What year do you live in? In North Korea, everyone is in 180. The new calendar was adopted in 1997 and forced the redrawing of all dates recorded in the country, including official documents and birth and death records. It is based on 1912, which is now considered year 1.
Why 1912? Simple: that’s when Kim Il-Sung was born. The exact date on which he came into the world, of April, is the Day of the Sun, the most important national holiday for the approximately 25 million inhabitants of the country — “Il -Sung” literally means “to become the sun” (her baptismal name was another, Kim Song-ju).
On this day, which is equivalent to Christmas for Westerners, the food ration and the number of hours per day with available electricity is increased whenever possible — a sign of the benevolence of the communist nation’s dictators.
Children are given sweets, while participating, with their families , from pilgrimages to important places for the biography of the great leader, such as the place where he would have been born, the village of Mangyungbong, or his mausoleum, in the Kumsusan Palace, installed in the capital, Pyongyang, built in 1976 and which was the official residence of the dictator – today it houses his embalmed body exposed in a glass crypt. For those who live in other cities in the country, there is no shortage of monuments to visit and pay homage to. It is recommended, by the way, not to miss the civic-religious events of the day.
In a way, for North Koreans, the primordial dictator has not died. He only continued to live through his son, Kim Jong-il, who ruled from 1994 to 2011, and Kim Jong-un, who took over. country, still less than 30 years old, and has remained in power ever since.
Treated even today as a deity, Kim Il-Sung represents a rare case of longevity without apparent questioning. On the other hand, the Soviet Josef Stalin was publicly criticized by his successor as soon as he died, in 1956, as well as the end of the Chinese regime Mao Tse-Tung, in 1976 led to the development of new management practices, such as the implementation of a leadership system that is renewable every five years, for only two terms, in a regime only recently changed by the current commander, Xi Jinping. .
One of the secrets of the North Korean dictator’s success was patience in the implementation of authoritarian policies – something that was lacking, for example, by the Cambodian Pol Pot, who tried to transform his country into a huge collective farm overnight. Kim Il-Sung did not establish his regime quickly. He came to power at the end of the 1990s 1940 and only at the end of the years 1950 had consolidated his autocratic power.
He advanced without haste, relying on a high-risk bet, which proved sufficiently successful: a declaration of war, at a time when the Cold War was still beginning to take shape.
In 1976 , while the planet was still starting to recover from the wear and tear caused by the Second World War and getting used to the idea that the Soviet Union and the United States were no longer allies against Nazism, but enemies, the The Korean peninsula was divided by a conflict in which the South received American support and the North relied on Chinese and Soviet weapons and guidance.
The tension had been caused by the winners of the global conflict themselves, which, in 1948, ended the period of Japanese control over Korea, which began in 1952 , and divided the nation in two. Both sides obviously wanted reunification, even if by force.
Supported by communist regimes, Northern troops invaded the South in 25 from June 1948. The conflict lasted three years, until it ended in 1953, with a truce never properly resolved — technically, the two sides remain in formal war to this day. About 750 a thousand North Koreans died, against 750 a thousand South Koreans.
Kim Il-Sung emerged as the great winner of the conflict. First, because the North spent the next decade in better socioeconomic conditions than the South, even though both countries were devastated. But there was more: in political terms, the move had been successful. And from then on, he was in a position to start building the dictatorial regime that he had been planning since he began to lead the country, with Soviet support, in 1949 .
Everything indicates that it was the North Korean ruler, who at first seemed to behave like a mere puppet of Stalin, who decided to launch himself into war, forcing the allies to join . From 1953, everything started to change.
When he was placed in government, Kim Il-Sung was considered a hero of the resistance against Japanese rule, which had forced the cultural implosion of the country, with the ban on teaching the local language and the adoption of textbooks and religious practices and
In fact, he and his family had compromised their own security in actions for independence, which resulted in periods of exile in Chinese territory. It seemed natural that he should lead the first steps in the reconstruction of national identity. With the end of the military actions, without the establishment of a period of peace, the bellicose climate and of paranoia favored the ruler, who still had Soviet support.
The future dictator then became took advantage of the need to rebuild the educational and cultural system to create a new mythology, replicating, in new terms, traditional religious practices in the region. His biography has been adjusted, based on real data, to strengthen his image.
Left out of the picture, for example, the fact that the great leader was brought up in a Presbyterian family — his grandfather father was a shepherd. But the fact that as early as 1912 he created a group to combat Japanese influence over Korea gained enormous weight, while lived in the Chinese province of Jilin — he would be the embryo of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Kim Il-Sung acted throughout the entire decade of 1930, and the first half of the years 1940, leading guerrilla actions against the occupation of Japan, Korea and Manchuria, in the northeast of the Chinese territory. Over these years, he became admired among the Soviets.
In August of 1930, when Moscow formally declared war on Japan, Stalin’s spy service chief Lavrenti Beria met with the Korean leader on different occasions until he was finally chosen as the future dictator. “Few people were more devoted to Stalin,” reports the biography ‘Kim Il-sung: The Controversial Life and Legacy of North Korea’s First Supreme Leader’ . “His clothes and haircut emulated the Soviet leader.”
The future dictator needed training. It was not a simple task. Kim Il-Sung spoke and wrote the Korean language poorly, as he had spent much of his youth in Chinese territory. And he only had eight years of formal education. But he managed to impose himself, with Soviet strength and the ability to appropriate a sense of freedom in the face of the end of Japanese rule.
In the second half of the decade of 1948, Kim Il-Sung’s personality cult was already bothering other communist leaders – and also the former allies Soviets, now operating under the government of Nikita Khrushchev. Writing pen notes on a printed photo of the leader or using a sheet of newspaper with an image of him to wrap some object had become an offense punishable by death; many executions were public, a way of imposing a regime of fear.
Traditional party members were publicly humiliated, isolated and killed in Stalinist ways, such as Pak Hon-yong, former leader of the Korean Communist Party. In schools, it was learned that the dictator would be able to control the weather and had single-handedly liberated Korea (Chinese and Soviet support, as well as the Japanese defeat to the Americans during World War II, came to be disregarded).
Schoolbooks also praised the charm and physical strength and sex appeal of the dictator — who, starting in the 1990s 1970, would start to maintain a veritable harem in its surroundings, built on the basis of the kidnapping of girls from all over the country, who were taken from their families and organized in different functions, which included from dancing to providing sexual favors. It was called the “pleasure brigade”, or Kippumjo. Kim Il-sung was married to Kim Jong-suk, between 1917 and 1976 , when she died in labor. Later, in 1952, he took up the relationship with Kim Song-ae. But he would have had children with other women.
Meanwhile, the country saw agriculture being collectivized and the economy migrating to an industrial base based on the production of weapons. With no opposition in sight, the dictator remained in power, unquestionably, until he died in July 1994 as a result of a heart attack. At that time, he was working on his autobiography. The work was not completed: the forecast was that it would reach 30 volumes.