Kim Il Sung was born to a Christian family on April 15, 1912 in South Pyongan province in today's North Korea, which was then under Japanese occupation. Kim Il Sung's maternal grandfather was a pastor and both of his parents were active members of their church.

When Kim Il sung was 8 years old, his family moved north to Manchuria in Northeast China. At 17, he joined a Chinese Communist organization and began to fight the occupying Japanese army. At 28, he escaped to the Soviet Union when the Japanese army chased him and his few hundred men out of China.

The Soviets trained and made him a captain in the Red Army. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, Stalin sent Kim to the Korean peninsula and built him an army with Soviet weapons. In 1948, Kim became the Stalin-anointed Prime Minister of North Korea.

In 1950, Kim's communist army invaded the democratic South Korea and spent the next year advancing and retreating twice against the US-led United Nations force. For the subsequent two years, his army settled into a trench war more or less along the pre-war border at the 38th parallel.

When the Korean War ended in 1953, Kim rebuilt North Korea as a communist state, using the Soviet Union as a model. However, he was disappointed that Stalin hadn't come to his aid when he was retreating during the war, and cozied up to the Chinese, who had sent its army to rescue him.

When China experimented with its disastrous Cultural Revolution during the 1960s and 1970s, Kim cozied back to the Soviets. And when the Soviet Union later disintegrated, he was back in the Chinese corner.

Kim Il Sung married twice. His first wife died in 1947 while giving birth, and he married his second wife in 1962. He fathered at least 9 children, including some who were illegitimate, and died of a heart attack in 1994 at 82 years of age.

After a period of mourning that lasted a mere 3 years, Kim Jong Il made his father the President of North Korea "for eternity." Kim Il Sung's body is embalmed in a massive mausoleum in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, the only country in the world whose head of state is a corpse.