Tribute to the 95th birthday of the great leader Kim Il Sung


Abstracts from Kim Il Sung’s Reminiscenses "With the Century"

Volume I, Part I, Chapter 1, 1. My Family

The native home of the great leader Kim Il Sung at Mangyongdae, Pyongyang


My life began in the second decade of the 20th century when Korea was going through the bitterest period of its national tragedy. Before my birth my country had been reduced to the colony of Japan…..

While visiting various parts of the world I have had the opportunity of seeing many former colonial countries, but I have never seen imperialism so hideous that it deprived people of their language and surnames and even plundered them of their tableware.

Korea in those days was a living hell. The Korean people were no more alive than dead. Lenin was absolutely correct when he said, “...Japan will fight so as to continue to plunder Korea, which she is doing with unprecedented brutality, combining all the latest technical inventions with purely Asiatic tortures.”


In short, I was born at an uneasy time of upheaval and passed my boyhood in unfortunate circumstances. This situation naturally influenced my development.

After hearing from my father about the circumstances of our country’s ruin, I felt a profound bitterness against the feudal rulers and made up my mind to devote my life to the regaining of our nation’s sovereignty….

In this wide world a family is no more than a small drop of water. But a drop of water is also a part of the world and cannot exist apart from the latter. The waves of modern history that spelled the ruin of Korea swept mercilessly into our house. But the members of my family did not yield to the threat. Rather, they threw themselves unhesitatingly into the storm, sharing the nation’s fate….

As is clear, our family was a simple and ordinary one the like of which could be found commonly in any farm village or town in Korea in those days. It was a poor family that was not particularly outstanding or remarkable in comparison with other families.

But my family were all ready to sacrifice themselves without hesitation when it came to doing something for the country and the people.

My great-grandfather was a grave keeper for another family, but he ardently loved his country and home town.

When the US imperialist aggressors’ ship General Sherman4 sailed up the River Taedong and anchored at Turn Islet, my great-grandfather, together with some other villagers, collected ropes from all the houses and stretched them across the river between Konyu Islet and Mangyong Hill; then they rolled some stones into the river to block the way of the pirate ship.

When he heard that the General Sherman had sailed up to Yanggak Islet and was killing the people there with its cannons and guns, and that its crew were stealing the people’s possessions and raping the women, he rushed to the walled city of Pyongyang at the head of the villagers. The people of the city, with the government army, loaded a lot of small boats with firewood, tied them together, set them on fire and floated them down towards the aggressor ship, so that the American ship was set on fire and sank with all hands. I was told that my great­-grandfather played a major role in this attack….

My grandfather, who used to say, “A man should die fighting the enemy on the battlefield,” always told his family to live honourably for their country and he offered his children unhesitatingly to the revolutionary struggle.

My grandmother, too, taught her children to live uprightly and stoutly.

Once the Japanese treated her harshly by dragging her round the mountains and fields of Manchuria in the depth of winter in order to make me “submit.” But she scolded them and remained strong and proud as befitting the mother and grandmother of revolutionaries.

My maternal grandfather Kang Ton Uk was an ardent patriot and teacher who devoted his whole life to the education of the younger generation and the independence movement, teaching the children and young people at the private school he had founded in his home village. My maternal uncle Kang Jin Sok was also a patriot who joined the independence movement when still young.

My father taught me tirelessly from my early childhood to foster profound patriotism. From his desire and hope he named me Song Ju, meaning that I should be a pillar of the country….

My grandparents had a very hard time because of their revolutionary sons and grandsons. But in spite of their bitter trials and persecution they never gave in but fought on stoutly. In the closing period of Japanese rule the Japanese imperialists forced Koreans to change their names to Japanese ones. But my grandparents refused to do so. In my home village only my family held out to the last without changing their names to Japanese ones.

All the other families changed their names. If they did not change their names, people found it hard to survive because the Japanese government authorities refused them food rations.

My uncle Hyong Rok was beaten and summoned to the police sub­station many times because he would not agree to change his name….

My grandfather said to his son: “Its a truly good thing that you haven’t changed your name to a Japanese one. When Song Ju’s fighting the Japanese, you can’t change your name into a Japanese one, can you? We mustn’t change our names on any account, even if it means we’re beaten to death.” When members of the family said farewell to my grandfather and grandmother and left the house, they would walk out through the brush­wood gate in high spirits, saying that they would return after liberating the country.

But I was the only one who returned.

My father, who devoted his whole life to the independence movement, died under a foreign sky at the age of 31. A man of 31 is in the prime of his life. My grandmother came from home after his funeral. Even now I can see her before my eyes as she wept at the side of her son’s grave in the village of Yangdicun, Fusong, Manchuria.

Six years later my mother, too, passed away, in Antu, without seeing the day of national independence.

My younger brother Chol Ju who joined a guerrilla unit after our mother’s death and fought the enemy was killed in battle. Because he fell on the battlefield his body was never recovered.

A few years later, my youngest uncle who had been sentenced to long years in prison and was serving his term in Mapho gaol died from cruel torture. Our family received notice that they should recover his body but could not do so because they had no money. So, my uncle’s ashes were committed to the earth in the prison cemetery.

Thus, over a period of 20 years many of the strong, healthy sons of our family turned to ashes and lay scattered in foreign lands.

When I returned home after liberation, my grandmother hugged me outside the brushwood gate and pounded me on my chest, saying: “How have you come back alone? Where did you leave your father and mother? Did you not want to return with them?” With her heart bursting with such deep grief, what was my agony as I walked through the brushwood gate of my old home alone without bringing with me even the bones of my parents who were dead and lying in a far-off foreign land? After that, whenever I passed through the gate of someone else’s home, I would wonder how many members of the family had gone out through that gate and how many of them had returned. All the gates in this country have a story about tearful partings and are associated with a longing for those who have not returned and the heart-rending pain of loss. Tens of thousands of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of this country gave their lives on the altar of national liberation. It took our people as long as 36 years to win back their country, crossing a sea of blood, tears and sighs and braving storms of shells and bullets. It was 36 years of bloody war which cost us too high a price. But if it were not for this bloody war and sacrifices, how could we ever imagine our country as it is today? This century of ours would still be a century of misery and suffering with the disgraceful slavery continuing.

My grandfather and grandmother were old country people who knew nothing but farming. But truth to tell, I marvelled at their firm revolutionary spirit and was greatly inspired by it.

It is not easy to bring up children and send them all out on the path of the revolution and then give them constant support while enduring silently all the ensuing trials and hardships. I think this is much more impressive than a few battles or some years in prison.

The misfortune and distress of our family is the epitome of the misfortune and distress that befell our people after they lost their country. Under the inhuman rule of Japanese imperialism millions of Koreans lost their lives—dying of starvation, of the cold, from burning or from flogging.

In a ruined country neither the land nor the people can remain at peace. Under the roofs of houses in a ruined country even the traitors who live in luxury as a reward for betraying their country will not be able to sleep in peace. Even though they are alive, the people are worse than gutter dogs, and even if the mountains and rivers remain the same, they will not retain their beauty.

A man who perceives this truth before others is called a forerunner; he who struggles against difficulties to save his country from tragedy is called a patriot; and he who sets fire to himself to demonstrate the truth and overthrows the unjust society by rousing the people to action is called a revolutionary.

My father was a pioneer of our country’s national liberation movement. He dedicated his whole life to the revolution from his birth in Mangyongdae on July 10, 1894, until his death as he lamented the dark reality of national decay on June 5, 1926.

I was born the eldest son of my father Kim Hyong Jik at Mangyongdae on April 15, 1912.