Reactionaries in imperialist countries, as well as a multitude of petty-bourgeois elements who like to think of themselves as Marxists, are very derogatory about the fact that when the great revolutionary leader Kim Il Sung died, leadership of the DPRK passed to his son, Kim Jong Il. Never mind that Cde Kim Jong Il’s appointment was made after careful consideration of every suitable candidate, never mind that practice has shown Kim Jong Il to have exceptional leadership qualities – in spite of all that, we are told that the DPRK has adopted a hereditary system for the appointment of its leaders, a conclusion drawn from the fact that, as it happens, on a single occasion, a son of a leader became leader after his father died. The purpose behind these taunts is to try to alienate the people of the world from the courageous people of the tiny DPRK, who have been standing up, arms in hand, to the overwhelming might of various imperialist powers for over 100 years. The DPRK is as David to the imperialist Goliath and cannot but excite the enthusiasm of the oppressed masses of the world in successfully defying the great oppressors against all the odds.
It would of course be completely contrary to Marxism and socialism to countenance hereditary leadership of a modern socialist state. This leadership can only be determined on merit and nothing else.
That Kim Jong Il turned out to be a devoted working-class leader, was to some considerable extent due to the influence on Cde Kim Jong Il of his very remarkable mother, Cde Kim Jong Suk. Cde Kim Il Sung himself pointed out:
“If there is any heritage she left with us, it is that she brought up Comrade Kim Jong Il to be the leader of the future, and presented him to the motherland and the Party. You say I brought him up to be my successor, but in actual fact the foundation was laid by Kim Jong Suk. This is the greatest service she rendered for the revolution.
“On her last day she sat Kim Jong Il by her side and told him to support his father loyally and inherit and consummate his cause. This was her last will. Three hours later, she breathed her last.”
Since most children spend more time with their mother than with their father, mothers tend to have the decisive influence on their children’s ideology – an important reason, incidentally, why it is wrong to think that the political education and emancipation of women is of lesser importance in any revolutionary struggle. Cde Kim Jong Suk was a truly exceptional mother. Her family were poor peasants who saw the necessity of liberating their country from the Japanese yoke if there was to be any hope of prosperity for the masses of Korean people. She attended night school where one of her teachers was a communist activist working with Cde Kim Il Sung. This teacher introduced her to the ideas of Marxism and Cde Kim Il Sung’s revolutionary programme. In 1931, aged 14, she was an extremely active member of the Young Communist League, helping to organise young people and children, imbuing them with revolutionary theory. She was fully conversant with Cde Kim Il Sung’s policies for Korea and staunchly defended them against the errors of opponents. She did not, however, meet Cde Kim Il Sung until 1935 when she was 18. Some 6 months later she joined the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, which he led.
She proceeded to become a crack shot and a competent, courageous and resourceful soldier and officer. She took part in many battles, including the battle to defend the Chechangzi guerrilla base, and the battles of Fusong, Dadeshui and Shungshanzi. Cde Kim Il Sung says that on more than one occasion she saved his life. Eventually Cde Kim Il Sung and Cde Kim Jong Suk were married on the guerrilla base, with absolutely no celebration for lack of the wherewithal with which to feast. In February 1942, at a time of year when temperatures in the region are around minus 30 degrees, she gave birth to Cde Kim Jong Il at the secret camp on Mount Paektu.
Cde Kim Jong Suk always insisted on the need for the liberation movement to promote the rights of women who, she always pointed out, are half the population. For women to play their full role in society they had to be freed of the age-old oppression to which they are subjected in class society. They had to be given all the same opportunities as men have. In return women, appreciating that the revolution offers them liberation as women as well as relieving them of class exploitation and oppression, are encouraged to redouble their efforts to bring about the revolution, first of all, and thereafter to defend it. By her personal example, Cde Kim Jong Suk encouraged large numbers of women to join the anti-Japanese guerrillas to fight alongside their menfolk.
Once the Japanese were defeated and Korea was liberated, Kim Jong Suk threw herself into the work of organising the working class and peasant masses, especially women, to become the ruling class in their newly liberated country, through participation in mass organisations. She was closely involved in setting up, and drawing up the revolutionary programme of, the Korean Democratic Women’s Union which was charged with mobilising women to fight for their own liberation while at the same time defending the DPRK and participating in all the work needed to be able to build a socialist society. She made sure that special facilities were built – in particular a women’s technical school in Pyongyang – to train women for even the highest positions, in production as well as state and social administration.
She also involved herself in projects to build the new country, including the Pothong River improvement project started in May 1946. At the same time she undertook the work of locating the families of comrades who had fallen in the war of liberation so that the state could take special care of them.
When she tragically died in childbirth at the age of 32 on 22 September 1949, Comrade Kim Jong Il was only 7½ but he had already been imbued with his mother’s revolutionary communist ardour. Her demise at such a young age was a tragedy not only for her family but also for the whole of the Korean people whom she had served selflessly throughout her brief life, with boundless energy, total revolutionary devotion and exceptional organisational skill. Thankfully, she had during the course of her life trained thousands of others to follow in her footsteps and set them the very highest standards by her own example. She also, as has been said, inspired her little son and played a major part in fitting him for the heavy responsibilities of state which he is now fulfilling with remarkable success.
Her life is a model for all to follow to the extent that we can. She quite rightly showed that no sacrifice is too great in the cause of the liberation of mankind.
Cde Kim Il Sung gave us a real insight into her personality with an anecdote relating to when he tried to give his wife a present of a glass of wine after years of receiving innumerable presents from her and feeling that he was giving nothing in return:
“As I felt sorry about having done nothing for her, I offered her a glass of wine when I dropped in at my old house for lunch on the day the Republic was founded, saying, ‘All these years you have taken so much trouble to look after me, but so far I have done nothing for you; I have only given you trouble. Today I wish to offer you a glass of wine.’
“She said, ‘What do you mean by saying that you have done nothing for me? You gave me wonderful presents by founding the Party, the armed forces and the Republic! You have made my lifelong wishes come true. I have nothing more to wish for.’”