Kim Il-Sung Facts & Worksheets

Kim Il-Sung facts and information plus worksheet packs and fact file. Includes 5 activities aimed at students 11-14 years old (KS3) & 5 activities aimed at students 14-16 years old (GCSE). Great for home study or to use within the classroom environment.

Kim Il-Sung Worksheets

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    • Early life of Kim Il-Sung
    • Kim as the North Korean Leader
    • The Death of Kim Il-Sung
    • Kim Dynasty
    • Juche 
    • Cult of Personality

    Key Facts And Information

    Let’s know more about Kim Il-Sung!

    Portrait of Kim Il-Sung

    Kim Il-Sung was the founder and first leader of North Korea and served as the state’s head from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994. Prior to this, he served as a communist guerilla and was a supporter of the Communist Party of China. Hence, when he became the country’s leader, he established political and economic policies adhering to the ideology of communism. In 1998, he was declared the ‘Eternal President of the Republic’.

    Early Life of Kim Il-Sung

    • Kim Il-Sung was born as Kim Song-ju to Kim Hyong-jik and Kang Pan-sok allegedly in the small village of Mangyongbong near Pyongyang on 15 April 1912. He had two younger brothers named Chul-ju and Yong-ju. His family was presumed to have come from Jeonju, North Jeolla Province.
    • Kim was said to have been raised in a Presbyterian family, a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism. His grandfather was a Protestant minister and his father was an elder in the Presbyterian church. Both his parents were ostensibly very active in the religious community. 
    • In 1920, Kim’s family participated in anti-Japanese activities where they were forced to flee to Manchuria. This was a common occurrence in Korean families because of the severe repression of the Japanese invaders to the Korean opposition during the Japanese occupation of the country in 1910. Despite the threat of suppression, Kim’s parents played roles in the anti-Japanese struggle although their missionary or nationalist involvement was uncertain.
    • Kim founded the Down-With-Imperialism Union in October 1926. In the same year, he attended the Whasung Military Academy but quit the year after. Three years later, he attended the Yuwen Middle School in the Jilin province of China. It was here that he became interested in communist ideologies.
    • At 17 years old, Kim became the youngest member of the Marxist organisation, an underground group led by South Manchurian Communist Youth Association Hŏ So. When the organisation was discovered by the local police, members including Kim were arrested and jailed for months. The subversive activities that put him in jail signalled the end of his formal education.
    • In 1931, Kim joined the Chinese Communist Party. He also joined various anti-Japanese groups in northern China, particularly in Manchuria, where sentiments against the Japanese were high. Around that time, Manchuria was not yet occupied by the Japanese. However, on 30 May 1930, a spontaneous and reckless violent uprising in eastern Manchuria led to Japanese suppression. The attack resulted in Japanese plans to take over Manchuria. 
    • On 18 September of the same year, the Mukden Incident happened where a dynamite explosive went off near a Japanese railway in a town in Manchuria. Despite having no damage from the seemingly weak dynamite explosive, the Japanese took the opportunity to send in armed forces and appoint a puppet government in Manchuria.
    • It was when Kim was appointed political commissar for the 3rd detachment of the second division of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army that he met his communist mentor Wei Zhengmin. What solidified Kim’s leadership was the Minsaengdan incident, which included a series of purges of Koreans in Manchuria by the Communist Party of China. The killings were based on the mere suspicion that Koreans were supporting Japanese occupiers by being members of the pro-Japanese and anti-communist Minsaengdan.
    • Kim was among the Koreans expelled from the Communist Party of China. But his expulsion didn’t make him give up. In fact, according to memoirs of the incident, Kim seized and burned the suspect files of the Purge Committee. His actions greatly solidified his leadership.
    • In 1935, Kim changed his name to Kim Il-Sung which means ‘Kim becomes the sun’. In 1937, he controlled a few hundred men in a group known as ‘Kim Il-Sung’s division’ and led them in 200 guerilla raids on Pochonbo. The destruction of many local government offices and Japanese police stations and offices demonstrated Kim’s capabilities as a military leader.
    • Aside from his military success, he was also applauded for the political coordination and organisation between the guerillas and the Korean Fatherland Restoration Association. His accomplishments not only made him popular among Chinese guerillas, but also led the Japanese to put him on wanted lists and regard him as a huge threat for being one of the most effective Korean guerilla leaders.

      Members of the 88th Separate Rifle Brigade
    • In 1942, Kim and his army were assigned to the 88th Separate Rifle Brigade of the Soviet Red Army. He later became a Major and served for the Soviet Army until the end of the Second World War in 1945. Kim solidified control by establishing the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Together with the help of Soviet advisers, he was able to construct a large army that was skillful in guerilla warfare.

    Kim as the North Korean Leader

    • On 9 September 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR) was proclaimed with Kim as the designated premier of the Soviets. The southern part of Korea, on the other hand, declared statehood as the Republic of Korea. 
    • The Soviets declared DPR as the sovereign government of the entire Korean peninsula.
    • Having merged with the New People’s Party of Korea, the Communist Party formed the Workers’ Party of North Korea assigning Kim as the chairman. The next year, the party was merged again with its southern counterpart and became the Workers’ Party of Korea with Kim again designated as the chairman. By 1949, the communists had consolidated their rule in North Korea. His rule consisted of the promotion of an intense personality cult where he was referred to as the Great Leader.
    • After the Korean War turned to stalemate, in July 1951, peace talks in Panmunjom, North Korea were conducted. The fighting continued while negotiations were underway. Both sides agreed on the maintenance of the 38th parallel as the boundary between the north and the south. However, differences arose regarding prisoners of war.
    • While China and North Korea approved forced repatriation, the US disagreed. In November 1952, Harry Truman was replaced by Dwight D Eisenhower. He promised the Korean War would end and he would go to the country to witness it personally. 
    • For two years, negotiations ensued and by 27 July 1953 an armistice was signed in Panmunjom. The prisoners of war could remain where they wanted and a new boundary near the 38th parallel was drawn giving South Korea an additional 1,500 square miles of territory. Furthermore, a 2.5-mile-wide ‘demilitarised zone’ was established.

    Consolidating Power in North Korea

    • Despite the failure to unify Korea under his rule, Kim declared victory for having remained in power in the north. The war, nonetheless, devastated the country and Kim was left to reconstruct it. Inspired by the Soviet Union’s five-year plans, Kim launched a five-year national economic plan where industry and agriculture were controlled and collectivised by the state.
    • The following years of his rule saw Kim establishing himself as an independent leader of international communism. He consolidated his power over the Korean communist movement and joined Mao Tse-tung in the ‘anti-revisionist’ camp. 
    • During his rule, Kim created the Songbun caste system. Songbun divided the North Koreans into three main classifications based on their political, economic and social backgrounds: ‘core’, ‘wavering’, and ‘hostile’ class. The highest status, or the core, were those descended from the participants of the resistance against the Japanese during and before WWII. These consisted of labourers, factory workers and peasants.
    • The middle class, or wavering, was reserved for the average North Koreans, while the lowest class, or hostile, were made up of people with possible subversive elements like intellectuals and former landowners. The Songbun caste system showed how the communists were successful in turning the social structure upside down.
    • Kim was responsible for various human rights abuses while he was in power. He purged dissenters and reduced their families to the lowest rank in the Songbun. Some were also relocated to Kwanliso (North Korean prison camps), which were part of Kim’s network of abusive penal and forced labour institutions. Prisoners in Kwanliso were forced to perform hard labour and most of them were held there for life under deadly living and working conditions.
    • Kim’s relationship with the Soviet Union only got closer despite his opposition to de-Stalinisation. His relationship with Mao Tse-tung, on the other hand, was unstable as he was mostly left out of Mao’s leadership during the Cultural Revolution. Moreover, Kim was denounced by Mao’s Red Guards.
    • Over time, South Korea became an economic powerhouse due to Japanese and American investment, while North Korea was experiencing increasing economic difficulties as Kim was reluctant to issue any economic or political reforms to better the lives of his people.
    • In the 1960s, Kim attempted to infiltrate South Korea after being impressed by how Ho Chi Minh had reunified Vietnam. Thinking the same could happen in Korea, Kim and his forces tried to storm the Blue House and assassinate South Korean President Park Chung-Hee. Out of the 31 soldiers of the KPA, 29 were killed in the raid.

      Kumsusan Memorial Palace

    The Death of Kim Il-Sung

    • On 7 July 1994, Kim Il-Sung collapsed from a sudden heart attack. The best Pyongyang doctors were called in to save him but failed to do so. He died at around 2am local time the next day. The announcement of his death was made 34 hours later to respect the traditional Confucian mourning period. The death of North Korea’s supreme leader was publicly announced on live television on 9 July 1994.
    • Kim’s death resulted in nationwide mourning and his state funeral was attended by over two million people. His body was preserved, embalmed and put in a glass coffin at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. 

    Kim Dynasty

    • In December 1972, Kim proclaimed a new constitution in North Korea that created an executive presidency. From a premiership, Kim was elected president. In 1980, he decided that the succession of the position would be handed to his son Kim Jong-il. This was fully supported fully by the army because of Kim’s revolutionary record. In October of the same year, he made a public announcement to officially designate Jong-il as his successor.
    • In order to secure Jong-il’s full succession, Kim turned over his North Korea’s National Defense chairmanship to him in 1991. This government body was responsible for the armed forces and the Korean People’s Army. When rumours spread that Kim had been assassinated, everyone became concerned for Jong-il’s ability to succeed. Although Kim quickly dispelled the rumours through public appearances, the incident somehow established the first apparent patrilineal in a communist state. 
    • After the death of Kim Il-Sung followed the three-generation lineage of the Kim family. Referred to as the Kim dynasty or the Mount Paektu bloodline, Kim Il-Sung’s role as supreme leader was passed on to his son Kim Jong-il, and then to his grandson Kim Jong-un. The three served as leaders of the Workers’ Party of Korea and exercised complete control over North Korea. Since then, the Kim family has been described as a de facto absolute monarchy.


    • Kim Il-Sung made significant contributions to political theory but his most notable one was the state ideology of North Korea – the Juche. Although it was originally described as a variant of Marxism-Leninism, it was declared a distinct ideology in the 1970s. 
    • What justified it as a variant of Marxism-Leninism was initially that it incorporated its historical materialist ideas. However, what separated it was that the Juche strongly emphasised the individual, the nation and national sovereignty. The core principle of the ideology lies in a country being politically, economically and militarily independent in order to prosper. An essential part of the Juche was maintaining loyalty to its leader.

    Cult of Personality

    • Kim’s rule over North Korea was a personalist dictatorship that centralised power in himself, creating a cult of personality. This unchallenged one-man rule system took full effect after the Korean War that saw the mass purging of Kim’s antis.
    • Around 500 statues of Kim are spread around North Korea, the most popular of which are: Kim Il-Sung Stadium, Kim Il-Sung University, Kim Il-Sung Bridge, Immortal Statue of Kim Il-Sung, and Mansudae Hill. Portraits and mentions of him are plastered in train stations, airports and public buildings.
    • Although it can be said that there are some who have genuine affection for Kim and were not driven by the cult, this was further manipulated by the government for political purposes. An example of the manipulation can be seen in the fabrication of Kim’s official biographies where he is credited to have single-handedly rebuilt the nation after the Korean War and defeated the Japanese during their occupation of the Korean peninsula.
    • He was given many flattering titles such as ‘Sun’, ‘Heavenly Leader’ and ‘Great Chairman’ and awards such as the Double Hero Gold Medal. These titles and awards, however, were often self-given. Major publications in North Korea had to also always include words of instruction from Kim and had a whole single line allotted for his name as it was not allowed to be split into two over a page break.
    • The efforts to build and strengthen the cult through propaganda, manipulation and indoctrination did not only happen during Kim’s rule, but were done in a similar manner by his successors. Although, despite the effectiveness of his cult in North Korea, he struggled to extend power beyond the country’s borders.