Kim Jong-il

From New World Encyclopedia

This is a Korean name; the family name is Kim.
Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-il in 2011

2nd Supreme Leader of North Korea
In office
July 8, 1994[1] – December 17, 2011
President Yang Hyong-sop
Kim Yong-nam
Preceded by Kim Il-sung
Succeeded by Kim Jong-un
Preceded by Kim Il-sung
Succeeded by Kim Jong-un (as First Secretary)

Chairman of the National Defence Commission
In office
April 9, 1993 – December 17, 2011
Eternal Chairman since 13 April 2012
Deputy O Jin-u
Jo Myong-rok
Preceded by Kim Il-sung
Succeeded by Kim Jong-un (as First Chairman)

In office
December 24, 1991 – December 17, 2011
Preceded by Kim Il-sung
Succeeded by Kim Jong-un

Born February 16 1941(1941-02-16)
Camp Voroshilov, Primorsky Krai, Far Eastern Federal District, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union (assumed birth place)
February 16 1941(1941-02-16)
Vyatskoye, Khabarovsky District, Khabarovsk Krai, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union (assumed birth place)
February 16 1942(1942-02-16)
Baekdu Mountain, Japanese Korea (North Korean biography)[2]
Died December 17 2011 (aged 70)
Pyongyang, North Korea
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Spouse Hong Il-chon (1966–1969)
Kim Young-sook (1974–2011)
Children Kim Jong-nam
Kim Sul-song
Kim Jong-chul
Kim Jong-un
Kim Yo-jong
Alma mater Mangyongdae Revolutionary School
Kim Il-sung University
Signature Kim Jong-il's signature

Kim Jong-il or Kim Jong Il (/ˌkɪm dʒɒŋˈɪl/; Korean: 김정일; Korean pronunciation: [kim.dzɔŋ.il]; February 16, 1941 or 1942 – December 17, 2011) was a North Korean politician who served as the second Supreme Leader of North Korea from 1994 to 2011. He led North Korea from the 1994 death of his father Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first Supreme Leader, until his own death in 2011, when he was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un.

In the early 1980s, Kim had become the heir apparent for the leadership of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and assumed important posts in the party and army organs. Kim succeeded his father and DPRK founder Kim Il-sung, following the elder Kim's death in 1994. Kim was the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), WPK Presidium, Chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of North Korea and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA), the fourth-largest standing army in the world.

Kim assumed supreme leadership during a period of catastrophic economic crisis amidst the dissolution of the Soviet Union, on which it was heavily dependent for trade in food and other supplies, which brought a famine. While the famine had ended by the late 1990s, food scarcity continued to be a problem throughout his tenure. Kim strengthened the role of the military by his Songun ("military-first") policies, making the army the central organizer of civil society. Kim's rule also saw tentative economic reforms, including the opening of the Kaesong Industrial Park in 2003. In April 2009, North Korea's constitution was amended to refer to him and his successors as the "supreme leader of the DPRK."

On December 19, 2011, the North Korean government announced that he had died two days earlier, whereupon his third son, Kim Jong-un, was promoted to a senior position in the ruling WPK and succeeded him. The most common colloquial title given to Kim was "Dear Leader" to distinguish him from his father Kim Il-sung, the "Great Leader." After his death, Kim was designated the "Eternal General Secretary" of the WPK and the "Eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission", in keeping with the tradition of establishing eternal posts for the dead members of the Kim dynasty.

Early life


The exact birth date and place of Kim Jong-il is disputed. Kim's official biography states he was born in a secret military camp on Paektu Mountain (the highest point of the Korean peninsula and a location of mythic significance for Koreans) (Korean 백두산밀영고향집; Baekdusan Miryeong Gohyang jip) in Japanese-occupied Korea on February 16, 1942.[3] According to one comrade of Kim's mother, Lee Min, word of Kim's birth first reached an army camp in Vyatskoye via radio and that both Kim and his mother did not return there until the following year.[4] Reports indicate that his mother died in childbirth in 1949.

Soviet records show that Kim was born Yuri Irsenovich Kim (Russian: Юрий Ирсенович Ким).[5] In the literature, it is assumed that he was born in 1941 in either the camp of Vyatskoye, near Khabarovsk,[6] or camp Voroshilov near Nikolsk.[7] According to Lim Jae-Cheon, Kim cannot have been born in Vyatskoye as Kim Il-sung's war records show that he arrived at Vyatskoye only in July 1942 and has been living in Voroshilov before.[8] Kim's mother, Kim Jong-suk, was Kim Il-sung's first wife. Inside his family, he was nicknamed "Yura", while his younger brother Kim Man-il (born Alexander Irsenovich Kim) was nicknamed "Shura". These are Russian dimenutives, or nicknames for Yuri and Alexander.

In 1945, Kim was four years old when World War II ended and Korea regained independence from Japan. His father returned to Pyongyang that September, and in late November Kim returned to Korea via a Soviet ship, landing at Sonbong. The family moved into a former Japanese officer's mansion in Pyongyang, with a garden and pool. Kim's brother drowned there in 1948.[9]


According to his official biography, Kim completed the course of general education between September 1950 and August 1960. He attended Primary School No. 4 and Middle School No. 1 (Namsan Higher Middle School) in Pyongyang.[10] This is contested by foreign academics, who note that part of this timeframe coincides with the Korean War. They believe he is more likely to have received his early education in the People's Republic of China as a precaution to ensure his safety.[11]

Throughout his schooling, Kim was involved in politics. He was active in the Korean Children's Union and the Democratic Youth League of North Korea (DYL), taking part in study groups of Marxist political theory and other literature. In September 1957 he became vice-chairman of his middle school's DYL branch (the chairman had to be a teacher). He pursued a program of anti-factionalism and attempted to encourage greater ideological education among his classmates.[3]

Kim is also said to have received English language education in Malta in the early 1970s[12] on his infrequent holidays there as a guest of Prime Minister Dom Mintoff.[13]

Early Career

Kim joined the Korean Workers' Party in July 1961. During the 1960s he rose up the ranks, joining the Central Committee to help lead his father's attacks against "revisionists" in the party. In the 1970s Kim was appointed to increasingly important positions within the Party. He oversaw "agitprop," the Propaganda and Agitation department within the party, responsible for ideological purity and adherence to the Juche philosophy, the philosophy of self-reliance laid out by his father. He also gained experience in economic planning. According to his official biography, the WPK Central Committee had already anointed him successor to Kim Il-sung in February 1974. Prior to 1980, he had no public profile and was referred to only as the "Party Centre".[14]

The 6th Party Congress and heir apparent (1980–1994)

By the time of the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980, Kim's control of the Party operation was complete. He was given senior posts in the Presidium, the Military Commission and the party Secretariat. When he was made a member of the Seventh Supreme People's Assembly in February 1982, international observers deemed him the heir apparent of North Korea.

At this time Kim assumed the title "Dear Leader" (Korean 친애하는 지도자 ch'inaehanŭn jidoja),[15] the government began building a personality cult around him patterned after that of his father, the "Great Leader." Kim was regularly hailed by the media as the "fearless leader" and "the great successor to the revolutionary cause." He emerged as the most powerful figure in North Korea behind his father.

Supreme Commander

On December 24, 1991, Kim was also named Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army.[16] Defense Minister Oh Jin-wu, one of Kim Il-sung's most loyal subordinates, engineered Kim's acceptance by the Army as the next leader of North Korea, despite his lack of military service. With the fourth largest military in the entire world, this was a significant step in his future consolidation of power.

In 1992, Kim Il-sung publicly stated that his son was in charge of all internal affairs in the Democratic People's Republic. Radio broadcasts started referring to him as the "Dear Father," instead of the "Dear Leader," suggesting a promotion. His 50th birthday in February was the occasion for massive celebrations, exceeded only by those for the 80th birthday of Kim Il-sung himself on 15 April that same year. Kim made his first public speech during a military parade for the KPA's 60th anniversary and said:[17] "Glory to the officers and soldiers of the heroic Korean People's Army!".[18] These words were followed by a loud applause by the crowd at Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung Square where the parade was held.

Kim was named Chairman of the National Defense Commission on April 9, 1993, making him day-to-day commander of the armed forces.

Leader of North Korea

North Koreans bowing to the statues of Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim Il-sung, at the Mansu Hill Grand Monument

On July 8, 1994, Kim Il-sung died at the age of 82 from a heart attack.[19] Although Kim Jong-il had been his father's designated successor as early as 1974,[20] named commander-in-chief in 1991,[21] and became Supreme Leader upon his father's death,[1] it took him some time to consolidate his power.

He officially took over his father's old post as General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea on October 8, 1997.[22] In 1998, he was reelected as chairman of the National Defense Commission, and a constitutional amendment declared that post to be "the highest post of the state."[23] Also in 1998, the Supreme People's Assembly wrote the president's post out of the constitution and designated Kim Il-sung as the country's "Eternal President" in order to honor his memory forever.[24]

Officially, Kim was part of a triumvirate heading the executive branch of the North Korean government along with Premier Choe Yong-rim and parliament chairman Kim Yong-nam (no relation). Kim commanded the armed forces, Choe Yong-rim headed the government and handled domestic affairs and Kim Yong-nam handled foreign relations. However, in practice Kim exercised absolute control over the government and the country. Although not required to stand for popular election to his key offices, he was unanimously elected to the Supreme People's Assembly every five years.[25]

Cult of personality

A North Korean voting booth containing portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il under the national flag (below the portraits is the ballot box)

While other countries have had cults of personality to various degrees, the pervasiveness and extreme nature of North Korea's personality cult surpasses that of even Stalin or Mao.[26] The cult is also marked by the intensity of the people's feelings for and devotion to their leaders,[27] and the key role played by a Confucianized ideology of familism both in maintaining the cult and thereby in sustaining the regime itself. The North Korean cult of personality is a large part of North Korean socialism and totalitarianism.

In addition to cultural factors, there is a real political reason as well. Although not acknowledged by the North Korean government, many defectors and Western visitors state there are often stiff penalties for those who criticize or do not show "proper" respect for the regime.[28] The personality cult began soon after Kim Il-sung took power in 1948, and was greatly expanded after his death in 1994.

According to defector Hwang Jang-yop, the North Korean government system became even more centralized and autocratic during the 1980s and 1990s than it had been under his father. Although Kim Il-sung required his ministers to be loyal to him, he nonetheless frequently sought their advice during decision-making. In contrast, Kim Jong-il demanded absolute obedience and agreement from his ministers and party officials with no advice or compromise, and he viewed any slight deviation from his thinking as a sign of disloyalty. According to Hwang, Kim Jong-il personally directed even minor details of state affairs, such as the size of houses for party secretaries and the delivery of gifts to his subordinates.[29]

Kim Jong-il was a larger than life figure, the center of attention throughout ordinary life in the DPRK. On his 60th birthday (based on his official date of birth), mass celebrations occurred throughout the country on the occasion of his Hwangap, a traditional celebration for someone reaching their 60th birthday.[30] Many feats of great prowess and even signs and miracles were frequently atrributed to him. In 2010, the North Korean media reported that Kim's distinctive clothing had set worldwide fashion trends.[31]

Idealized portrait of Kim Jong-il

Economic policies

By the 1980s, North Korea began to experience severe economic stagnation. Kim Il-sung's policy of Juche (self-reliance) cut the country off from almost all external trade, even with its traditional partners, the Soviet Union and China. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the economic impact was even greater. The relationship with China was strained further after it recognized South Korea, so the economic position of the country was not strong when Kim became leader.

The economy of North Korea struggled throughout the 1990s, primarily due to mismanagement. The mismanagement was compounded by severe floods in the mid-1990s, which were exacerbated by poor land management.[32][33] Only 18 percent of North Korea is arable land[34] and the country's inability to import the goods necessary to sustain industry,[35] led to a severe famine and left North Korea economically devastated. Faced with a country in decay, Kim adopted a "Military-First" policy to strengthen the country and reinforce the regime.[36] This worked to help keep the regime in power. The Japanese Foreign Ministry acknowledged that this resulted in a positive growth rate for the country for a decade, with the implementation of "landmark socialist-type market economic practices" in 2002 keeping the North afloat despite a continued dependency on foreign aid for food.

In the wake of the devastation of the 1990s, the government began formally approving some activity of small-scale bartering and trade. As observed by Daniel Sneider, associate director for research at the Stanford University Asia–Pacific Research Center, this flirtation with capitalism was "fairly limited, but, especially compared to the past, there are now remarkable markets that create the semblance of a free market system."

In 2002, Kim declared that "money should be capable of measuring the worth of all commodities."[37] These gestures toward economic reform mirrored similar actions taken by China's Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s and early 90s. During a rare visit in 2006, Kim expressed admiration for China's rapid economic progress.[38]

An unsuccessful devaluation of the North Korean won in 2009, initiated or approved by Kim personally, caused brief economic chaos and uncovered the vulnerability of the country's societal fabric in the face of crisis.[39]

Foreign relations

Kim Ok, Kim's personal secretary, with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, 2000
Kim talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their 2001 meeting in Moscow

Kim was known as a skilled and manipulative diplomat.[40] Relations with South Korea improved after the election of Nobel Prize winner, Kim Dae-jung. In 1998, President Kim Dae-jung implemented the "Sunshine Policy" to improve North-South relations and to allow South Korean companies to start projects in the North. Kim announced plans to import and develop new technologies to develop North Korea's fledgling software industry. As a result of the new policy, the Kaesong Industrial Park was constructed in 2003 just north of the de-militarized zone.[41]

Nuclear proliferation

North Korea began to operate facilities for uranium fabrication and conversion, and conducted high-explosive detonation tests.[42] In 1985 North Korea had ratified the NPT but did not include the required safeguards agreement with the IAEA until 1992.[43]In early 1993, while verifying North Korea's initial declaration, the IAEA concluded that there was strong evidence this declaration was incomplete. When North Korea refused the requested special inspection, the IAEA reported its noncompliance to the UN Security Council. In 1993, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT, but suspended that withdrawal before it took effect.[43]

In November 1993, North Korea proposed to the United States that the two governments negotiate a "package solution" to all of the issues dividing them. The Clinton Administration accepted this in principle but conditioned such "comprehensive" talks on North Korea acting first to allow a resumption of IAEA inspections and to re-open negotiations with South Korea over nuclear questions (North Korea had broken off talks with South Korea in late 1992). North Korea approached the IAEA in January 1994, offering a single inspection, less comprehensive than those conducted by the IAEA in 1992. After several weeks of tough negotiations, the IAEA announced on February 16, 1994, that North Korea had accepted "the inspection activities" that the Agency had requested. [44] Under the 1994 Agreed Framework, the U.S. government agreed to facilitate the supply of two light water reactors to North Korea in exchange for North Korean disarmament.[45] In 1994, North Korea and the United States signed an Agreed Framework which was designed to freeze and eventually dismantle the North's nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid in producing two power-generating nuclear reactors and the assurance that it would not be invaded.

In 2000, after a meeting with Madeleine Albright, he agreed to a moratorium on missile construction.[46][47]In 2002 the Agreed Framework fell apart, with each side blaming the other for its failure.

Kim's government admitted to having produced nuclear weapons since the 1994 agreement. Kim's regime argued the secret production was necessary for security purposes – citing the presence of United States-owned nuclear weapons in South Korea and the new tensions with the United States under President George W. Bush.[48] On 9 October 2006, North Korea's Korean Central News Agency announced that it had successfully conducted an underground nuclear test.[49] Pakistan admitted that North Korea had gained access to Pakistan's nuclear technology in the late 1990s.[50]

Six Party Talks

In 2003 Kim announced that North Korea would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Despite the Agreed Framework, they admitted to having a nuclear weapons program. In 2002, President George W. Bush had labeled North Korea as on of the "Axis of Evil." He refused to meet with Kim directly, insisting instead on multilateral talks. The six-party talks were aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the security concerns as a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program. China put together a group of six, which also included Russia, Japan and South Korea. There was a series of meetings with six participating states in Beijing:[51]

As before Kim's government used the talks as leverage to gain financial aid. Five rounds of talks from 2003 to 2007 produced little net progress[52] until the third phase of the fifth round of talks, when North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel aid and steps towards the normalization of relations with the United States and Japan.[53] Still, verification of North Korea's compliance was never satisfactorily resolved and North Korea's nuclear testing continued.

Responding angrily to the United Nations Security Council's Presidential Statement issued on April 13, 2009 that condemned the North Korean failed satellite launch, the DPRK declared on April 14, 2009 that it would pull out of Six Party Talks and that it would resume its nuclear enrichment program in order to boost its nuclear deterrent.[54] North Korea also expelled all nuclear inspectors from the country.[55]

Final Years

Failing health

Kim at a meeting during his visit with Dmitry Medvedev in 2011

Rumors of Kim's declining health began to circulate in 2008. By September 10, there were conflicting reports. Unidentified South Korean government officials said Kim had undergone surgery after suffering a minor stroke. The New York Times reported on September 10 that Kim was "very ill and most likely suffered a stroke a few weeks ago, but United States intelligence authorities do not think his death is imminent". The BBC noted that the North Korean government denied these reports, stating that Kim's health problems were "not serious enough to threaten his life,"[56] although they did confirm that he had suffered a stroke on August 15.[57]

Throughout the rest of 2008 and early 2009, rumors continued to circulate about Kim's health. In response to these rumors regarding Kim's health and supposed loss of power, in April 2009, North Korea released a video showing Kim visiting factories and other places around the country between November and December 2008. In 2010, documents released by WikiLeaks purportedly attested that Kim suffered from epilepsy.[58] On April 9, 2009, Kim was re-elected as chairman of the National Defense Commission[59] and made an appearance at the Supreme People's Assembly. This was the first time Kim was seen in public since August 2008. He was unanimously re-elected and given a standing ovation.[60] On September 28, 2010, Kim was re-elected as General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea.[61]

Portraits of Kim Jong-il and his father in the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang

Kim reportedly visited the People's Republic of China in May 2010. He entered the country via his personal train on May 3 and stayed in a hotel in Dalian.[62] In May 2010, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell told South Korean officials that Kim had only three years to live, according to medical information that had been compiled.[63] Kim traveled to China again in August 2010, this time with his son, fueling speculation at the time that he was ready to hand over power to his son, Kim Jong-un.[64]

He returned to China again in May 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between China and the DPRK.[65] In late August 2011, he traveled by train to the Russian Far East to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev for unspecified talks.[66] There were speculations that the visits of Kim abroad in 2010 and 2011 were a sign of his improving health and a possible slowdown in succession might follow. After the visit to Russia, Kim appeared in a military parade in Pyongyang on September 9, accompanied by Kim Jong-un.[67]

Kim with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Sosnovy-Bor Military garrison, Zaigrayevsky District Buriatya on 24 August 2011

Anointing a Successor

Kim's three sons and his brother-in-law, along with O Kuk-ryol, an army general, had been considered by regime watchers as possible successors, but the North Korean government was for a time been wholly silent on this matter.[68]

Kim Yong Hyun, a political expert at the Institute for North Korean Studies at Seoul's Dongguk University, said in 2007: "Even the North Korean establishment would not advocate a continuation of the family dynasty at this point".[69] Kim's eldest son Kim Jong-nam was earlier believed to be the designated heir but he appeared to have fallen out of favor after being arrested at Narita International Airport near Tokyo in 2001 where he was caught attempting to enter Japan on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.[70]

On June 2, 2009, it was reported that Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, was to be North Korea's next leader.[71] Like his father and grandfather, he has also been given an official sobriquet, The Brilliant Comrade.[72] Prior to his death, it was reported that Kim was expected to officially designate the son as his successor in 2012.[73]


An official portrait of Kim, issued after his death

It was reported that Kim had died of a suspected heart attack on December 17, 2011 at 8:30 a.m. while traveling by train to an area outside Pyongyang.[74]In December 2012, however, reports emerged in South Korea that he had died "in a fit of rage" over construction faults at a crucial power plant project at Huichon in Jagang Province.[75]He was succeeded by his youngest son Kim Jong-un, who was hailed by the Korean Central News Agency as the "Great Successor."[76] According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), during his death a fierce snowstorm "paused" and "the sky glowed red above the sacred Mount Paektu" and the ice on a famous lake also cracked so loud that it seemed to "shake the Heavens and the Earth."[77]

Kim's funeral took place on December 28 in Pyongyang, with a mourning period lasting until the following day. South Korea's military was immediately put on alert after the announcement and its National Security Council convened for an emergency meeting, out of concern that political jockeying in North Korea could destabilize the region. Asian stock markets fell soon after the announcement, due to similar concerns.[78]

On January 12, 2012, North Korea announced that Kim would be the "eternal leader" and that his body would be preserved and displayed at Pyongyang's Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Officials also announced plans to install statues, portraits, and "towers to his immortality" across the country.[79] His birthday of February 16 was declared "the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation" and was named the Day of the Shining Star.[80]

In February 2012, on what would have been his 71st birthday, Kim was posthumously made Dae Wonsu (usually translated as Generalissimo, literally Grand Marshal), the nation's top military rank. He had been named Wonsu (Marshal) in 1992 when North Korean founder Kim Il-sung was promoted to Dae Wonsu.[81] Also in February 2012, the North Korean government created the Order of Kim Jong-il in his honor and awarded it to 132 individuals for services in building a "thriving socialist nation" and for increasing defense capabilities.[82]

Personal life


Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung

There is no official information available about Kim Jong-il's marital history, but he is believed to have been officially married twice and to have had three mistresses.[83] He had three known sons: Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-chul and Kim Jong-un. His two known daughters are Kim Sul-song and Kim Yo-jong.[84]

Kim's first wife, Hong Il-chon, was the daughter of a martyr who died during the Korean War. The marriage was arranged by Kim's father. They were married in 1966. They had a girl called Kim Hye-kyung,[85] who was born in 1968. Soon after, in 1969, they divorced.

Kim's first mistress, Song Hye-rim, was a star of North Korean films. She was already married to another man and with a child when they met. Kim is reported to have forced her husband to divorce her. This relationship, started in 1970, was not officially recognized. They had one son, Kim Jong-nam (1971–2017), who was Kim Jong-il's eldest son. Kim kept both the relationship and the child a secret (even from his father) until he ascended to power in 1994.[86]

Song, after years of estrangement, is believed to have died in Moscow in the Central Clinical Hospital in 2002.[87]

Kim's second wife, Kim Young-sook, was the daughter of a high-ranking military official. Again, his father Kim Il-Sung arranged the marriage.[88] The two were estranged for some years before Kim's death. Kim had a daughter from this marriage, Kim Sul-song (born 1974).[89]

His second mistress, Ko Yong-hui, was a Japanese-born ethnic Korean and a dancer. She had taken over the role of First Lady until her death – reportedly of cancer – in 2004. They had two sons, Kim Jong-chul (in 1981) and Kim Jong-un, also "Jong Woon" or "Jong Woong" (in 1983).[90] They also had a daughter, Kim Yo-jong, who was about 23 years old in 2012.[91]

After Ko's death, Kim lived with Kim Ok, his third mistress, who had served as his personal secretary since the 1980s. She "virtually act[ed] as North Korea's first lady" and frequently accompanied Kim on his visits to military bases and in meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries. She traveled with Kim on a secretive trip to China in January 2006, where she was received by Chinese officials as Kim's wife.

According to Michael Breen, author of the book Kim Jong Il: North Korea's Dear Leader, the women intimately linked to Kim never acquired any power or influence of consequence. As he explains, their roles were limited to that of romance and domesticity.[92]

He had a younger sister, Kim Kyong-hui. She was married to Jang Sung-taek, who was executed in December 2013 in Pyongyang, after being charged with treason and corruption.[93]


Kim Jong-il in 2000

Like his father, Kim Jong-il had a fear of flying[94] and always traveled by private armored train for state visits to Russia and China.[95]

Kim was said to be a huge film fan, owning a collection of more than 20,000 video tapes and DVDs. Sean Connery and Elizabeth Taylor were purported to be his favorite male and female actors.[96] His reported favorite movie franchises included James Bond, Friday the 13th, Rambo, Godzilla and Hong Kong action cinema,[97] He authored On the Art of the Cinema. In 1978, on Kim's orders South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and his actress wife Choi Eun-hee were kidnapped in order to build a North Korean film industry.[98]

Although Kim enjoyed many foreign forms of entertainment, according to former bodyguard Lee Young Kuk, he refused to consume any food or drink not produced in North Korea, with the exception of wine from France.[99] His former chef Kenji Fujimoto, however, has stated that Kim sometimes sent him around the world to purchase a variety of foreign delicacies.[100] The BBC reported that Konstantin Pulikovsky, a Russian emissary who travelled with Kim across Russia by train, told reporters that Kim had live lobsters air-lifted to the train every day and ate them with silver chopsticks.[101]

His official biography also claims that Kim composed six operas and enjoys staging elaborate musicals.[102]


Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung

Kim ruled a repressive and totalitarian dictatorship inherited from his father, founder of the DPRK.[103][104] The North Korean cult of personality surrounding the Kim family,[105] has roots not only in the history of communism but also in North Korean culture.[106] As an absolute ruler, Kim is known to have lived a lavish lifestyle. Defectors claimed that Kim had 17 different palaces and residences all over North Korea, including a private resort near Baekdu Mountain, a seaside lodge in the city of Wonsan, and Ryongsong Residence, a palace complex northeast of Pyongyang surrounded with multiple fence lines, bunkers and anti-aircraft batteries.[107] According to a 2010 report in the Sunday Telegraph, Kim had US$4 billion on deposit in European banks in case he ever needed to flee North Korea. The Sunday Telegraph reported that most of the money was in banks in Luxembourg.[108]

Although the economy he inherited was not strong, Kim had a "reputation for being almost comically incompetent in matters of economic management."[109] He would later implement some limited market reforms, but his primary economic policy was the "military first" policy that helped to solidify support for the regime. The country would still require significant food aid to feed its people.

Much of North Korea's foreign policy during the Kim Jong-il era was focused on its growing nuclear weapons program, which dated back to the 1980s. The Agreed Framework was negotiated with the United States, but later North Korea admitted that they were secreatly violating the agreement. United States Special Envoy for the Korean Peace Talks, Charles Kartman, who was involved in the 2000 Madeleine Albright summit with Kim, characterized Kim as a reasonable man in negotiations, to the point, but with a sense of humor and personally attentive to the people he was hosting.[110] However, psychological evaluations conclude that Kim's antisocial features, such as his fearlessness in the face of sanctions and punishment, served to make negotiations extraordinarily difficult.[111]

On human rights, according to a 2004 Human Rights Watch report, the North Korean government under Kim was among the world's most repressive governments, with up to 200,000 political prisoners according to U.S. and South Korean officials. There was no freedom of the press or religion, political opposition or equal education. Virtually every aspect of political, social, and economic life is controlled by the government.[112]

Kim's government was accused of "crimes against humanity" for its alleged culpability in creating and prolonging the 1990s famine.[113] Outside observers have characterized him as a dictator and accused him of human rights violations.[114]


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  2. North Korean biographies, which claim his birth date as February 16, 1942, are generally not considered to be factually reliable.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, Kim Jong Il: Brief History (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017, ISBN 978-1542325820).
  4. Michael Breen, Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader: Who He Is What He Wants and What To Do About Him (Singapore: John Wiley & Sons Singapore, 2012, ISBN 978-1118153772), 45.
  5. Lawrence Sheets, "A Visit to Kim Jong Il's Russian Birthplace," NPR, February 12, 2004. Retrieved on August 14, 2020.
  6. "Kim Jong-il," BBC News, January 16, 2009. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  7. Christopher Richardson, "Hagiography of the Kims and the childhood of saints," in Change and Continuity in North Korean Politics Adam Cathcart, Robert Winstanley-Chesters, and Christopher K. Green (eds.), (New York, NY: Routledge Press, 2016, ISBN 978-1138681682), 121.
  8. Jae-Cheon Lim, Kim Jong Il's Leadership of North Korea (London, England: Routledge Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0203884720), 9-10.
  9. Jerrold M. Post and Alexander George, Leaders and their followers in a dangerous world: the psychology of political behavior (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0801441691), 243-244.
  10. Kongdan Oh and Ralph C. Hassig, North Korea through the Looking Glass (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0815764359), 86.
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ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Armstrong, Charles K. Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0801450822
  • Becker, Jasper. Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea. Oxford, England and New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0195308914
  • Breen, Michael. Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader: Who He Is What He Wants and What To Do About Him. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons Singapore, 2012. ISBN 978-1118153772
  • Buzo, Adrian. The Making of Modern Korea. London, England: Routledge Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0415237499
  • Cathcart, Adam, Robert Winstanley-Chesters, and Christopher K. Green (eds.). Change and Continuity in North Korean Politics. New York, NY: Routledge Press, 2016. ISBN 978-1138681682
  • Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. Kim Jong Il: Brief History. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017. ISBN 978-1542325820
  • Choe, Yong-ho, Peter H. Lee, and Wm. Theodore de Barry (eds.). Sources of Korean Tradition. Chichester, NY: Columbia University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0231120302
  • Haggard, Stephan, and Marcus Nolan. Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2009. ISBN 0231140010
  • Hunter, Helen-Louise. Kim Il-song's North Korea. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999. ISBN 978-0275962968
  • Jeffries, Ian. North Korea, 2009–2012: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments. London, England: Routledge Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0815367406
  • Kleiner, Jürgen. Korea, a Century of Change. River Edge, NJ: World Scientific, 2001. ISBN 978-9810246570
  • Lankov, Andrei. The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0199390038
  • Lim, Jae-Cheon. Kim Jong Il's Leadership of North Korea. London, England: Routledge Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0203884720
  • Lim, Jae-Cheon. Leader Symbols and Personality Cult in North Korea: The Leader State. London, England: Routledge Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1138831421
  • Martin, Bradley K. Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 2004. ISBN 0312322216
  • McEachern, Patrick. Inside the Red Box: North Korea's post-totalitarian politics. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0231153225
  • Oh, Kongdan, and Ralph C. Hassig. North Korea through the Looking Glass. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0815764359
  • Post, Jerrold M., and Alexander George. Leaders and their Followers in a Dangerous World: The psychology of political behavior. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0801441691
  • Scobell, Andrew. Kim Jong Il and North Korea: The leader and the system. Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2006. ISBN 978-1584872351

External links

All links retrieved November 16, 2021.


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