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 86.86, Kim Il-sung is the most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 130 different languages on wikipedia.
Kim Il-sung (; Korean: 김일성, Korean pronunciation: [kimils͈ʌŋ]; born Kim Sŏng-ju (김성주), 15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994) was the founder and dictator 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 also 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 communist state with a publicly owned and 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, causing 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. He outlived Joseph Stalin by four decades and Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong by almost two and remained in power during the terms of office of six South Korean Presidents, ten US Presidents and the reigns of British monarchs George VI and later his daughter Elizabeth II. 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, 4 years after his death, Kim Il-sung was declared "eternal President of the Republic".
With an HPI of 80.11, Taejo of Joseon is the 2nd most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.
Taejo of Joseon (October 27, 1335 – May 24, 1408), born Yi Seong-gye (Middle Korean: Ni Syeong-gye(니셩계), Modern Korean: Yi Seong-gye(이성계)) was the founder and the first king of the Joseon dynasty of Korea. After ascension to the throne, he changed his name to Yi Dan (Middle Korean: Ni Tan(니단), Modern Korean: Yi Dan(이단)). He reigned from 1392 to 1398, and was the main figure in the overthrowing of the Goryeo Dynasty. Taejo's father, Yi Ja-chun was an official of Korean ethnicity serving the Mongol-led Chinese Yuan Dynasty. Taejo's mother Queen Uihye was a woman from the Yantai-Weihai area of Shandong in China and her father was a Yuan chiliarch who commanded a Mingghan. She later moved to Hamgyeong in Korea. Her ethnicity is not mentioned. Taejo joined the Goryeo army and rose through the ranks before finally seizing the throne in 1392. He abdicated in 1398 during a strife between his sons and died in 1408.
With an HPI of 78.87, Taejo of Goryeo is the 3rd most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.
Taejo of Goryeo (31 January 877 – 4 July 943), also known as Taejo Wang Geon (Wang Kǒn, 왕건), 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 78.15, Gwangjong of Goryeo is the 4th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.
Gwangjong (925 – 4 July 975), personal name Wang So, was the fourth king of Goryeo.
With an HPI of 76.66, Taejong of Joseon is the 5th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.
Taejong of Joseon (13 June 1367 – 30 May 1422) was the third king of the Joseon dynasty in Korea and the father of King Sejong the Great.
With an HPI of 74.77, Jeongjong of Joseon is the 6th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Jeongjong of Joseon (18 July 1357 – 15 October 1419), born Yi Bang-gwa, whose changed name is Yi Gyeong, was the second king of Joseon (or Chosun) Dynasty (1399–1400). He was the second son of King Taejo of Joseon, the founder and first king of the dynasty.
With an HPI of 74.41, Kim Jong-un is the 7th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 118 different languages.
Kim Jong-un (; Korean: 김정은; Hanja: 金正恩; Korean pronunciation: [kim.dzɔŋ.ɯn]; born 8 January 1982, 1983, or 1984) is a North Korean politician serving as Supreme Leader of North Korea since 2011 and the leader of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) since 2012. He is the second child of Kim Jong-il, who was North Korea's second supreme leader from 1994 to 2011, and Ko Yong-hui. He is the 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. From late 2010, Kim Jong-un was viewed as successor to the leadership of North Korea. Following the elder Kim's death in December 2011, state television announced him 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 Commission. 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 refers to him as "the Marshal" or "Dear Respected Leader". 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's leadership has followed the same cult of personality as his grandfather and father. In 2014, a UNHRC 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 in the 2017–18 North Korea crisis. In 2018 and 2019, Kim took part in a diplomatic process, meeting 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, although many experts doubt the country has had no cases altogether.
With an HPI of 74.02, Injo of Joseon is the 8th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.
Injo of Joseon (7 December 1595 – 17 June 1649, r. 1623–1649) was the sixteenth king of the Joseon dynasty in Korea. He was the grandson of Seonjo and son of Grand Prince Jeongwon (정원군). King Injo was king during both the first and second Manchu invasions, which ended with the surrender of Joseon to the Qing dynasty in 1636.
With an HPI of 73.41, Kim Jong-suk is the 9th most famous North Korean Politician. Her biography has been translated into 28 different languages.
Kim Jong-suk (Korean: 김정숙; Hanja: 金正淑; 24 December 1917 – 22 September 1949) was a Korean anti-Japanese guerrilla, a Communist activist, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung's first wife, former leader Kim Jong-il's mother, and current leader Kim Jong-un's grandmother.
With an HPI of 73.27, Jang Song-thaek is the 10th most famous North Korean Politician. His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.
Jang Song-thaek (January or February 1946 – 12 December 2013) was a leading figure in the government of North Korea. He was married to Kim Kyong-hui, the only daughter of North Korean Premier Kim Il-sung and his first wife Kim Jong-suk, and only sister of North Korean general secretary Kim Jong-il. He was therefore the uncle (by marriage) of current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.Although the precise extent of Jang Song-thaek's power and position during his life cannot be confirmed, in 2008 South Korean government officials and academic North Korea experts suggested that he had taken on de facto leadership over North Korea while Kim Jong-il's health was declining and when Kim subsequently died. Jang was vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission, a position considered second only to that of the Supreme Leader. He is believed to have been promoted to four-star general around the time of Kim Jong-il's death in December 2011, as his first appearance in uniform was while visiting Kim lying in state. Jang was considered a "key policy adviser" to Kim Jong-un.In December 2013, Jang was abruptly accused of being a counter-revolutionary and was stripped of all his posts and expelled from the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK). His photos were removed from official media and his image digitally removed from photos with other North Korean leaders. On 13 December, North Korea state media announced he had been executed. There have been external reports that many members of his family have also been killed.
Pantheon has 47 people classified as politicians born between 38 BC and 1988. Of these 47, 15 (31.91%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-nam, and Kim Yong-il. The most famous deceased politicians include Kim Il-sung, Taejo of Joseon, and Taejo of Goryeo. As of October 2020, 9 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Gojong of Goryeo, Wonjong of Goryeo, and Kim Kyong-hui.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 10 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.