Kim Jong Il's official biography

Just how good is the official life story of North Korea''s Dear Leader?

I was recently given a copy of Kim Jong Il's official 'short' biography, a book that is not widely available on Amazon, and was brought back from the workers' paradise itself. I have to confess it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for a whole host of reasons I found it an interesting read.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the book begins by telling us: "From his childhood Comrade Kim Jong Il was extraordinarily clever and wise."

In fact, going to university was not, for Kim, the usual mix of keg parties and lectures. On entering university he climbed Ryongnam Hill and recited a poem entitled 'Korea, I will glorify thee' in which he expressed his determination to carry the revolutionary cause of Juche to completion. Kim said at the time: "I intend to make my university days a fruitful period to learn the leader's revolutionary idea more closely and make preparations to shoulder the Korean revolution."

The word Juche is a very important part of the biography, and should be defined. The book defines Juche as "a revolutionary cause to bring complete independence to the popular masses pioneered and carried on by Comrade Kim Il Sung." Accordingly, the Juche era started in 1912, the year of Kim Il Sung's birth.

At university, Kim Jong Il learned his father's Juche philososophy in a "chronologically-rounded way" and soon realized the need of "newly systematizing from a Juche-oriented stand the Korean history which had been distorted by flunkey historians." During this same period, Kim visited factories to encourage workers, and worked lathe number 26 at the Pyongyang Textile Machinery Factory.

On graduating, Kim began his lifelong task of helping the North Korean people live in a more Juche-oriented way. In 1979, for example, he made the army study "Juche-motivated tactics of warfare".

But the Juche idea needed constant attention. As the book makes clear: "Only when the idea was developed in depth could the Workers' Party of Korea be further developed into a party of the Juche type and the revolution and construction be led along the road illuminated by the Juche idea, thus making a fresh advance in modeling the whole society on the Juche idea."

You may have to read that sentence a couple of times to appreciate its full logic.

Of course, the 1960s had their challenges. There were unhelpful anti-party revisionists (Park Kum Chol, Ri Hyo Sun, Kim To Man) all of whom had to be removed from the party. The military had to be tackled too since Kim Jong Il "perceived they were plotting to establish the military bureaucracy foothold by whipping together flatterers."

Kim Jong Il then toured the country and "made sure that willful interpretation of Kim Il Sung's instructions was done away with and that the spirit of carrying them out without conditions was established".

The 1970s got even more challenging due to the "machinations of the US imperialists and the South Korean stooges" which had become "more blatant with the passage of time" and was creating "a variety of complex situations".

So in 1978 Kim Jong Il advanced the slogan "Let us live our own way!" This was a key moment. "Living our own way was an important requirement for ultimately completing the revolutionary cause of Juche by expediting the transformation of the whole of society after the Juche idea and at the same time it was an urgent problem in view of the situation prevailing in the latter half of the 1970s."

Kim Jong Il taught that living in our own way meant "thinking and acting with our own brains." But unfortunately, the challenges persisted: "In the latter half of the 1980s, the imperialists committed more barbarous atrocities than before, in order to disintegrate socialist and newly-emerged countries from within and tenaciously spread an illusion about capitalism. In consequence, in the countries which were enchanted by the illusion, a grave situation was created precipitating the giving up of the struggle against imperialism and the introduction of capitalism."

To make matters worse, the spirit of Juche died in 1994. It was unanimously decided that Kim Jong Il should take over. Ever since 1980 he had enjoyed the title, "Dear Leader" and by the time of his father's demise it was clear that he "enjoyed absolute authority as the leader of the revolution and the boundless trust and respect of the Korean people."

And with this, the book pretty much ends (only 10 pages are devoted to the last 10 years).

Interestingly, I noted only one typographical error in the entire book. It was the misspelling of the word 'education' on page 70, which appeared instead as "eduction". Ironic, some might say.