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Kim Il-sung

Kim Il-sung was born Kim Song-ju on April 15, 1912, in Pyongyang when it was under the jurisdiction of Japanese Korea. His day of birth is known as the “Day of the Sun” in North Korea after his chosen name and is celebrated as a holiday. He founded North Korea in 1948 and was the nation’s first leader, first as Premier and later as President. In 1945, he told his people that he wanted to “unite our strength to build a new, democratic Korea” with South Korea. However, in 1950, Kim Il-sung ordered North Korean forces (the Korean People’s Army) to cross the 38th parallel and invade South Korea to start the Korean War and take the south by force.

He ruled North Korea as a communist nation effectively as dictator. North Korea enjoyed a higher standard of living than South Korea until the 1980s when the southern half of the peninsula stabilized and was funded by American and Japanese financial interests. In 1980, he chose his eldest son, Kim Jong-il, as his successor, who was succeeded by current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2012.

Sources and Further Reading

Hess, Gary R. (2001). Presidential Decisions for War : Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0801865152.

Weathersby, Kathryn. "Should We Fear This?" Stalin and the Danger of War with America. (2002). Cold War International History Project. www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/should-we-fear-stalin-and-the-danger-war-america