On the 28th December 1972, Kim Il-sung became the first President of North Korea. At the time he was already the country’s Prime Minister and the First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and four years after his death in 1994 was made Eternal President of the Republic.
Kim Il-sung’s early life and rise to prominence is widely disputed due to the personality cult that developed around him after the creation of North Korea, with some commentators even claiming that he was an imposter. However, Japanese sources acknowledge King Il-sung as a popular and effective guerrilla leader in the Second Sino-Japanese War. His family had moved to Manchuria in 1920 where the young Kim Il-sung joined, and then later led, a division of the Chinese-controlled Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army.
After the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, Korea was divided between Soviet and American control. The USSR installed Kim as chairman of the North Korean branch of the Korean Communist Party, and he quickly began to consolidate his control. As well as leading to the proclamation of the northern Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with himself as the Soviet-supported premier, this resulted in the establishment of a cult of personality around Kim who began to be known as “Great Leader”.
Having established totalitarian rule at home, Kim maintained a course of independent Communism that saw him establish Juche, or “self-reliance”, as the official political ideology of North Korea. This increasingly isolated North Korea from the rest of the world, and it is in this context that the new constitution of December 1972 established Kim as President of North Korea.