Kim Song-ae

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Kim Song-ae
First Lady of North Korea
In role
December 17, 1963 – August 15, 1974
Supreme Leader Kim Il-sung
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Ri Sol-ju (2018)
Chair of the Central Committee of the Korean Democratic Women's League
In office
1993 – 25 April 1998
Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il
Preceded by Vacant
Succeeded by Cheon Yeon-ok
In office
Supreme Leader Kim Il-sung
Preceded by Kim Ok-sun
Succeeded by Vacant
Personal details
Born (1924-12-29)29 December 1924
Kangso-guyok, South Pyongan Province, Japanese Korea
Died September 2014 (aged 89)
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Spouse(s) Kim Il-sung (m. 1952–1994; his death)
Children Kim Kyong-jin (daughter)
Kim Pyong-il (son)
Kim Yong-il (son)[a]
Korean name
Chosŏn'gŭl 김성애
Hancha 金聖愛
Revised Romanization Gim Seong-ae
McCune–Reischauer Kim Sŏng-ae

Kim Sŏng-ae (29 December 1924[1] – September 2014)[2] was a North Korean politician who served as the First Lady of North Korea from 1963 to 1974. She was the third wife of the President of North Korea, Kim Il-sung.


Kim Song-ae originally worked as a secretary.[3] She married Kim Il-sung in 1952, following the death of Kim Il-sung's first wife in 1949, although due to the Korean War no formal ceremony was held. One source indicates Kim Il-sung had had an affair with her even before his first wife died. She gave birth to a daughter (Kim Kyong-jin, 1953) and two sons (Kim Pyong-il, 1955; Kim Yong-il, 1957).

She later rose in political power. From the mid 1960s until the mid 1970s, Kim Song-ae allegedly held a significant amount of political influence in North Korea.[3] As her tenure of political significance occurred in about the same period as that of Jiang Qing in China during the culture revolution, Jang Jin-sung referred to Kim Song-ae as the "North Korean mirror image of Jiang Qing".[3]

In 1965, she became vice-chairwoman of the Central Committee of the Korean Democratic Women's League (KDWL), and in 1971, she rose to be chairwoman.[4] In December 1972, she became a representative of the People’s Supreme Assembly.[4]

According to Jang Jin-sung, Kim Song-ae had the ambition to place her son, Kim Pyong-il in the position of successor to her spouse Kim Il-sung, rather than his son from his first marriage, Kim Jong-il.[3] In this, she was supposedly supported by a faction of the North Korean political elite, among them her brother Kim Kwang-hop, and Kim Il-sungs brother Kim Yong-ju, and opposed by the faction of her stepson Kim Jong-il.[3] In the 1970s, her influence was reportedly seen as excessive by the party, who started to curb it.[3] In parallel, her stepson Kim Jong-il became the designated heir of Kim Il-sung, and his faction worked to remove her from influence.[3][4] In 1976, Kim Song-ae lost her position as chair of the KDWL, which removed her communication channel to the public and effectively curbed her power base.[3] Reportedly, Kim Song-ae, as well as her brother-in-law Kim Yong-ju, who had supported her plans to place her son in the position of heir instead of Kim Jong-il, was placed in house arrest in 1981 upon the wish of the designated heir Kim Jong-il.[3]

In 1993, she was reinstated by Kim Jong-il as chair of the KDWL, but her position was purely symbolic and nominal, and she was removed a second time in 1998.[5] Since 1998, little information about her has reached the outside world.[6]

In 2012, a report from a North Korean defector claimed that Kim Song-ae had been declared insane in the early 1990s, even before the death of Kim Il-sung, and since then been kept under supervision of a psychiatric nurse in her house arrest.[4]

There are rumors that she was killed in a car accident in Beijing in June 2001.[6] Other reports claim she is still alive as of July 2011, though in poor health, and that Kim Pyong-il returned to Pyongyang from his posting in Poland to visit her.[7]


  • Kim Song-ae (1969). Let Us Women Become Revolutionary Fighters Infinitely Loyal to the Party and Reliable Builders of Socialism and Communism by Revolutionizing and Working-classizing Ourselves. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. OCLC 253679297. 
  • — (1970). On the Women's Emancipation Movement in Korea. Report at the Meeting Held in Honour of the 25th Anniversary of the Founding of the Korean Democratic Women's Union, November 17, 1970. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. OCLC 1012367. 

See also


  1. ^ Not the same person as former premier Kim Yong-il


  1. ^
  2. ^ 김일성 부인 김성애 사망설 제기
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jang Jin-sung: Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee – A Look Inside North Korea, 2014
  4. ^ a b c d NF|New Focus. Kim Il-sung’s wife was declared insane over 20 years ago. Politics. Tuesday 18 September 2012
  5. ^ NF|New FocusRo Song Sil: a key-elite of the North Korean system? Politics. Monday 8 April 2013
  6. ^ a b Lee Su-gyeong (이수경) (2 May 2006). "김부자 실체: 김정일의 계모 김성애". Radio Free Asia (Korean service). Archived from the original on 27 June 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2007. 
  7. ^ "Kim Jong-il's Brother 'Under House Arrest in Pyongyang'", Chosun Ilbo, 3 July 2011, retrieved 3 July 2011 
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