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The Most Famous

POLITICIANS from North Korea

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This page contains a list of the greatest North Korean Politicians. The pantheon dataset contains 15,577 Politicians, 78 of which were born in North Korea. This makes North Korea the birth place of the 42nd most number of Politicians behind Peru and Syria.

Top 10

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.

Photo of Kim Il-sung

1. Kim Il-sung (1912 - 1994)

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 Sung Ju; 15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994) was a North Korean politician and the founder of North Korea, which he led as Supreme Leader from the country's establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994. Afterwards, he was declared eternal president. He held the posts of the 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 over Korea in 1945 following Japan's surrender in World War II, 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 in 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 totalitarian socialist personalist dictatorship with a centrally planned economy. It had very close political and economic relations with the Soviet Union. By the 1960s, North Korea had a slightly higher standard of living than the South, which was suffering from political chaos and economic crises. The situation was reversed in the 1970s, 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 and self-reliance. 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 negatively 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. This was part of an infiltration and subversion campaign to reunify the peninsula under North Korea's rule. Kim outlived his allies Joseph Stalin by over 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 United States Presidents. Known as the Great Leader (Suryong), he established a far-reaching 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, thus establishing the Kim dynasty.

Photo of Taejo of Joseon

2. Taejo of Joseon (1335 - 1408)

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 (Korean: 태조; Hanja: 太祖; 4 November 1335 – 27 June 1408), personal name Yi Seong-gye (이성계; 李成桂), later Yi Dan (이단; 李旦), was the founder and first monarch of the Joseon dynasty of Korea. After overthrowing the Goryeo dynasty, he ascended to the throne in 1392 and abdicated six years later during a strife between his sons. He was honored as Emperor Go (고황제; 高皇帝) following the establishment of the Korean Empire. Taejo emphasized continuity over change. No new institutions were created, and no massive purges occurred during his reign. His new dynasty was largely dominated by the same ruling families and officials that had served the previous regime. He re-established amicable ties with Japan and improved relations with Ming China.

Photo of Taejo of Goryeo

3. Taejo of Goryeo (877 - 943)

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), personal name Wang Kŏn (Korean: 왕건; Hanja: 王建), also known as Taejo Wang Kŏn (Korean: 태조 왕건; Hanja: 太祖 王建; lit. 'Great Progenitor Wang Kŏn'), was the founder of the Korean Goryeo dynasty. Taejo ruled from 918 to 943, achieving unification of the Later Three Kingdoms in 936.

Photo of Gwangjong of Goryeo

4. Gwangjong of Goryeo (925 - 975)

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 monarch of Korea's Goryeo dynasty.

Photo of Taejong of Joseon

5. Taejong of Joseon (1367 - 1422)

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 (Korean: 태종; Hanja: 太宗; 16 May 1367 – 10 May 1422), personal name Yi Bang-won (이방원; 李芳遠), was the third monarch of the Joseon dynasty of Korea and the father of Sejong the Great. He was the fifth son of King Taejo, the founder of the dynasty. Before ascending to the throne, he was known as Prince Jeongan (정안군; 靖安君).

Photo of Jeongjong of Joseon

6. Jeongjong of Joseon (1357 - 1419)

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 (Korean: 정종; Hanja: 定宗; 1 July 1357 – 26 September 1419), personal name Yi Bang-gwa (이방과; 李芳果), later Yi Gyeong (이경; 李曔), was the second monarch of the Joseon dynasty of Korea. He was the second son of King Taejo, the founder of the dynasty. Before ascending to the throne, he was known as Prince Yeongan (영안군; 永安君).

Photo of Injo of Joseon

7. Injo of Joseon (1595 - 1649)

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 (Korean: 인조; Hanja: 仁祖; 7 December 1595 – 17 June 1649), personal name Yi Jong (이종; 李倧), was the 16th monarch of the Joseon dynasty of Korea. He was a grandson of King Seonjo and the eldest son of Prince Jeongwon. He ascended to the throne after leading a coup d'état against his uncle, Gwanghaegun, in 1623. Today, Injo is considered a weak and incompetent king, as during his reign the country experienced Yi Gwal's Rebellion, the Later Jin invasion, the Qing invasion, and an economic recession, while the government was corrupt and ineffective.

Photo of Kim Yong-nam

8. Kim Yong-nam (1928 - )

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.

Photo of Kim Jong-un

9. Kim Jong-un (1983 - )

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; born 8 January 1982, 1983 or 1984) 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 the third son of Kim Jong Il, who was North Korea's second supreme leader from 1994 until his death in 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. From late 2010, Kim was viewed as the successor to the North Korean leadership. 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 and President of the State Affairs. He is also a member of the Presidium of the WPK Politburo, the highest decision-making body in the country. 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. He has also revived the structures of the WPK, expanding the party's power in expense of the military leadership. Kim rules North Korea as a totalitarian state, and his leadership has followed the same cult of personality as his father and grandfather. In 2014, a United Nations Human Rights Council report suggested that Kim could be put on trial for crimes against humanity. According to reports, he has ordered the purge and execution of several North Korean officials including his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in 2013. He is also widely believed to have ordered the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, in Malaysia in 2017. He has presided over an expansion of the consumer economy, construction projects and tourist attractions in North Korea. Kim expanded the country's nuclear weapons program, which led to heightened tensions with the United States and South Korea, as well as China. In 2018 and 2019, Kim took part in summits with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and US president Donald Trump, leading to a brief thaw between North Korea and the two countries, though the negotiations ultimately broke down without progress on reunification of Korea or nuclear disarmament. He has claimed success in combating the COVID-19 pandemic in North Korea, as the country did not report any confirmed cases until May 2022, although many experts doubt this claim.

Photo of Gongmin of Goryeo

10. Gongmin of Goryeo (1330 - 1374)

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 78 people classified as politicians born between 38 BC and 1988. Of these 78, 21 (26.92%) 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, 10 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Eulji Mundeok, Myeongjong of Goryeo, and Uijong of Goryeo.

Living Politicians

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Deceased Politicians

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Newly Added Politicians (2022)

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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.