KIM IL SUNG: The North Korean Leader by Dae-Sook Suh

KIM IL SUNG: The North Korean Leader

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first full-scale western biography of the perennial North Korean leader; by Suh (Pol. Sci./Univ. of Hawaii), author of The Korean Communist Movement and Korean Communism, 1945-1980. Kim, who has reigned longer than other current ruler (40 years), has placed his imprint so strongly on North Korea that the nation is practically a projection of himself. (Indeed, at 75, Kim has ensured that his son, Kim Jong II, will succeed him upon his death.) Considering the difficulties in referencing sources {most official sources have been entirely rewritten in order to glorify Kim), the author has done an admirable job of relating Kim's early years as an ÉmigrÉ schoolboy in China, his military straggles against the aggressive Japanese in the 1930's, his manipulation of the political division of Korea to eliminate his rivals for power, and his deft tap-dance between the two Communist superpowers, Russia and China, in which he managed to hold on to his nation's independence. The author spends considerable time outlining Kim's political thought (known as chuch'e, which is roughly translated as ""basis for action""), which aided in establishing his ascendancy. Suh analyzes Kim's thought and finds it to be both an inadequate exposition of nationlism and having little relevance to Marxism-Leninism; at best, it is a platform of Korean self-reliance. Finally, Suh states that Kim has outlived his usefulness and that most of his policies have no relevance to current needs. His implication is that Kim's system is not strong enough to survive him. A good, thorough examination of a regime shrouded in secrecy. Many photographs (unseen) should also help to tear away the shroud.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press