8 Jul: Kim Il-Sung: Good Mourning

When North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung died unexpectedly of a heart attack on 8th July, 1994, his nation went into ten days of mourning, reflecting the deep-seated personality cult he’d cultivated over his 40-year rule.

Kim’s passing marked the end of a generation of Marxist revolutionaries in the region, creating uncertainty about whether his successors could maintain the same level of idolization from the population – especially given that his death happened during the early stages of a devastating famine.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly uncover the elaborate grieving ceremonies that followed, featuring goose-stepping soldiers, enormous red flags, and thousands of citizens displaying intense, theatrical emotion; explore Kim’s reputation in the West, where he was both by turns both ridiculed and respected; and consider how his son, Kim Jong-il, took control of the dynasty, via assiduous propaganda… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Kim Il Sung, N. Korea’s Longtime Leader, Dies : Asia: Death of Communist dictator at 82 comes weeks before North-South meeting. Experts expect instability’ (Los Angeles Times, 1994): https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-07-09-mn-13445-story.html

• ‘Lessons from the death of North Korea’s first leader’ (BBC News, 2011): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16252540

• ‘North Korea’s Kim Il-Sung Dies [1994]’ (Old News, 2017):