Kim Il Sung


Kim Il Sung
/kim" il" soong", sung"/
1912-94, North Korean political leader: premier 1948-72; president 1972-94.

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▪ 1995

      (KIM SUNG JU), Korean dictator (b. April 15, 1912, near Pyongyang, Korea [now North Korea]—d. July 8, 1994, Pyongyang), ruled the Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) with an iron fist from the time it was established in 1948 until his sudden death from a heart attack. As premier (1948-72) and president (1972-94), the "Great Leader" promoted a successful cult of personality that imparted on him "godlike qualities." As a consequence, he was able to cow political adversaries at home and preside unchallenged over one of the communist world's most isolated and repressive societies.

      In 1925 Kim's family moved to Manchuria from Korea, which had been occupied by Japan since 1910. As a young man Kim joined the anti-Japanese resistance movement and appropriated the name of Kim Il Sung, a legendary guerrilla hero. While in the Soviet Union, where he had been sent for political and military training, he joined the local Communist Party. During World War II he served in the Soviet army. Following Japan's surrender in 1945, Korea was effectively divided at the 38th parallel; Soviet troops were stationed in the North and U.S. troops in the South. In 1948 the Soviet forces departed, leaving Kim as the head of a communist state, and in 1949 he became chairman of the Korean Workers' (communist) Party. Hoping to reunify Korea by force, Kim ordered his army to invade the South in June 1950, thereby igniting the Korean War. North Korea received massive support from Chinese troops, while South Korea got the backing of UN forces made up largely of U.S. soldiers. The conflict ended three years later in a stalemate. An estimated three million-four million people were killed, yet Korea remained divided.

      During the decades that followed, relations with China and the U.S.S.R. cooled. Kim was held responsible for several acts of international terrorism, including the assassination of 17 South Korean officials during a presidential state visit to Burma (now Myanmar) in 1983 and the 1987 bombing of a South Korean commercial plane that killed 115 persons. Shortly before his death, Kim agreed to an unprecedented meeting with South Korean Pres. Kim Young Sam. An international crisis had developed over North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and Kim's refusal to allow UN inspection of several facilities that were believed to have the capability of producing nuclear weapons. In 1972 Kim designated his eldest son, Kim Jong Il, as his successor.

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Universalium. 2010.

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