Education About Asia: Online Archives

Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader

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By any account Kim Il Sung was an extraordinary figure in twentieth-century history. Not only was the North Korean leader’s nearly half century of rule the longest dictatorship in modern history, few autocrats so dominated the nation they governed. Kim directed all aspects of economic, political and cultural life in North Korea, provided it with his personal ideology usually referred to as “juche thought,” and created a cult of personality without parallel in its excesses. Furthermore, although Kim walled off his people from the outside world, the outside world was not able to wall itself off from him. His ambitions for achieving national unity on his terms resulted in the Korean War, and kept a constant state of tension on the Korean peninsula for four decades after the 1953 cease-fire. Indeed, his North Korean state became the “rogue state” par excellence, a prime argument for proponents of the antiballistic missile system.