Kim Tu-bong

Kim Tu-bong (February 16, 1889 – March 1958 or later) was the first Chairman of the Workers' Party of North Korea from 1946 to 1949. He was known in Korean history as a linguist, scholar and politician. His most famous work was under Ju Sigyeong; later, after participating in the March 1st Movement, he with other Korean leaders of the time established a provisional government-in-exile in China, and because of his communist beliefs he played an important role in the early North Korean communist government.

Kim Tu-bong
Kim Tu-bong 2.jpg
Kim Tu-bong in 1955.
Chairman of the Workers' Party of North Korea Central Committee
2nd term
In office
30 March 1948 – 30 June 1949
Succeeded byKim Il-sung
1st term
In office
28 August 1946 – 30 March 1948
Preceded byPost established
Succeeded byKim Il-sung
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly
1st term
In office
9 September 1948 – 20 September 1957
Preceded byPost established
Succeeded byChoe Yong-gon
Personal details
Born(1889-02-16)16 February 1889
Pusan, Joseon
Diedbetween March 1958 and 1960 (aged 69–71)
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
NationalityNorth Korean
Political partyWorkers' Party of Korea (1949–1958)
Other political
Workers' Party of North Korea (1946–1949)
Korean name
Revised RomanizationGim Dubong
McCune–ReischauerKim Tubong
Pen name
Revised RomanizationBaekyeon

He and other members of the Yan'an faction formed the New People's Party when they returned from exile. After the New People's Party merged into the Workers Party of North Korea (WPNK) in 1946 at the 1st WPNK Congress, he became WPNK Chairman. He was the first head of state (Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly) of North Korea from 1948 to 1957. He is most remembered in South Korea for his efforts in establishing the Korean linguistic field and especially that of Hangul. Much of his work both political and linguistically was done while living in China with the exiled government of Korea. He is also known by his pen name Baekyeon. He was purged by Kim Il-sung in 1957.

Early childhood and educationEdit

Born on February 2, 1889, in South Korea's South Gyeongsang Province, near modern-day Pusan, he spent his early years being homeschooled during the time of imperial rule. He would move to Seoul at the age of 20 (1908) to attend both Geho School and Baechae School and in that same year graduate from Bogo High School. While he was in Seoul he would join the Korea Youth organization in 1913 and the following year (1914) leave Baechae School. He was also an editor for the So nyoun magazine.

Early linguistic workEdit

After graduating from Bosungkobo (Bosung College) in 1908, Kim Tu-bong worked closely with a linguistics professor from Bosungkobo named Ju Sigyeong, who was at that time beginning his work in the study of Hangul, for which his name would later be known, as he would dedicate his life to bring it about (the Korean script made by King Sae Jeong during the 15th century). He also worked as a teacher. In 1916 he spent a majority of his time working on compiling MalMooe, the first Korean dictionary.

Shanghai and the exiled Korean governmentEdit

Kim Tu-bong (right) sitting next to Kim Il-sung (center)

After the March 1st Movement (March 1, 1919) he and other members of the independence club fled into China and in April 1919 set up a provisional government in Shanghai. During this time he was first exposed to Communism and eventually accepted it in 1920 after first supporting the Democratic Party. In 1924 he was entrusted with the department of children education and schooling where he served as the president and also taught both Korean and Korean History. After the Japanese invaded China he and other members of the Korean government in Shanghai fled to Yan'an, and there Kim would become the head of the independence club and became a very important figure in combining the conflicting views of both communist and democratic ideas.

Return home and the new governmentEdit

From left to right: Pak Chang-ok, Li Jishen, Kim Tu-bong, Zhu De, Kim Il-sung, Averky Aristov, Pak Chŏng Ae and Choe Yong-gon in 1955.

The December following World War II and the Japanese's surrender (August 15, 1945) Kim Tu-bong and other members returned to the then-divided Korea. Like many other Communist-minded people of the time, Kim Tu-bong and other Communist leaders took residence in what is now North Korea under the Soviet occupation. In February 1946 Kim Tu-bong became the chairman of the new People's Party. Later that year in August it merged to form the Workers' Party. He would become the chairman in 1948, though from the outset the real power was held by Premier Kim Il-sung. Kim Tu-bong designed the new flag that is still used in North Korea today in an effort to throw off what he saw as feudal rule.

Kim Il-sung became chairman of the Workers' Party after it merged with its southern counterpart in 1949, thus becoming in name as well as in fact the country's leader. In most Communist states, the party leader is understood to be the most powerful man in the country.

Disappearance and deathEdit

After the Korean War Kim Tu-bong had served his usefulness in the government, and, whether real or imagined, many scholars believe he had become a perceived threat to Kim Il-sung's dictatorship. Rumors began that it had to do with a scandal, as he had married a much younger woman later in life. Whatever the reason, he was purged in March 1958,[1] accused of involvement in the 1956 August Faction Incident.[2] Like many others of Kim Il-sung's political opponents, he disappeared with no records to indicate whether he had been sentenced to hard labor or exile. He is believed either to have been executed or to have died some time in the 1960s in internal exile.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Journal of Korean Affairs". 22 May 1975 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Armstrong, Charles K. (18 June 2013). Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992. Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801468933 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Lanʹkov, Andreĭ Nikolaevich (22 May 2018). From Stalin to Kim Il Song: The Formation of North Korea, 1945-1960. Hurst & Company. ISBN 9781850655633 – via Google Books.
  • Dae-Sook Suh. Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader. Columbia University Press, 1988. pg. 351
  • n.d. Kim Dubong (김두봉). Naver encolopidia. November 20, 2013.

External linksEdit