Kim Il Sung

March 2017
Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition;Q1 2017, p1
Kim Il Sung (kĭm ĭl sŏng), 1912–94, North Korean political leader, chief of state of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (1948–94); originally named Kim Sung Chu. While fighting Japanese occupation forces in the 1930s, he adopted the name Kim Il Sung after a famous Korean guerrilla leader of the early 20th cent. He was trained in Moscow before World War II, and in 1945 he became chairman of the Soviet-sponsored People's Committee of North Korea (later the Korean Workers' party). In 1948, when the People's Republic was established, he became its first premier. Between 1950 and 1953 he led his nation in the Korean War. In 1972 he relinquished the premiership but retained his position as North Korea's leader by assuming the presidency under a revised constitution. Under his rule, North Korea increased its military forces, embarked on a program of industrialization, and maintained close relations with both China and the Soviet Union. His son, Kim Jong Il (kĭm jông ĭl), 1942–, was groomed as his successor. Active in the Korean Workers' party leadership since 1964, Kim Jong Il became secretary of its central committee in 1973. In 1991 he was appointed supreme commander of the armed forces. Upon his father's death, Kim Jong Il took over leadership of the country. He was named secretary of the Communist party in 1997 and consolidated his power with the title of National Defense Commission chairman in 1998. Although Kim has established relations with a number of Western nations, easing the North's diplomatic isolation, and hosted a meeting with South Korean president Kim Dae Jung in 2000, he did not reciprocate with a visit to the South and the North has provoked international crises to win desperately needed food and other aid. In 2007 Kim hosted a second North-South presidential summit, with Roh Moo Hyun.


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