North Korea celebrates 103rd birthday of its ‘eternal president’

Dances, flowers and celebrations across North Korea marked the birthday of the nation’s founder on Wednesday. Kim Il-sung was the nation’s first leader and is considered North Korea’s “eternal president.” Kim was born in 1912 and died in 1994 — he would have turned 103 today.

As a young man, Kim fled to China to avoid Japanese forces in Korea and learned Chinese. He returned to fight those same Japanese troops, and went on to lead his new country.

Though Kim came to be known as “Great Leader” inside North Korea, he is credited for militarizing the nation and shutting off contact with much of the outside world.

“There was no socialism, but only a monarchy in North Korea,” Kim Young Hwan, a South Korean activist, said at a lecture in Seoul last week, according to Bloomberg. “It still is, with all resources funneled into keeping his grandson Kim Jong-un in power.”

North Korea is now one of the poorest, most isolated countries on the planet.H_51888266North Korean leader Kim Jong-un bows at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang to pay tribute to his grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung. The mausoleum enshrines the mummified bodies of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father. IMAGE: RODONG SINMUN/EPAAp382027995533_2

A man walks past a bronze monument of North Korea’s late founder Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, the late Kim Jong Il, on Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang.IMAGE: KYODO

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Li Jinjun (5th from the left), Chinese Ambassador to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and other Chinese embassy officials present floral baskets before bronze statues of former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il at Mansudae Square in Pyongyang, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.IMAGE: LU RUI/XINHUA PRESS/CORBIS

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People present flowers before bronze statues of former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il at Mansudae Square in Pyongyang, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.IMAGE: LU RUI/XINHUA PRESS/CORBIS

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North Korean women go out in chimajogori, traditional Korean jackets and skirts, in the capital Pyongyang, as the country marked the 103rd anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung.IMAGE: KYODO42-70634548People present flowers before bronze statues of former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il at Mansudae Square in Pyongyang, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has held a series of events to celebrate the 103rd birth anniversary of late founder Kim Il Sung, or the “Day of the Sun.”IMAGE: LU RUI/XINHUA PRESS/CORBISAp57205236759_0Women walk to lay flowers on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, as North Korea marked the 103rd anniversary of the birth of its late founder Kim Il Sung.IMAGE: KYODOH_51888267Kim Jong-un arrives at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang to pay tribute to his grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, as the communist country marks the former leader’s 103rd birthday.IMAGE: RODONG SINMUN/EPAAp286454876647_3North Korean citizens dance in Pyongyang on April 11, 2015, in celebration of the third anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un’s assumption of the post of first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.IMAGE: KYODO

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