Kim Il Sung, the son of
peasants, was born in Korea in 1912. The
family emigrated to Manchuria and Kim attended a Chinese school. At
the age of fifteen he was arrested and imprisoned for being a member
of the South Manchurian Communist Youth League.
release in 1930 he joined the Korean Revolutionary Army. By 1932 Kim
IL Sung had become leader of a guerrilla group based in Korea. Over
the next ten years he launched a series of attacks against the Japanese.
This included successes at Changbaik (26th February, 1937), Kapsan
(4th June, 1937) and Daimalugou (25th March, 1937).
the Second World War the Japanese
Army arrived in Korea in large numbers and Kim was forced to go
and live in the Soviet Union.
Conference in 1945 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.
June 1949 the United States Army began to
withdraw from South Korea. Statements made by General Douglas
MacArthur and Dean Acheson suggested
that the United States did not see the area as being of prime importance.
Acheson argued that if South Korea was attacked: "The initial
reliance must be on the people attacked to resist it and then upon
the commitments of the entire civilized world under the Charter of
the United Nations."
Kim IL-Sung became convinced that the people in the south would welcome
being ruled by his government. At dawn 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.
The Security Council of the United Nations
recommended that troops should be sent to defend South Korea. As the
Soviet Union was boycotting the Security Council at the time, it was
unable to veto this decision. Fifteen nations sent troops to Korea,
where they were organized under the command of Douglas
The surprise character of the attack enabled the North Koreans to
occupy all the South, except for the area around the port of Pusan.
On 15th September, 1950, Douglas MacArthur
landed American and South Korean marines at Inchon, 200 miles behind
the North Korean lines. The following day he launched a counter-attack
on the North Koreans. When they retreated, MacArthur's forces carried
the war northwards, reaching the Yalu River, the frontier between
Korea and China on 24th October, 1950.
Harry S. Truman and Dean
Acheson, the Secretary of State, told MacArthur to limit the war
to Korea. MacArthur disagreed, favoring an attack on Chinese forces.
Unwilling to accept the views of Truman and Acheson, MacArthur began
to make inflammatory statements indicating his disagreements with
the United States government.
MacArthur gained support from right-wing members of the Senate such
as Joe McCarthy who led the attack on
Truman's administration: "With half a million Communists in Korea
killing American men, Acheson says, 'Now let's be calm, let's do nothing'.
It is like advising a man whose family is being killed not to take
hasty action for fear he might alienate the affection of the murders."
In April 1951, Harry S. Truman removed
MacArthur from his command of the United Nations
forces in Korea. McCarthy now called for Truman to be impeached and
suggested that the president was drunk when he made the decision to
fire MacArthur: "Truman is surrounded by the Jessups, the Achesons,
the old Hiss crowd. Most of the tragic things are done at 1.30 and
2 o'clock in the morning when they've had time to get the President
While this conflict was taking place in the United States, the Chinese
government sent 180,000 men to North Korea. This back-up enabled North
Korean forces to take Seoul for a second time in January 1951. U.N.
troops eventually managed to halt the invasion sixty miles south of
the 38th parallel. A counter-offensive at the end of January gradually
recovered lost ground.
Once in control of South Korea, representatives of the United
Nations began peace talks with the North Korean government on
8th July 1951. 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. North Korea was also a major arms supplier
to Libya, Iran and Syria.
The United States became
increasingly concerned about the possibility that North Korea was
trying to develop an atom bomb. In June
1994 President Jimmy
Kim IL Sung to freeze his nuclear development programme in exchange
for an ease in international sanctions.
Kim IL Sung died on 8th
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