Kim Jong Il’s Birth and Growth

[imText1]Kim Jong Il was born in Khabarovsk, the former Soviet Union on February 16, 1941.
The North Korean official documents record that Kim Jong Il was born in an anti-Japanese guerilla camp in Mountain Baekdoo. This birthplace of Kim Jong Il has surfaced since the 1980s. According to the biography of Kim Jong Il, “Leader Kim Jong Il,” which was published in 1984, he was born at his father’s guerilla base on North Korea’s highest mountain Mt. Baekdoo. Since then, the official hometown of Kim Jong Il has been Mountain Baekdoo. “Kim Jong Il’s Biography,” published in 1995, specifically mentions that he was born in an anti-Japanese guerilla camp located in Samjiyeon-gun, Yangkangdo Province. The log cabin where he was allegedly born has become the historic place of revolution for North Korean residents’ education along with his late father Kim’s birthplace Mankyongdae. The peak behind the alleged birthplace in Mt. Baekdoo is called Jong Il Bong. Kim Il Sung is known to have named the peak after his son’s name.

Kim Jong Il says that he was born in the middle of storms in Mountain Backdoo, and was raised by a mother who fought fiercely against the Japanese colonialists. In Kim Jong Il’s publicity pictures, Mt. Baekdoo is often seen in the background. One of the most representative pieces is Kim Jong Il riding on a white horse against the backdrop of Mt. Backdoo. The caption of the picture reads, “Great General Kim Jong Il, a Mighty Man from Mountain Backdoo.”

It is noteworthy that Kim started mentioning his birthplace from 1980s. Two reasons are behind this. One is that it was the 1980s when most of the people, who knew personally about the childhood of Kim Jong Il, passed away. In particular, those who were involved in anti-Japanese guerilla activities with Kim Il Sung during the Japanese colonial war died in China and the former Soviet Union around this time. The other possible reason is that it coincided with a period when Kim Jong Il established his power base as an heir to Kim Il Sung.

Kim Jong Il’s birth at Mountain Backdoo is fabrication of political symbols. It is partially due to the fact that Mountain Backdoo is considered a sacred mountain among the Korean people, which is also the case in North Korea. Another inevitable reason is that every story had to be consistent with Kim Il Sung’s biography, which stated that “Kim liberated his home country by defeating the Japanese army in Mt. Backdoo right before the liberation of Korea.” Therefore, it would contradict Kim’s biographical data if Kim Jong Il had been born in Khavarovsk before the liberation of Korea in 1945.

Therefore, his date of birth has been moved one year back. His official date of birth is February 16, 1942. This changed birthday has been announced since the 1980s. Until then, it had been known that he was born the same day one year earlier. The North Korean Central News Agency announced celebration of Dear Leader Kim’s 40th birthday early February in two consecutive years. At the time, Kim Il Sung’s birthday was highlighted so few attention was drawn to the younger Kim’s birthday.

The reason of postponing Kim’s birth by one year was to make thirty years’ difference between Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. This is because North Koreans attach special meaning to the fifth anniversary, the 10th anniversary, the 15th, etc. So, it is more meaningful and adds to festivity if Kim Il Sung marks his 70th birthday and Kim Jong Il marks 40th birthday.

The fact about Kim’s birth is a top secret in North Korea. In the 1970s, North Korea removed all the pictures and evidence related with Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il??s life in China and the former Soviet Union prior to Korea’s independence in 1945.

Kim Jong Il was called Yura when young. It is a Russian nick name for Yurey. This name was given by a Russian in Khavarovsk. Russian names have three parts; first name, middle name and last name. The middle name comes from father’s name. To take an example, if the father’s name is Ivan, the son’s name is Ivanovitch and daughter’s is Ivanovna. Under this Russian rule, Kim’s Russian full name should be Yurey Ilsenovitch Kim, however, Kim Jong Il has never used this Russian name. Kim has used the name Yura for long.

In fact, he has been called Kim Jong Il since his graduation from Namsan Senior High School in the summer of 1960. Political reasons are behind the change of his name. In the post-Stalin Russia in 1953, Khrushchov de-stalinized the Soviet Union while promoting peaceful coexistence with the Western nations. This went against Kim Il Sung’s policy, both domestic and foreign. Kim Il Sung badmouthed Khrushchov as a revisionist and opposed the Russian policy proposing Juche, self-reliance ideology.

Under these circumstances, it did not make sense that Kim’s son was called Yura, which smacked of Russian. Thus it led to the name change of the younger Kim. At first, the Chinese character ‘正一’ was used, then it changed to ‘正日.’ Kim Jong Il made his name himself using one Chinese character of each of his parents’ names, Kim Jong(正) sook and Kim Il(日) Sung. This is to assert that he is the only legitimate son of Kim Il Sung. His step brother Kim Pyong Il and Young Il use a different Chinese character of Il (一). His name officially changed to Jong Il in October 1980. On October 10, the same year, Kim Jong Il was elected to the three major party organizations.

Kim Jong Il had a younger brother Shura, also known as Man Il. His younger brother, however, drowned himself in 1944 according to the North Korean authorities. The accident took place when Shura was playing with Kim Jong Il at the pond of Kim Il Sung’s residence in Pyongyang. It was the summer of 1947. The center of the pond was too deep for the four year old.

Kyung Hee is Kim Jong Il’s youngest sister and she was born after Kim family returned to Korea in the wake of Korean independence. Kim Jong Il’s affection for his little sister has been more than special. It is shown in the fact that she has been remaining at the center of power though she has not proved herself outstanding as a party executive. Her husband is Jang Seong Taek, Kim Jong Il’s inner circle. Jang is the head a key post as the First Deputy Director of the Party Politburo as of February 2003.