Childhood & Early Life
Kim Song-ju was born on April 15, 1912 in Mangyondae, Heian-nando, Japanese Korea. His mother is recorded as being named Kang Pan-sŏk.
Due to widespread propaganda during his reign, many details about his childhood and family were obscured. He, however, claimed that he was raised by a Presbyterian family and that his maternal grandfather was a minister.
In 1920, his family fled to prevent persecution by the Japanese conquerors. They resettled their family in Manchuria, now part of China.
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Much of Kim's earlier career is obscured in propaganda. However, it is believed that he was a fervent anti-Japanese activist from his early teens.
In October 1926, he founded the 'Down With Imperialism Union'. This group's stated aim was to fight Japanese imperialism. Three years later, he joined the ‘South Manchurian Communist Youth Association’.
In 1932, he joined the ‘Communist Party of China’. At this time, Manchuria, where Kim lived, was still under Japanese rule.
In 1935, he joined the ‘Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army’. This was a guerilla offshoot of the Communist Party. Also in the same year, he adopted a nom de guerre of Kim Jong-Il. This is the name he would later be known by the rest of the world and his people.
In 1940, Kim and his troops were forced to flee as the Japanese forces advanced. They crossed the border into the Soviet Union to escape. He was soon being trained by the Soviet army.
Until the end of the war, he served as a major in the ‘Soviet Red Army’. In 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan.
On August 15, 1945, the ‘Soviet Red Army’ entered Pyongyang and liberated it from the Japanese. Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, soon appointed Kim to be the leader of the newly independent Korea.
On February 8, 1946, he officially became the chairman of the ‘Interim People's Committee’. This made him the de facto leader of Korea.
He declared the foundation of the ‘Democratic People's Republic of Korea’ on September 9, 1948. This is the official title of the nation of North Korea.
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On June 25, 1950, he ordered his forces to invade South Korea and capture the entirety of the peninsula. However, by October 19, American and South Korean troops had captured Pyongyang and forced him to flee to China.
Fighting continued until 1953, when a ceasefire between North and South Korea was signed. The agreement continues to be in force today.
In 1955, he invented 'Juche', his own religion and political ideology. He named political independence, economic self sustenance self reliance in defence, as the three pillars on which his ideology is developed.
In 1968, North Korean forces successfully captured the ‘USS Pueblo’ and her crew, an American naval vessel. The capture was a part of his strategy to disrupt the ruling Government which was backed by the US.
In 1972, he ordered a new constitution to take effect, making him the permanent president of the country. Prior to this, Kim had been an unelected leader.
In 1991, he successfully lobbied the United Nations to admit his country as a member nation. In the same year, he appointed his son as head of the military, whom he had named his successor.
In 1992, he negotiated a series of compromises with South Korea. These included a non-aggression pact and economic exchange. A year later, he reversed his earlier position. North Korea cut off all official contact with South Korea.
In 1994, Kim began a program of nuclear power development. He also ordered that work begin on developing a ballistic nuclear missile.
Kim died on July 8, 1994 shortly before a scheduled summit with the president of South Korea.
Personal Life & Legacy
Kim Jong-Il exchanged the nuptial vows with Kim Jong-suk, before World War II. She died in 1949. This marriage produced two sons, including Kim Jong-Il, who succeeded his father as president of North Korea. Kim's grandson Kim Jong-Un is the current leader of North Korea.
He married Kim Sung-ae, his second wife, in 1952. Reports indicate that they had three children.
This controversial dictator is rumored to have had many mistresses, including Kim Hyon-nam, and an unknown number of children from these relationships.