AKA ‘Great Leader’, AKA ‘Eternal Leader’, AKA ‘Suryong’ (Supreme Leader).
Country: North Korea.
Kill tally: About three million killed in the Korean War. Between 600,000 and one million North Koreans needlessly starved to death due to the economic legacy of Kim’s regime. (Some reports claim that as many as three million starved.)
Background: From an early date Korean political culture is characterised by isolationism and a strong desire to maintain the country’s independence. China, though treated with deference, is kept at arm’s length and relations with other neighbours are discouraged. Among Westerners Korea comes to be known as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’.
Nevertheless, the country is unable to stop encroachment by neighbours. Korea is made a Japanese protectorate in 1905 and is turned into a full colony of the growing Japanese Empire in 1910. By the 1940s there are about 700,000 Japanese in Korea, mostly working in government service. While the Japanese policies result in substantial economic growth, Koreans become second-class citizens within their own land.
Mini biography: Born on 15 April 1912 in Mangyongdae in the Pyongyang Province of northern Korea into what was probably a middle-class family. His birth name is Kim Song Ju. He is the eldest of three sons. Kim’s younger brother dies early. His youngest brother will serve with him until the mid-1970s. Kim’s father is a Christian and Kim attends church throughout his teens.
1919 – On 1 March a group of 33 intellectuals call for independence from Japan, sparking nationwide mass protests that continue for months despite harsh repression by the Japanese (the so-called ‘March 1st Movement’). The movement fails to win independence for Korea but does cause the Japanese to reform their administration. Read the rest of this entry »