Kim Jong-il Biography

Kim Jong-il was the supreme leader of North Korea for 17 years, from 1994 to 2011. This biography profiles his childhood, life, political career and timeline.

Quick Facts

Nick Name: Guiding Sun Ray, Leader, Shining Star of Paektu Mountain, Sun of the Communist Future, General, Great Leader, The Dear Leader

Birthday: February 16, 1941

Nationality: North Korean

Famous: Dictators Political Leaders

Died At Age: 70

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: Kim Jong Il

Born in: Vyatskoye, Khabarovsk Krai

Famous as: Former Supreme Leader of North Korea

Height: 5'3" (160 cm), 5'3" Males

political ideology: Political party - Workers' Party of Korea


Spouse/Ex-: Kim Ok, Kim Young-sook, Ko Yong-hui, Song Hye-rim

father: Kim Il-sung

mother: Kim Jong-suk

siblings: Kim Kyong-Jin

children: Kim Jong-chul, Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un, Kim Sul-song, Kim Yo-jong

Died on: December 17, 2011

place of death: Pyongyang

More Facts

education: Kim Il-sung University, University of Malta, Mangyongdae Revolutionary School

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Kim Jong-il was the supreme ruler of North Korea for 17 years, from 1994 to 2011. Almost every building in North Korea can be seen spotted with portraits, murals and larger-than-life mosaics of Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim II-sung, either side-by-side or standing together. He was often referred to as ‘Great Comrade’, ‘Supreme Commander’ and even ‘Father’ after taking power, while he was fondly called ‘Dear Leader’ prior to ruling the country. While he became the heir apparent for the leadership of the country in the 1980s, he succeeded his father upon his death in 1994. This autocratic leader ruled North Korea with absolute authority, making decisions right from giving appointments to a senior post to deciding the types of gifts to be distributed to party officials and common man during national holidays. During his regime, North Korea suffered from famine and also had a poor human rights record. He strengthened the role of military by his “military first” policy and made the military of his country the fourth largest standing-army in the world. Just as his birth was supernatural, his death, too, was preceded by mystical circumstances

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Childhood & Personal Life
  • In 1961, he entered politics by joining the Workers’ Party and after graduating in 1964, he rose to different ranks, becoming a member of Workers’ Party Central Committee to ensure smooth functioning of the party’s ideological system.
  • He initiated policies to bond party workers with people, launched Three-Revolution Team Movement where people were trained by political, technical and scientific technicians, and took steps to facilitate economic planning.
  • Just as his father was known as the ‘Great Leader’, he was given the title ‘Dear Leader’ and was often referred as ‘fearless leader’ and ‘the great successor to the revolutionary cause’.
  • During the Sixth Party Congress in 1980, he was appointed at senior positions in the Military Commission, the Politburo, and the Secretariat, thus holding control over all sectors of government.
  • He was assigned the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army in 1991, despite having no military experience, and was made the Chairman of the National Defense Commission in 1993.
  • The economic stagnation prevailing during his father’s reign, due to self-reliance policy and mismanagement, completely devastated the country and led to a severe famine, resulting in massive starvation and despair.
  • He started the “Military-First” policy, where the military was provided with national resources to keep it in his control and fight both domestic and foreign threats.
  • In 1994, he signed a framework with the United States to dismantle all nuclear weapons programs in exchange of receiving fuel oil and assistance in developing two power-generating nuclear reactors.
  • He was re-elected as the Chairman of the National Defense Commission and declared it as ‘the highest post of the state’ in 1998, while abolishing the president’s post and naming his father as ‘Eternal President’.
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  • In 2003, when it came to light that North Korea was developing nuclear weapons, tensions between North Korea and United States increased, resulting in several multilateral negotiations, during 2003-05.
  • Even though the US insisted on eliminating all nuclear weapons programs, Kim Jong-il refused and confirmed that his country had already carried out a successful underground nuclear bomb test in 2006.
  • He was known for following a rights-abusing policy and maintaining kwanliso, or gulag-like political prison camps, where over 200,000 prisoners are still captured and exposed to torture, near-starvation rations, executions, and forced labor.
  • His absence from the Olympic torch relay in Pyongyang and military parade to mark North Korea’s 60th anniversary in 2008 triggered rumors of his deteriorating health after suffering from a debilitating stroke.
  • Apparently, his three sons, brother-in-law and an army general, O Kuk-ryol, were contenders for the next North Korean leader. He, however, declared his youngest son, Kim Jong-un as the successor in 2009.
  • During 2010 and 2011, he made foreign trips to China and Russia with his heir apparent to strengthen his relations with both the countries.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • He married Kim Young-sook, and had a daughter Kim Sul-song with her in 1974.
  • Apart from his official wife, he was known to have kept three mistresses. These relationships produced four children – son Kim Jong-nam, son Kim Jong-chul, son Kim Jong-un, and daughter Kim Yo-jong.
  • He died on a train during a domestic trip outside Pyongyang, due to a heart attack on December 17, 2011. His body was displayed in a glass coffin at Kumsusan Memorial Palace from December 20-28 for an 11-day mourning period.
  • On December 28, 2011, a 40-km three-hour funeral procession was conducted for two-days, after which he was embalmed, covered with a flag of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and interred at Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
  • His birth date, February 16, is celebrated as the ‘Day of the Shining Star’ and declared as ‘the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation’.
Net Worth
  • Kim Jong-Il had a net worth of $4 billion.
  • His fashion sense became a global phenomenon , especially his bouffant hairstyle and four-inch platform shoes which he wore to increase his height.
  • He is said to have composed six operas over a period of two years and was a die-hard movie buff, housing a collection of over 20,000 foreign films, including his favorites – ‘Rambo’, ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Friday the 13th’.
  • He was a great boozer, spending around $600,000 annually on Hennessy liquor, thus becoming its largest customer during early 1990s. He consumed cognac worth $700 per bottle in a country where the average annual income was $1000.
  • This North Korean leader displayed the ‘big six’ group of personality disorders – anti-social, paranoid, schizotypal, narcissistic, sadistic, and schizoid, which were exhibited by famous dictators Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
  • In 1994, he picked up a golf club for the first time and shot a 38-under par round with 11 holes-in-one. Such was his exceptional performance that he retired from the sport thereafter.

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