Kim Jong-il: Born in the USSR (as Yuri Kim)

Andrei Lankov’s latest column in his “Another Korea” series in the Korea Times is entitled “Born in the USSR”:

In late November 1945 a Soviet ship arrived at the Korean port of Unggi. Among those disembarking were several women dressed in Soviet military uniforms. Some of them had small children with them. The children spoke Korean and looked Korean, but this was their first encounter with the land of their ancestors. It was how the would-be Dear Leader Chairman Kim Jong-il first saw the country he was to rule half a century later …

The would-be Dear Leader Kim Jong-il was born as Yuri [Ilsungovich?] Kim in a small village of Viatskoe (or Viatsk), not far from the city of Khabarovsk in the then USSR. His birth date is less certain. The official histories allege that he was born on Feb. 15, 1942, but there has been speculation that he is actually a bit older.

The North Korean media never recognized that Kim Jong-il was born on a foreign soil. From the early 1980s official propaganda insisted that he was born in a secret guerrilla camp located on the slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain (the first such statement appeared in February 1982). This was necessary to present the young boy as a participant in the guerrilla epic, long seen as the spiritual foundation of the North Korean state, and as a pure national leader, untarnished by any undue foreign influences.

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