The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary North Korean Politicians of all time. This list of famous North Korean Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of North Korean Politicians.
With an HPI of 81.37, Kim Il-sung is the most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 131 different languages on wikipedia.
Kim Il-sung (; Korean: 김일성, Korean pronunciation: [kimils͈ʌŋ]; born Kim Song-ju, 김성주; 15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994) was a Korean politician and the founder of North Korea, which he ruled from the country's establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Premier from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to 1994. He was the leader of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) from 1949 to 1994 (titled as Chairman from 1949 to 1966 and as General Secretary after 1966). Coming to power after the end of Japanese rule in 1945, he authorized the invasion of South Korea in 1950, triggering an intervention in defense of South Korea by the United Nations led by the United States. Following the military stalemate in the Korean War, a ceasefire was signed on 27 July 1953. He was the third longest-serving non-royal head of state/government in the 20th century, in office for more than 45 years. Under his leadership, North Korea was established as a socialist state with a centrally planned economy. It had close political and economic relations with the Soviet Union. By the late 1950s and during the 1960s and 1970s, North Korea enjoyed a higher standard of living than the South, which was suffering from political chaos and economic crises. The situation was reversed in the 1980s, as a newly stable South Korea became an economic powerhouse which was fueled by Japanese and American investment, military aid and internal economic development, while North Korea stagnated and then declined during the same period. Differences emerged between North Korea and the Soviet Union, chief among them was Kim Il-sung's philosophy of Juche, which focused on Korean nationalism, self-reliance and socialism. Despite this, the country received funds, subsidies and aid from the USSR and the Eastern Bloc until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. The resulting loss of economic aid adversely affected the North's economy, contributing to widespread famine in 1994. During this period, North Korea also remained critical of the United States defense force's presence in the region, which it considered imperialist, having seized the American ship USS Pueblo in 1968, which was part of an infiltration and subversion campaign to reunify the peninsula under North Korea's rule. Kim outlived his allies Joseph Stalin by four decades and Mao Zedong by almost two decades, and remained in power during the terms of office of six South Korean Presidents and ten US Presidents. Known as the Great Leader (Suryong), he established a personality cult which dominates domestic politics in North Korea. At the 6th WPK Congress in 1980, his oldest son Kim Jong-il was elected to be a Presidium member and chosen to be his successor. Kim Il-sung's birthday is a public holiday in North Korea called the "Day of the Sun". In 1998, four years after his death, Kim Il-sung was declared "Eternal President of the Republic".
With an HPI of 74.76, Taejo of Joseon is the 2nd most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.
Taejo of Joseon (11 October 1335 – 24 May 1408), born Yi Seong-gye (Korean: 이성계; Hanja: 李成桂), later Yi Dan (Korean: 이단; Hanja: 李旦), was the founder and first ruler of the Joseon dynasty of Korea. He ascended to the throne in 1392, after being the main figure in the overthrowing of the Goryeo dynasty. Taejo abdicated in 1398 during a strife between his sons and died in 1408. When Taejo became king, he emphasized continuity over change. No new institutions and no massive purges occurred during his reign. The dynasty that he installed was mostly dominated by the same ruling families and officials that had served the previous regime. He re-established amicable relations with Japan and improved relations with Ming China.
With an HPI of 72.22, Taejo of Goryeo is the 3rd most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 37 different languages.
Taejo of Goryeo (31 January 877 – 4 July 943), also known as Taejo Wang Geon (Korean: 태조 왕건; Hanja: 太祖 王建; lit. 'Great Progenitor Wang Geon'), was the founder of the Goryeo dynasty, which ruled Korea from the 10th to the 14th century. Taejo ruled from 918 to 943, achieving unification of the Later Three Kingdoms in 936.
With an HPI of 71.53, Gwangjong of Goryeo is the 4th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.
Gwangjong of Goryeo (925 – 4 July 975), personal name Wang So, was the fourth king of Goryeo.
With an HPI of 70.98, Taejong of Joseon is the 5th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.
Taejong of Joseon (13 June 1367 – 8 June 1422), personal name Yi Bang-won (Korean: 이방원; Hanja: 李芳遠), was the third ruler of the Joseon dynasty of Korea and the father of King Sejong the Great. Before ascending to the throne, he was known as Prince Jeongan (Korean: 정안군; Hanja: 靖安君).
With an HPI of 68.44, Jeongjong of Joseon is the 6th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.
Jeongjong of Joseon (26 July 1357 – 24 October 1419), born Yi Bang-gwa (Korean: 이방과; Hanja: 李芳果), whose changed name is Yi Gyeong (Korean: 이경; Hanja: 李曔), was the second ruler of the Joseon dynasty of Korea. He was the second son of King Taejo, the founder and first monarch of the dynasty. Before rising to power, he was known as Prince Yeongan (Korean: 영안군; Hanja: 永安君).
With an HPI of 67.80, Injo of Joseon is the 7th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.
Injo of Joseon (7 December 1595 – 17 June 1649), born Yi Jong, was the sixteenth ruler of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. He was the grandson of King Seonjo and son of Prince Jeongwon. He was the king during the Later Jin invasion of Joseon, in which Later Jin withdrew the armies after their demands were met. However, in the subsequent Qing invasion, King Injo surrendered in 1636, agreeing to the subjugating terms outlined by the Qing. Yi Jong is considered a weak and incompetent ruler as during his reign, Korea experienced the Yi Gwal's Rebellion, invasions from the Later Jin and Qing dynasty, and an economic recession.
With an HPI of 66.70, Kim Yong-nam is the 8th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.
Kim Yong-nam (Korean: 김영남; born 4 February 1928) is a North Korean retired politician who served as the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, from 1998 until 2019. Previously, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1983 to 1998. He was elected a member of the Presidium of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in 2010.
With an HPI of 66.06, Kim Jong-un is the 9th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 127 different languages.
Kim Jong-un (English: ; Korean: 김정은, Korean: [kim.dʑɔŋ.ɯːn]; born 8 January 1982) is a North Korean politician who has been Supreme Leader of North Korea since 2011 and the leader of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) since 2012. He is a son of Kim Jong-il, who was North Korea's second supreme leader from 1994 to 2011, and Ko Yong-hui. He is a grandson of Kim Il-sung, who was the founder and first supreme leader of North Korea from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994. Kim Jong-un is the first leader of North Korea to have been born in the country after its founding in 1948. From late 2010, Kim was viewed as successor to the leadership of North Korea. Following his father's death in December 2011, state television announced Kim as the "Great Successor". Kim holds the titles of General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President of the State Affairs. He is also a member of the Presidium of the Politburo of the Workers' Party of Korea, the highest decision-making body. In July 2012, Kim was promoted to the highest rank of Marshal in the Korean People's Army, consolidating his position as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. North Korean state media often refer to him as "Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un" or "Marshal Kim Jong-un". He has promoted the policy of byungjin, similar to Kim Il-sung's policy from the 1960s, referring to the simultaneous development of both the economy and the country's nuclear weapons program. Kim rules North Korea as a totalitarian dictatorship, and his leadership has followed the same cult of personality as his father and grandfather. In 2014, a landmark United Nations Human Rights Council report suggested that Kim could be put on trial for crimes against humanity. He has ordered the purge or execution of several North Korean officials; he is also widely believed to have ordered the 2017 assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, in Malaysia. He has presided over an expansion of the consumer economy, construction projects and tourist attractions. Kim also expanded North Korea's nuclear program which led to heightened tensions with the United States and South Korea. In 2018 and 2019, Kim took part in summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump. He has claimed success in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic in North Korea; the country did not report any confirmed cases until May 2022, although many experts doubt this claim.
With an HPI of 65.86, Gongmin of Goryeo is the 10th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.
Gongmin of Goryeo (23 May 1330 – 27 October 1374), also known by his Mongolian name, Bayan Temür., was 31st ruler of Goryeo from 1351 to 1374. He was the second son of King Chungsuk.
Pantheon has 79 people classified as politicians born between 38 BC and 1988. Of these 79, 23 (29.11%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Kim Yong-nam, Kim Jong-un, and Pak Pong-ju. The most famous deceased politicians include Kim Il-sung, Taejo of Joseon, and Taejo of Goryeo. As of April 2022, 11 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Eulji Mundeok, Myeongjong of Goryeo, and Uijong of Goryeo.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 13 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.