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Kim Jong Il (left) walking with
the late Kim Il Sung (right)

Kim Jong-il, 김정일; 金正日 (born February 15, 1942) is the current leader of North Korea.

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Background Kim's father, the late Kim Il Sung, fled to the Soviet Union when the Japanese put a price on his head for guerrilla activities in occupied Korea. The family returned to the northern part of the peninsula after Japan's surrender during World War II, and communist Soviet leader Joseph Stalin anointed Kim Jong Il as the leader of the communist Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

According to official North Korean accounts, Kim Jong was born in a log cabin at his father's guerilla base on North Korea's highest mountain, Mount Paektu, in February 1942. The peak, on the northern border with Chinese Manchuria, is the highest on the peninsula and the site where Korean legend says the nation came into existence 5,000 years ago. The event was reportedly marked by a double rainbow, and a bright star in the sky. Western researchers, however, believe that Kim was born near Khabarovsk in the Soviet Union in 1941 during Kim Il-sung's period of exile in the former Soviet Union, where his mother, Kim Jong Suk[?], a partisan fighter, had retreated from her guerrilla base in Manchuria.

Kim Jong Il's younger brother drowned as a child and his mother died when he was 7 years old. Shortly after, in 1950, the Korean War broke out and he was sent to Manchuria, returning three years later when it ended. Despite these hardships, Kim Jong-il was presumably surrounded by luxury and privilege throughout most of his childhood.

Kim graduated from Namsan School in Pyongyang, a special school for the children of prominent communist revolutionaries and ranking communist party officials. He later attended Kim Il Sung University[?] and majored in Political Economy, graduating in 1964.

After graduating from Kim Il Sung University in 1964, Kim Jong Il began his ascension through the ranks of the ruling Korean Worker's Party, working first in the party's elite Organization Department before being named a member of the Party Politburo in 1968 and promoted to deputy director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Party Headquarters in 1969.

In 1973, Kim was elected Party secretary of organization and propaganda, and in 1974, he was was officially designated his father's successor. During the next 15 years he continued to add entries to his curriculum vitae, among them minister of culture and art, supreme commander of the military, and head of party operations against South Korea.


In an interview with a Japanese newspaper several years ago, South Korea's outgoing President Kim Dae-jung jettisoned decades of South Korean tradition by describing Kim Jong Il as "a pragmatic leader with good judgment and knowledge." According to the Los Angeles Times[?], a senior South Korean official says Kim is believed to have a genius-level IQ of 150 or 160. An intelligence source describes him as a "computer wizard" who surfs the Internet, is fascinated with new technologies and is determined to develop North Korea's fledgling software industry.

Succession Kim gradually made his presence felt within the Party from the Seventh Plenum of the Fifth Central Committee in September 1973, leading the Three Revolution Team campaigns. During his training period under his father's tutelage in the 1970s, he was often referred to as the "Party Center," and he launched a number of campaigns to take over the daily operations of the Party, including the Three-Revolution Red Flag Movement. By the time of the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980, his control of the Party operation was complete. He was elected first secretary of the Central Committee, a ranking member of the Presidium of the Politbureau, a member of the Military Commission, and member of the Central Committee of the Party.

When he was elected member of the Seventh Supreme People's Assembly in February 1982, it had become obvious that he was heir apparent to succeed his father as the supreme leader of North Korea. Kim Jong Il was given senior posts in the Politburo, the Military Commission and the Party Secretariat. Kim Il-sung's unique style of Stalinism, suffused with the isolationist Korean Juche philosophy (roughly translated as "self reliance"), relies on an elaborate personality cult. Juche also places special infuence on corporatist mass movements, much more so than any other school of Communist thought.

He took on the title "Dear Leader" and the government began spinning a personality cult around him patterned after that of his father, the "Great Leader." Kim Jong Il was regularly hailed by the media as the "peerless leader" and "the great successor to the revolutionary cause". He emerged as the most powerful figure behind his father in North Korea.

The younger Kim has been accused of ordering two bombings by North Korean agents. One in 1983 in Rangoon, Burma -- now known as Yangon, Myanmar -- killed 17 visiting South Korean officials, including four cabinet members. Another in 1987 killed all 115 on board a South Korean airliner. No evidence, however, directly links Kim Jong-il to the bombings. Some analysts also believe the younger Kim was responsible for developing North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

In 1994, when Kim Il-sung died suddenly from a heart attack at 82, most outsiders predicted the imminent collapse of North Korea. The nation had lost its venerated founding father. Under his newly organized government, his father's presidential post was left vacant and Kim took the titles of general secretary of the Workers Party and chairman of the National Defense Commission -- a group of 10 men that includes the heads of the air force, army and navy, who are now considered the most powerful in the country.

Kim Jong Il

Reformist Kim? Until he made a surprise appearance when he greeted South Korean President Kim Dae-jung at Pyongyang airport in June 2000, the personality and character of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had been tinged with propaganda and rumor. South Korean accounts portray Kim as a vain and capricious playboy, with a pompadour and elevated shoes, a penchant for foreign liquor and serviced by a team of women known as the "Pleasure Squad". The reclusive leader still keeps a low profile, and although the rhetoric over Kim Jong-il has considerably different tones now. Kim, some say, has proved himself to be a much more charismatic leader than South Korea's own president, Kim Dae-jung. In the pictures from the summit, Kim Jong Il is seen treating the elder South Korean President with a remarkable amount of respect, a virtue Asians value highly.

Despite sending a test missile over Japan in June 1999 and other such incidents, North Korea under Kim Jong-il also has sent signals that it is open to new alliances after decades of isolation. Billions of dollars in international aid has poured into North Korea, which has had to do little in return.

North Korea has recently introduced a number of economic changes, including price and wage hikes. Analysts suspect the measures are designed to lift production and rein in the black market and possibly a genuine market reform of the state-controlled system.

Kim Jong Il is rapidly gaining the reputation as a master of world politics. China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan[?] calls Kim "quick-witted." Outgoing South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his 2000 summit with Kim Jong Il, praises him as a "man of insight." And Kim impressed former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as "very decisive and practical and serious."

Kim strives to import and develop new technologies and is determined to develop North Korea's fledgling software industry. According to some analysts, this explains his painstaking efforts to open up to the outside world before George W. Bushís "Axis of Evil" speech. Since then, some critics of the Bush administration claim that the administrationís North Korea policy has forced the regime to focus more on defense than economic reforms.

Philosophical and Artistic Works On the intellectual front, Kim is credited with having extended Kim Il-sung's personal philosophy of Juche, which has been the guiding light for North Korea's development.

His other claimed feats include writing six operas in two years, and personally designing the huge Juche tower in Pyongyang.

kimjongilia To commemorate Kim Jong Il's 46th birthday in 1988, Japanese botanist Motoderu Kamo cultivated a new perennial begonia named "kimjongilia".

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