Known as “the Sun of Korea,” Kim Il-Sung (1912-1994) was born Kim Sung-Ju in Mangyongdae village near Pyongyang to a Christian mother (Kang Ban Sok) and father (Kim Hyong Jik) who taught in a Western missionary school and was a practitioner of Koryo (traditional) medicine. To avoid the Japanese occupation, the family moved to Manchuria where Kim Sung-Ju attended school to 8th grade. He became active in vagabond anti-Japanese bands and joined the Chinese Communist Party. In 1930 his guerilla comrades (according to him) gave him the name “Il Sung,” the sun. He eventually became leader of a division in the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. Contrary to accepted legend, his guerrilla efforts against the Japanese were of marginal impact but Kim Il-Sung was regarded as a good organizer. Under intense Japanese pressure in China, the Korean partisans fled to the Soviet Union in 1941 where Kim Il-Sung became commander of a battalion of Korean and other partisans in the 88th Special Independent Brigade near Khabarovsk. It was here he married fellow patriot Kim Jong Suk (who was later given the title "Mother of Korea") and had a son on Feb. 16, 1941, Kim Jong-Il. After the Soviets defeated Japan in Korea in 1945 [the 88th battalion was not permitted to participate], Kim Il-Sung and other partisans were returned by ship unceremoniously to North Korea, where Kim Il-Sung set about maneuvering into power with Soviet help, and creating the legend of his victory over Japan.
Kim Jong-Il (1941-2011) was born in Khabarovsk on Feb. 16, 1941, where his father Kim Il-Sung was a captain of a battalion made up of Korean and Chinese exiles, part of the 88th Brigade of the Soviet Army. However, in the North Korean version of his birth, Kim Jong-Il was born in a secret anti-Japanese guerilla camp of the People’s Revolutionary Army on Paekdusan (Mt. Paekdu, sacred in Korean mythology) on Feb. 16, 1942, the year of his father’s 30th birthday. A double rainbow appeared that day over the mountain, according to the legend, along with other astounding meteorological and natural occurrences.
Kim Jong-Un (1983- ) is the third son of Kim Jong-Il and consort Ko Yong Hui. He attended school in Switzerland to 2000, then returned to the DPRK to study at Kim Il-Sung Military University. Accompanying his father more frequently on official duties and being given high military rank and important Party positions led to speculation that he would be his father's successor. However, this was not officially recognized until after Kim Jong-Un's death in December 2011. Kim Jong-Un is now "Supreme Leader" among other titles.
Kang Ban Sok (Kang Pan-sok, 1892-1932) was Kim Il-Sung's mother, known as "The Mother of Korea" or "Great Mother of Korea." In a photograph reproduced in many books about Kim Il-Sung, she is shown giving pistols to him, on a red cloth, for the anti-Japanese guerilla battles ("Comrade Kim Il-Sung receives weapons from his mother..") She is portrayed as a courageous anti-Japanese fighter, instilling in her sons the fervor of the battle to liberate Korea from colonial power.
Kim Jong Suk (1917-1949) was Kim Il-Sung's first wife, his compatriot in anti-Japanese guerilla activities, and mother of Kim Jong-Il. She died at 32 years old. She also is known sometimes as the Mother of Korea.