Kim Il Sung ( Kim Song Ju; 1912–1994)
Korean statesman; first premier (1948–72) and president (1972–94) of North Korea.
Born near Pyongyang, Kim Song Ju was a devoted communist from adolescence, serving a prison sentence for his activities in 1929–30. In the 1930s he led the armed resistance to Japanese domination of Korea, taking the name of a legendary national hero. During World War II he continued this struggle as commander of a Korean contingent in the Soviet army; on the defeat of the Japanese he was installed as the leader of Soviet-occupied North Korea. Talks aimed at reuniting the north with the US-occupied south failed in 1947 and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea became an independent state with Kim at its head.
In 1950 Kim, who never accepted partition, ordered the military invasion of South Korea, precipitating the Korean War. A US-led United Nations force came to the defence of the South, while China intervened on the Northern side. The fighting proved inconclusive and the eventual armistice (1953) left the border little altered. After the war, Kim repeatedly pressed for the peaceful reunion of the Koreas, proposing a new federation plan in 1980.
Domestically, Kim maintained a one-party communist state and created an extraordinary personality cult around himself and his family. All industry was nationalized and from the 1950s most agricultural land was collectivized. There were notable successes in the provision of medical care and education. On his death he was succeeded by his son, Kim Chong Il (1942– ).