NAME: Kim Il-Sung
BORN: April 12, 1912 (Pyongyang, Japanese occupied Korea)
DIED: July 8, 1994 (Pyongyang, North Korea)
LENGTH OF RULE: (officially) July 27, 1953 - July 8, 1994 (48.9 years)
MEANS OF ASCENT TO POWER: Leader of the Korean Workers' Party
MEANS OF REMOVAL FROM POWER: Died in office of natural causes.
Style: Totalitarian, Police State, Cult of Personality, Stalinist monarchy
Until Fidel Castro managed to live until his 80th birthday, Kim Il-Sung was the longest reigning dictator of the 20th century. The length of his rule notwithstanding, however, Kim's greatest accomplishment is something that eluded even the canniest of dictators: complete deification.
The fact that Kim Il-Sung is now worshiped as something resembling a God in the Communist (and officially atheist) North Korea makes determining his actual biography nearly impossible. The "official" biography provided by the North Korean government states that he was born as Kim Sung Ju to a poor, but ardently nationalist!, family in what is now North Korea.
His family fled Korea to the equally Japanese controlled Manchukuo in 1920, during which time, the young Kim learned about socialism, and joined an anti-Japanese guerrilla army led by the Chinese Communist Party. When the Japanese pushed the guerrillas back, Kim (now using the nom de guerre of "Kim Il-Sung") fled north again, this time to the Soviet Union, and joined the Red Army, eventually rising to the rank of captain. The true extent of Kim's involvement during the fight against the Imperial Japanese Army during the second world war will never be known for sure. To hear the official North Korean line, Kim had nearly beaten Japan single handedly until those meddling Westerners arrived and stole all the glory for imperialist reasons.
What occurred next is well documented, and beyond dispute. After the end of the war, the Soviet Union occupied Korea north of the 38th parallel. A savvy political operator, Kim quickly rose to the top of the Communist Korean Worker's Party - thereby establishing himself as the most powerful Korean Communist in Soviet occupied Korea. After installing Kim as the "Prime Minister" of the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea", Soviet dictator Josef Stalin rewarded his newest client state with generous donations of military hardware, and Soviet military training. Stalin's hints were obvious, and Kim responded predictably.
After the dust settled, Kim Il-Sung became the undisputed "Great Leader", and worked quickly to build an all-encompassing personality cult that established himself as the sole font of knowledge, justice, wisdom and righteousness, not only of Korea, but in the entire history of the world. Eager to differentiate North Korea from other run-of-the-mill Communist dictatorships, Kim announced the development of juche thought. Ostensibly meaning "self-reliance", juche has become an all encompassing political, social, and even quasi-religious philosophy guiding North Korea. The main tenets of juche are devoted to - surprise! - deification of Kim Il-Sung and the supremacy of the North Korean state.
For nearly 50 years, Kim Il-Sung made sure that every single facet of life in North Korea was controlled by the government (and by extension, himself). Kim Il-Sung looked to his former mentor, Josef Stalin, in establishing an all-seeing, all-knowing secret police. Naturally, Kim also demanded the creation of a system of gulags for the punishment of "political crimes". Information was controlled to such an extent, that North Koreans under Kim Il-Sung spent their entire lives believing that their nation was wealthy, and that South Korea was the poorest nation in the world. Radios and televisions were preset to receive only one station and channel, and any distribution of knowledge or information outside official channels was punished with extreme prejudice.
After his death in 1994, his pudgy son Kim Jong-Il assumed control of the ship of state, and picked right up where papa Kim left off, thereby establishing North Korea as the world's first Communist monarchy. Of course, Kim Jong-Il's implementation of juche has not been as "self-reliant" as his father's was, and doubtlessly, the senior Kim would disapprove of his son's half-assed attempts at raising money. Still, the Kim dynasty still has its dimwitted groupies and true believers, a fitting testament to Kim Il-Sung's self-transformation from mere dictator, to eternal demigod.