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Kim Il Sung
”Great Leader” / 1912-1994/
Leader of the Korean Workers’ Party /1949-1994/
President of North Korea /1972-1994/
De facto he was head of the Communist Party since 1945 until 1994. After his death he was designated in the constitution as ”Eternal President of Democratical People’s Republic of Korea.”
Kim Il Sung was born in a peasant family. In 1930 at his age 18 he organized the Korean Revolutionary Army which was the first armed organization of the Korean communists, a political and paramilitary organization formed to make preparations for the anti-Japanese armed struggle. From 1938 to 1945 he defeated the imperial Japanese army, liberated North Korea and on 10 October 1945 founded the North Korean Communist Party.
In 1945 the Yalta Conference agreed that Soviet and American troops would occupy Korea after the war. The country was divided at the 38th parallel and Kim Il Sung became head of the provisional government of North Korea. In 1948 the Soviet Union set up a People's Democratic Republic in North Korea. At the same time the United States helped establish the Republic of South Korea. On 25th June 1950, the North Koreans launched a surprise attack on South Korea. Three days later, communist forces captured the South Korean capital, Seoul. On 15th September, 1950, American General Douglas MacArthur landed American and South Korean marines at 200 miles behind the North Korean lines. Korean War started in 1950 and finished in 1953. An armistice agreement, maintaining the divided Korea, was signed at Panmunjom on 27th July 1953.
After the war Kim Il Sung established an authoritarian dictatorship. To reinforce his rule he succeeded in constructing a cult of personality with himself as the main icon for adoration.
The figure of Kim Il Sung becomes increasingly important in North Korea, with his image being increasingly present all over the country. His life, stories based on him and his personal characteristics are taught throughout the educational system. Citizens are to wear a pin of his image. In 1972 a new constitution is passed and Kim Il Sung becomes president of the Democratical People’s Republic of Korea. On the spot guidance in factories, workplaces become common, eventually with the participation of his son Kim Jong Il. At his age 82 Kim Il Sung died after a heart attack.
He did not like travelling. His foreign policy engages in visits only to other communist countries including the USSR and China. Kim Il Sung visited Hungary twice. First in 1956 – just before the Hungarian Revolution. This time Mátyás Rákosi, /1892-1971/ the ”Hungarian Stalin” welcomed him. Secondly he came to Budapest in 1984 for the invitation of the communist leader of Hungary, János Kádár /1912-1989/.
I started collecting autographs in 1965, and since then I wrote several letters to Pyongyang addressed to Kim Il Sung. Several times they sent me North Korean magazines full of pictures of the ”Great Leader” – but no autograph. When I read in the papers about his close official visit to Hungary, I wrote a letter to János Kádár, the First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, asking his help to obtain a signed photo of ”Comrade Kim Il Sung”. However János Kádár helped me in this matter. About a week later his lady Private Secretary wrote me a letter in which she told me that Kim Il Sung had signed the photo and they were happy to forward it to me. The photo has been signed and also dated by Kim Il Sung /1984.6.8./ About 20 years later, I met the lady Private Secretary, and she remembered my letter. She told me that Kádár had personally asked Kim Il Sung to sign the photo for me.
One more personal information: Last year I visited the former Hungarian Prime Minister György Lázár / 1924- /. He was in office 1975-1987. In 1984 he was the discussion partner of Kim Il Sung. Lázár told me ”nobody would think how pleasant discussion partner Kim Il Sung was. I could speak with him about everything, no taboo. He had a very good sense of humor and he really was a polite and nice person. I was pleasantly surprised” remembered Lázár. I was also surprised to hear it…
Kim Il Sung’ son Kim Jong Il succeeded him in power.
Kim Jong Il
”Dear Leader” / 1941-2011 /
Supreme Leader of North Korea /1994-2011/.
According to his official biography he was born in 1942 in Korea. In fact probably he was born in 1941 in the Soviet Union. In 1950-1960 he was probably studing in the People’s Republic of China. He studied agricultural studies and Marxist political theory in school. He graduated from university in 1964 and joined the Korean Workers’ Party. In 1974, Kim Jong Il was named his father's official successor.
After his father’s death it took three years for him to consolidate his power. He officially took the titles of General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea in 1997 and Chairman of the National Defence Commission. Kim Jong Il was the centre of an elaborate personality cult inherited from his father. Many North Koreans believed that he had the "magical" ability to control the weather. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the North Korean government under Kim was among the world's most repressive governments, having up to 200,000 political prisoners.
In 2011 he died from a heart attack. The Korean State Television announced that people noticed a bear family crying at the side of a road. They were crying after the Dear Leader of course. The bear family was even shown in television.
I wrote several letters to Kim Jong Il asking for his autograph. No answer. In my last letter I enclosed his father’s signed photo’s photocopy, regarding Kim Il Sung’ autograph. Some months later the bell was ringing in my house, and two Korean people were standing by my front door. They told me they came from the Korean Embassy. They knew about my letter written to Kim Jong Il and they wanted to know how I received Kim Il Sung’ signed photo as it was not common. I invited them to my living room. While we were talking my daughter Dorina was preparing a cup of tea for them. It was an uncomfortable situation, I did not want to let them know that János Kádár had helped me in this matter. Finally I found the ”right answers” for their quastions. What’s more they promised me that they would help me obtaining Kim Jong Il’s signature. I had to wait for a long time, but finally I have received the signed photo of the “Dear Leader”.
Dr. Zoltán Márián
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