By Dominic Oto
Table of Contents
North Korea’s Government Explained- The Kim Dynasty
In this post, we take a look at North Korea’s government by looking at the Kim Dynasty. Since its formation in 1948, North Korea has been controlled by the Kim Family.
What do we know about the Kim dynasty?
Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and today, Kim Jong Un, have each, in their own way made North Korea the most secretive and repressive country in the world. Little is known about North Korea’s ruling family. All three leaders are marked by the extreme cult of personalities.
Portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il hang side-by-side in every North Korean home, office, factory and public space. There are an estimated 35,000 statues of Il Sung alone.
Who is Kim Il Sung?
In school, North Korean children are taught they were clothed, fed and nurtured by Il Sung’s god-like grace. They are told that he liberated their country from Japanese aggressors by single-handedly shooting down warplanes. In reality, Kim Il Sung didn’t fight in Korea’s anti-Japanese resistance or the Korean War.
This propaganda was created by the Soviet Union after World War II. The Soviets instituted Kim as the first leader of what would later become North Korea. Kim continued this propaganda war for decades. He used it to solidify his position as the country’s “Great Leader.”
Over the decades after the Korean War, he slowly shifted away from Soviet socialism. He replaced it with his own political philosophy called “Juche.” Juche means “self-reliance” in Korean. It’s the idea that a country can succeed without any military or economic help from foreign powers. This has been North Korea’s defining policy since 1972.
Who is Kim Jong Il?
In 1994, after the death of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il came to power. The second Kim is often described as North Korea’s most secretive and ruthless leader. Kim Jong Il believed that the less was known about him, the less could be used to undermine him.
Kim didn’t make a single public speech during his 17-year tenure. He even spread false rumors about himself to remain elusive. To this day, significant details about his life, including his date and place of birth, remain unconfirmed. Kim was called “Dear Leader.”
He strictly limited North Korea’s access to information and freedom of movement. He exacerbated the effects of a drought that killed as many as three and half million of his people. Kim expanded political prison camps. These camps became known for torture, hard labor, and sexual abuse.
Who is Kim Jong Un?
When Kim Jong Il died in 2011, his third son, Kim Jong Un, became “Supreme Leader.” Kim Jong Un is best known as the dynasty’s spoiled young prince.
Kim is thought to be in his early 30s. He reportedly spent millions of state dollars on imported luxuries. These include designer cigarettes, expensive cognac, Japanese Kobe beef and a custom-designed yacht.
The third Kim has introduced some economic and political reforms. He allowed limited foreign tourism, reducing punishments for returning defectors and allowing a handful of media organization to open North Korean bureaus.
However, Kim has largely continued his father’s and grandfather’s oppressive policies. Most unsettlingly, Kim has aggressively expanded his country’s nuclear weapons program while millions of his citizens starve.
About the author:
Oto holds a BS in History from Oregon State University and a MMA in Military History from American Public University. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Company Commander and Staff Trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was wounded once and decorated three times. Oto is an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.