Everything you wanted to know about North Korean politics, but were afraid to ask.
The Japanese occupied Korea in 1910. They controlled Korea until the end of the second world war and then in a similar manner to Germany, Korea was divided into parts controlled by the US and the Soviets.
Kim Il Sung had fought against the Japanese and was chosen by the Soviets to control North Korea. After getting Stalin’s permission he invaded South Korea. The attack caught the south by surprise and the north conquered most of the country. Then the Americans sent reinforcements led by Douglas MacArthur (he was in favor of nuking Pyongyang). The Americans retook Seoul and took Pyongyang and were on the verge of controlling all of North Korea when the Chinese invaded. They forced the Americans back and after four years of fighting, the two Koreas ended up back where they were before the Korean war.
Even though Kim Il Sung has been dead for more than 15 years, he is still the President of North Korea. That’s because he is the eternal president.
He was popularly known as the Great Leader and statues and monuments to him are everywhere in North Korea.
He was such a smart guy that everywhere he went he was able to give guidance to people. He told farmers how to grow their crops and told the military how to fight.
And best of all, the children loved him.
If you visit Pyongyang’s Museum of Metro Construction expecting to find a boring museum dedicated to something like say, the construction of a metro you’ll be happily surprised. The museum instead focuses on how great the Great Leader was. You can learn all about how he chose the names for the subway stations and how many times he visited each station.
If you visit his mausoleum, you’ll learn how upset the people of Korea were when Kim Il Sung died in 1994 (They cried for 10 days and 10 nights).
His mausoleum is an enormous structure that was completed at the height of the North Korean famine. But the people put their hunger aside and took comfort in the fact that they would have somewhere nice to have group photos taken.
After the Great Leader’s death, his son Kim Jong Il took over running the country. (He’s not president though. His father is the eternal president).
He’s a happy, smiling chap that loves to help the people and is known as the Dear Leader.
Like his dad, he is very smart and likes giving guidance to people.
He also enjoys a good laugh.
Almost every room (toilets excepted) in North Korea is supposed to have portraits of the two leaders. There are two types of flowers named after the leaders and every adult in North Korea is expected to wear a pin with a portrait of the Great Leader.
The leader’s birthdays are holidays and a few years ago the value of the North Korean won was pegged at 2.16 to the US dollar (February 16th is Kim Jong Il’s birthday).
Kim Jong Il is known as a movie buff. He even went so far as to kidnap one of South Korea’s most famous actresses and her movie director husband and then forced them to make movies for him.
One of the films that resulted is Pulgasari: a North Korean version of Godzilla.
Kim Jong Il also had a starring role in the movie Team America.