Name at birth: Kim Sun Ju
Kim Il-sung headed North Korea's government from 1948 until his death in 1994. Kim gained fame in Korea as a guerilla fighter against the Japanese in Manchuria during the 1930s. When the Korean peninsula was split into North and South Koreas in 1948, Kim grabbed power in North Korea and held it for the next 46 years. His official position was head of the Korean Workers' Party, but in fact he held near-total control of the country's political machinery, much as his contemporary Chairman Mao ran China. His most famous years may have been 1950-53, when he led his country (backed by the Soviet Union and China) in the Korean War against South Korea (backed by the United States and United Nations forces). Before Kim's death in 1994, he arranged for power to pass to his son, Kim Jong-il. In 1998 the younger Kim gave his father the posthumous title of "eternal president."
After the Korean War, Kim promoted Juche, a political philosophy of Korean self-reliance… In government publications Kim was generally called “Great Leader”; his son, Kim Jong-il, is called “Dear Leader”… While fighting the Japanese, Kim took the name of Kim Il-sung, an earlier Korean guerilla fighter.