Kim Il-sung, 1st President of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

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Sŏng-ju Kim

Korean: 김성주, Chinese: 金成柱
Birthdate: (82)
Death: July 8, 1994 (82)
Immediate Family:

Son of Kim Hyŏng-jik and Kang Pan-sŏk
Husband of Kim Jong-suk and <private> Kim
Father of Kim Jong-il, Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; <private> Kim; Man-il Kim; Yong-il Kim; <private> Kim and 1 other
Brother of Ch’ŏl-chu Kim and <private> Kim

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Immediate Family

About Kim Il-sung, 1st President of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Many of the early records of his life come from his own personal accounts and official North Korean government publications, which often conflict with independent sources. Nevertheless, there is some consensus on at least the basic story of his early life, corroborated by witnesses from the period. Kim was born to Kim Hyŏng-jik and Kang Pan-sŏk, who gave him the name Kim Sŏng-ju, and had two younger brothers, Ch’ŏl-chu and Yŏng-ju. The ancestral seat (pon’gwan) of Kim's family is Chŏnju, North Chŏlla Province, and, if the legend of the Chŏnju Kim is true, his family is the descendants of King Gyeongsun of Silla. What little that is known about the family contends that sometime around the time of the Korean-Japanese war of 1592–98, a direct ancestor moved north. The claim may be understood in light of the fact that the early Chosŏn government’s policy of populating the north resulted in mass resettlement of southern farmers in Phyŏngan and Hamgyŏng regions in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. At any rate, the majority of the Chŏnju Kim today live in North Korea, and extant Chŏnju Kim genealogies provide spotty records.

The exact history of Kim's family is somewhat obscure. The family was neither very poor nor comfortably well-off, but was always a step away from poverty. Kim claims he was raised in a Presbyterian family, that his maternal grandfather was a Protestant minister, that his father had gone to a missionary school and was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and that his parents were very active in the religious community. According to the official version, Kim’s family participated in anti-Japanese activities and in 1920 they fled to Manchuria. The more objective view seems to be that his family settled in Manchuria like many Koreans at the time to escape famine. Nonetheless, Kim’s parents apparently did play a minor role in some activist groups, though whether their cause was missionary, nationalist, or both is unclear.

At some point Kim also abandoned Christianity and became an atheist. Kim's father died in 1926, when Kim was fourteen years old. Kim attended Whasung Military Academy in 1926, but when later finding the academy's training methods outdated, he quit in 1927. From that time, he attended Yuwen Middle School in Jilin up to 1930, where he rejected the feudal traditions of older generation Koreans and became interested in Communist ideologies; his formal education ended when he was arrested and jailed for his subversive activities. At seventeen, Kim had become the youngest member of an underground Marxist organization with fewer than twenty members, led by Hŏ So, who belonged to the South Manchurian Communist Youth Association. The police discovered the group three weeks after it was formed in 1929, and jailed Kim for several months.

Kim Il-sung married twice. His first wife, Kim Jong-suk, gave birth to two sons and a daughter. Kim Jong-il is his oldest son. The other son (Kim Man-il, or Shura Kim) of this marriage died in 1947 in a swimming accident and his wife Kim Jong-suk died at the age of 31 while giving birth to a stillborn baby girl. Kim married Kim Sŏng-ae in 1952, and it is believed he had three children with her: Kim Yŏng-il, Kim Kyŏng-il and Kim Pyong-il. Kim Pyong-il was prominent in Korean politics until he became ambassador to Hungary. Since 1998 he is ambassador to Poland.

Kim was reported to have other illegitimate children, as he was well known for having numerous affairs and secret relationships. They included Kim Hyŏn-nam (born 1972, head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers' Party since 2002).


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Kim Il-sung, 1st President of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Timeline

April 15, 1912
February 16, 1941
Age 28
Age 42
July 8, 1994
Age 82