Kim Hyong-Jik (김형직) was an activist for Korean independence, and most famously, he is the father of the first North Korean leader President Kim Il Sung, making him the grandfather of General Kim Jong Il and great grandfather of current leader Marshal Kim Jong Un.
Pictured above: A portrait of Kim Hyong-Jik
Not much is known about the life of Kim Hyong-Jik, but in this article, we will explore his origins, life and his status in North Korean society today.
The Early Life of Kim Hyong-Jik
He was born as the eldest son of Kim Po Hyon and Ri Po Ik in the small village of Mangyondae, 12 kilometres downstream from Pyongyang on the Taedong River.
According to North Korean accounts of his life, he attended the Pyongyang Sungsil Middle School and became involved in politics and the struggle for Korea’s independence from the Japanese in his teens. While attending middle school, he was said to have organized a student strike and also travelled to North and South Phyongan provinces and Hwanghae Province to become involved in anti-Japanese political activities.
Life and Career of Kim Hyong-Jik
Kim Hyong-Jik led a life dedicated to Korea’s independence from the Japanese. He became a teacher at the Sunhwa School in Mangyongdae and taught the youth of Korea they should “aim high” in the struggle for independence. He made several trips to China as well to acquaint himself with the independence struggle taking place there.
In the Autumn of 1917, Kim Hyong-Jik was apprehended by Japanese police and imprisoned along with 100 other Korean nationals in a Pyongyang detention center.
He was released from detention the following Autumn and, upon release, made his way to the Sino-Korean border, settling down in the area of Junggang county, before then crossing the border into Linjiang county.
Not much is known about the last years of his life, but he was rumoured to be suffering from a variety of medical ailments that ultimately led to his premature death on June 5, 1926, at just 31 years old.
The Legacy of Kim Hyong-Jik
Pictured above: a DPRK commemorative stamp marking the birthday of Kim Hyong-Jik
Kim Hyong-Jik still holds a significant place in the history of the DPRK and is a revered figure in the country.
Kim Jong-il’s official government biography states that Kim Hyong Jik was “the leader of the anti-Japanese national liberation movement and was a pioneer in shifting the direction from the nationalist movement to Korea’s communist movement.”
One of the DPRK’s top language universities, the Kim Hyong-Jik University of Education, was named after him.
While on tour to North Korea, the best place to learn about the life of Kim Hyong-Jik is the Mangyondae Native Home where he lived with his wife Kang Pang Sok, which is visited on our group tours to the country or can be arranged on an independent tour.
The Paektu Bloodline
A lot is made about the dynastic nature of North Korea, although technically at least this is not policy. There is though what is termed the Paektu bloodline, which is used in some ways to denote the importance of someone.
This though does not follow “royal” lines in the traditional sense, as Kim Jong Un was not the first born sone of Kim Jong-Il – a story for another time. Everyone though who has governed has been a direct descendent of President Kim Il-Sung, so are therefore also direct decedents of Kim Hyong-Jik (김형직), so while he is not as late president, he is the first (major) revolutionary of the Paektu bloodline, although his father is also touted as one.
We shall cover Kim Bo-hyon another time…..