Kim Il Sung (b. 1912) was the ruler of North Korea from the founding of the so-called Democratic People’s Republic in 1948 until his death in 1994. Of all the absolute dictators in modern times, Kim arguably had the most control over the everyday lives of his subjects. Born in Jeonju in what is today South Korea, Kim fled to Manchuria with his parents when he was eight. Fleeing from Japanese forces during World War Two, he wound up in Russia, becoming a major in the Soviet army. It was Stalin who plucked him from obscurity to run the Soviet puppet state of Korea. At the time, Kim barely knew his native language—he’d grown up speaking Chinese.
He immediately set about constructing a cult of personality. North Koreans still venerate him like a saint, if not a god. His deranged grin can be seen all over the country—there are some 500 statues of the Eternal Leader, and almost every major institution is named for him. Indeed, Kim Il Sung’s North Korea is eerily similar to George Orwell’s 1984.
That millions of people attended his funeral, many hysterically weeping, attest to the power of his personality cult— Kim’s death should have a cause for celebration, not grief. He was a cruel, deranged human being. He ruled with an iron fist, sending hundreds of thousands of alleged dissidents to detention camps—and leaving them and their descendents there for generations. As his people starved to death in droves—some estimates put the number of deaths from hunger at 3 million—victims of his ill-advised economic policies, Kim invested heavily in his military. Today, North Korea is a nuclear power, with a standing army of over a million—and still many of its 25 million people do not have enough to eat.
Data: Banknote: P-22, 10 0 won; 170 x 84mm ; issued 1978 Obverse: portrait of Kim Il Sung; note the electricity pylon on the coat of arms. Reverse: a country residence; note the streetlamp and the picket fence.
Album open measures: 11” x 7.5” Album folded measures: 5.5” x 7.5”
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