a 20-year-old student at Pyongyang’s prestigious Kim Il Sung University in 1994, when North Korea’s founder and the school’s namesake died,” Chu Sung-ha “and his fellow students were used to illustrate the nation’s grief.
Television cameras were rolling when the students were ushered into an auditorium to be told the news. And though most were genuinely overcome, those who weren’t knew enough to sob on cue. “I just bowed my head so nobody could see I wasn’t crying,” recalled Chu, who now lives in Seoul and works as a journalist. “There were cameras on campus and I knew I would be caught on television.” [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, December 21, 2011]
“Kim Il Sung was by most accounts genuinely beloved; “uri abogi,” he was called, the same Korean honorific used to indicate “our father” or “our lord.” In the case of Kim Il Sung’s death, the rituals took place in front of the tens of thousands of statues of him erected around the country. People lined up for hours to kneel and bring flowers.” His death was “announced at noon, when most people would be with their work units and under control. The same black-clad weeping anchorwoman who announced Kim Il Sung’s death appeared on television Monday to announce the death of his son.”
There is a “histrionic quality to the grieving as people compete for who can sob the loudest and who can look the most distraught. A former North Korean kindergarten teacher from the northeastern city of Chongjin recalled that she had to lead her pupils twice a day to a 25-foot-tall statue of Kim Il Sung. “I saw some of the kids putting saliva on their face to make it look like they were crying,” said the teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They would take measure of what the other kids were doing to do the same. I was shocked that children so young would behave that way.”
“ Although Kim was 82 and in poor health, the propaganda was so overwhelming that he seemed immortal. Even those who were skeptical about the regime found themselves in shock over the death of the only leader the country had ever known. At one point, mass hysteria overpowered even the doubters. “If everyone else is crying, you start to cry too. That is the psychology of the crowd,” said Chu, the journalist. “When a camera points at you, you feel that you are being tested and you have to perform to demonstrate the utmost sadness,” said Kim Heung-gwang, a former computer science professor from North Korea, recalling the aftermath of Kim Il Sung’s death.
“There was a rumor during the mourning period for Kim Il Sung that we were being graded in how we showed our grief. If you didn’t go out to mourn with the others, you would be in disfavor and that would count against you in the future,” said Yoo, the defector whose wife and son died. “Especially for the people in Pyongyang, they had to show they were the most faithful.” Other defectors say that people were punished or received downgrades of their status for wearing makeup or nice clothing, drinking or appearing to be in good spirits during the mourning period. “You were supposed to look like you were sad,” the kindergarten teacher said.
Demonstrative grieving is not unique to North Korea. Older Chinese remember being under the same kind of pressure to perform in 1976, when China’s founder, Mao Zedong, died. “It is very similar to what happened in China when Mao died,” said Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist at People’s University of China in Beijing. “It is hard to say now whether people are faking the crying or not because many people do have the mentality of being obedient citizens and might really feel that Kim Jong Il is like God. That’s the sign of their inability to distinguish reality.”
Kim Il Sung Tourist Sights
Mangyongdae (in Pyongyang) is where Kim Il Sung was born and raised. Described as the "Cradle of the Revolution," it is thatch-roof hut with a well maintained garden, photographs of the Great Leader, burial mounds of relatives and some of Kim Il Sung's personal possessions. Nearby is a marble observation deck overlooking the Taedog River and a couple of North Korea recreation parks.
Myohyangsan ( Hyangsan, 100?? miles from Pyongyang) is the home of the International Friendship Exhibition (IFE), a shrine containing gifts given over the years to Kim Il Sung, included a bulletproof Zil limousine from Stalin, a luxury train carriage from Mao Zedong, a stuffed alligator from the Sandinistas, carpet slippers, House of Commons whiskey glasses, gifts from high-ranking defense officials from Pakistan and Iran, and items from Castro, Ceausescu, Honecker, Gaddafi and others. A woman in traditional Korean clothes shows visitors around.
Beautifully situated among wooded hills, the six-story Korean-style shrine has marble stairways, thick carpets and huge bronze doors with golden doorknobs. IFE is treated as if it were a deeply shrine. Visitors are expected to be on their best behavior, which means putting on special shoe covers and gloves before you touch anything.
Kumsusan Palace of the Sun: the Kim Il Sung Mausoleum
Kumsusan Palace of the Sun (northeast Pyongyang) serves as the mausoleum for Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il. Formerly known as the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, and sometimes referred to as the Kim Il-sung Mausoleum, it was built in 1976 as the Kumsusan Assembly Hall and served as Kim Il-sung's official residence. Following his death in 1994, Kim Jong-il had the building renovated at a cost estimated to be over US$100 million — and possibly as high as US$900 million — and transformed into his father's mausoleum. [Source: Wikipedia]
Inside the palace, Kim Il-sung's embalmed body lies inside a clear glass sarcophagus. The body is dressed in an immaculately pressed black suit and covered by the flag of the Workers' Party of Korea. Resting on a Korean-style pillow, the head is caked with white makeup with red lipstick on the lips. im Jong-il is on display in a room close to his father and lies in a similar position. At 10,700 square meters (115,000 square feet), Kumsusan is the largest mausoleum dedicated to a Communist leader and the only one to house the remains of multiple people. Some halls inside the building are up to one kilometer long There is a large square, approximately 500 meters (1,600 feet) in length, bordered on two side by a moat, in front of the building..
Lorraine Davidson wrote on Mirror.co.uk: “Thousands of North Korean workers queue every day in the freezing cold to pay homage to a leader who died nine years ago. Unlike most public buildings in North Korea, this one is warm. Cameras and coats must be left behind before taking the 15-minute walk through the palace to where the great leader lies. Every day 20,000 people, many weeping openly, pass through. Demand is so great some workers have been told they cannot visit until” several years in the future. [Source: Lorraine Davidson, Mirror.co.uk, March 9, 2003]
Foreign visitors can access the palace only on an official government tour. Photography, videotaping, smoking and talking are not permitted anywhere inside the palace. Soft revolutionary music emanates from invisible speakers,“A line of four people at a time moves forward to bow in front of a giant statue of Kim II Sung before moving to the grand hall. A machine cleans your shoes and you are blasted with cold air to remove any dirt on your body.
“Kim II Sung lies in a giant glass case in the middle of the room. Dressed in a sober navy suit, white shirt and tie, the body is brightly lit from above. The rest of the room is in near darkness. Army guards signal when it is your turn to move towards the glass case. The North Koreans bow in front of their dead leader, moving round each side of his body to pay homage for a few moments before being led away. The only sound in the room is that of sobbing and sniffing as people grieve in the same way you would expect them to for a recently deceased relative.
According to The Standard: “In the main entrance room to the mausoleum, a brilliant, white statue of Kim at least three meters high welcomes visitors, with the back wall bathed in soft, sunrise-like lights that rise from peachy-orange to a welcoming blue. The room that visitors walk into after paying their respects to the "Great Leader'' displays hundreds of medals given to Kim from various governments. Among the awards are the 1956 "Order of Freedom First Class'' from the People's Socialist Republic of Albania and the 1978 "Grand Cross of National Order of a Thousand Hills'' from the Republic of Rwanda. The former east German government honored him with the "Karl Marx Order'' in 1982 and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia gave him the "Great Star'' in 1977. [Source: The Standard, April 1, 2005]
10 Days of Mourning for Kim Il Sung 20 Years After His Death
To mark the 20th anniversary of death of Kim Il Sung a number of memorial events were held. Kang Mi-jin wrote in the Daily NK: North Korean authorities have declared a 10 day period of mourning to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Kim Il-sungAccording to sources inside the country, state-run organisations and workplaces are organising various memorial events for the period. “This year is the twentieth since the passing of the Suryeong [Kim Il-sung], and it is an important year,” a source from the North Korean border town, Hyesan, told Daily NK. “Therefore, they are preparing larger events here. It includes the organisation of a ‘memorial chorus ensemble’”. [Source: Kang Mi-jin for Daily NK, part of the North Korea network, July 8 2014]
“This time of year always sees lectures and study sessions to reiterate the greatness of Kim Il-sung, as well as remembrance events to commemorate his death. However, as this year is an important year in the cycle, the source said that North Korean people knew that there would be more events than in other years. The chorus ensemble in Hyesan has been practicing, while enterprises all around the city have been holding memorial events at the end of the working day, which comes at a cost to ordinary North Koreans. “Nowadays people are having a hard time,” she said. “As events related to the passing of the Suryeong are going on every single day in the Democratic Women’s Union and work places alike. People really need to be out there trading and earning a living.”
““Nobody is complaining about it, maybe because ever since the purge of [current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle] Jang Song-thaek last year, if you picked a fight they'd just drag you away,” the source said. “If you were to raise objections at a time like this it would become a political problem and you could get punished,” she went on. “So people keep quiet. Even old people... are taking [an] active part, saying that although they can't sing any more they can still watch the young ones.”
“At the other end of the age spectrum, plenty of young children are being mobilised to take part in performances of commemorative songs, the source said. “If this were any other kind of event they would already be complaining,” she said. “But they are out there saying ‘it’s ok’ and getting on with it.”
The source said analysis the presence of people who would probably have sought to excuse themselves from these activities in most other years [such as the older generations] is result of the more repressive surveillance and controls that have been felt in North Korean society throughout 2014.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.
Text Sources: Daily NK, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2021