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Digital Archive International History Declassified


Kim Du-bong

James E. Hoare

Veteran communist and leader of the Yan'an faction of Korean communists who fought alongside the CCP the 1930s.


KIM DU-BONG (1886?-1957?). Veteran communist and leader of the Yan’an faction of Korean communists who fought with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Yan’an in China during the 1930s. His year of birth has also been stated as 1889. He was born in South Gyeongsang Province and became a noted linguist, publishing a grammar of the Korean language in 1916 and being an active member of a group that sought reform of the Korean alphabet, hangul. Kim was also a political activist and took part in the Samil Undong movement against the Japanese in 1919. He fled to China, where he continued his scholarly activities, publishing a second revised and expanded edition of his Korean grammar in Shanghai in 1923. At the same time, he played an important role in the Korean revolutionary movement in Shanghai and Chongqing until the early 1940s.

He then joined Mao Zedong’s forces in Yan’an, organizing the Korean Revolutionary League that fought with the CCP until l945. After his return to Korea, sometime after August 1945, the league became the New Democratic Party. When this merged with the Korean Communist Party to form the North Korean Workers’ Party in 1946, Kim was the first chairman. However, when the Korean Workers’ Party was created, Kim ceded the top position to Kim Il Sung. On the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in September 1948, Kim Du-bong became the first chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, which meant that he was the DPRK head of state for ceremonial purposes. In addition, he was for a time head of Kim Il Sung University and of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. Although he opposed the attempt in the August 1956 Incident to challenge Kim Il Sung, he was ousted from his public positions, accused of being a spy for the United States, and disappeared from view. His scholarly role was also condemned. It is assumed that he was executed either in 1956 or 1957. The attack on Kim had more to do with Kim Il Sung’s determination to get rid of any possible opposition than to any real opposition to the regime.

Kim had been trained as a philologist and published on the subject. He was awarded a doctorate in linguistics in 1948. He was involved in the language reform movements of the 1950s, which saw the abandonment of Chinese characters and the promotion of Hangeul (often spelled as Hangul).

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. (Historical Dictionary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, by James E. Hoare, published by RLPG Books, appears by permission of the author and publisher).