Kim Il-Sung (1912-1994) was the dictatorial leader of Communist North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) from 1948 until his death. He led the country into the Korean War of 1950-53 by his invasion of South Korea. Kim created an absolutist tyranny in North Korea. Within the country he was officially known as the "Great Leader", and, despite having died, occupies the position of "Eternal President" in the North Korean Constitution. He was succeeded as leader by his son Kim Jong Il, who is officially known as the "Dear Leader". Kim Il Sung was an obese atheist who died of a heart attack.
Cult of Personality
The North Korean state maintains an intense cult of personality surrounding Kim. All North Koreans wear badges with his image, and portraits of the deceased leader are ubiquitous throughout the nation. The capital city of Pyongyang has over 600 statues of Kim, including a 25-meter-tall bronze statue built in 1972 for his sixtieth birthday.
Kim's personality cult is largely based on historical revisionism and many absurd claims of his extraordinary (often supernatural) abilities and power. Some examples:
- The North Korean calendar begins in 1912, the year of Kim's birth, and his birthday (April 15) is a major holiday.
- During the Japanese colonial rule of Korea, he fought in more than 100,000 battles in 15 years (over 20 battles a day). (While Kim was in the Soviet army, he never participated in actual combat.)
- While "fighting" against Japan, he performed such miracles as turning sand into rice and crossing rivers on leaflets.
- He scored eleven holes-in-one the first time he ever played a game of golf.
- He invented the hamburger.
Kim was a vocal opponent of U.S. society, government and freedoms. Despite being the aggressor in the Korean War, he blamed the U.S. for the conflict and openly advocated the destruction of American society. In a 1972 interview, he told the New York Times that the "most important thing in our war preparations is to teach all our people to hate U.S. imperialism."[Citation Needed]