April 15, 2013

Kim Il Sung, the “Eternal Leader” of North Korea, was born 101 years ago today


Kim Il Sung, the first leader of North Korea, was born 101 years ago today. Kim led the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from 1948 until his death in 1994, serving as Prime Minister and then President. He led the invasion of South Korea in 1950, and nearly took over the entire peninsula, before being repulsed by United Nations troops. That war, known in this country as the Korean War, lasted for three years. After the war, Kim solidified his hold on power by establishing a pervasive cult of personality—there are over 500 statues of Kim in North Korea and today, his birthday, is a public holiday.

While Kim remained in power during the terms of office of six South Korean presidents, seven Soviet leaders, and ten U.S. presidents, he, the country he led, and the personality cult surrounding him are widely misunderstood. Below you’ll find brief excerpts from B.R. Myers‘ timely and groundbreaking The Cleanest Race which illuminates the hermetic country’s worldview and its perception of its Great Leader.


Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.