Ko Yong-hui

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Ko.
Ko Yong-hui
Born c. (1953-06-16)16 June 1953
Osaka, Japan
Died c. 13 August 2004(2004-08-13) (aged 51)
Paris, France
Spouse(s) Kim Jong-il
Children Kim Jong-chul
Kim Jong-un
Kim Yo-jong
Korean name
Chosŏn'gŭl 고영희
Revised Romanization Go Yeong-hui
McCune–Reischauer Ko Yŏnghŭi

Ko Yong-hui[1] (c. 16 June 1953 – c. 13 August 2004), also spelled Ko Young-hee, was the North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il's consort and mother of North Korea's Supreme Commander, Kim Jong-un. Within North Korea she is known as "The Respected Mother who is the Most Faithful and Loyal 'Subject' to the Dear Leader Comrade Supreme Commander", "The Mother of Pyongyang", and "The Mother of Great Songun Korea."[2][3][4]


Ko was born in Ikuno, Osaka, Japan to parents of Korean descent.[5] Ko's birth date and Japanese name in Japanese official records are 26 June 1952 and Takada Hime, respectively.[6] It seems that her father Ko Gyon-tek worked in Osaka in a sewing factory run by Japan's ministry of war.[7][8] She along with her family moved to North Korea in May 1961 or in 1962 as part of a repatriation program.[6][9] In the early 1970s, she began to work as a dancer for the Mansudae Art Troupe in Pyongyang.[10] Ko's younger sister Ko Young-sook sought asylum from the U.S. embassy in Bern, Switzerland while she was living there to take care of Kim Jong-un during his school days there, according to South Korea's National Intelligence Service; U.S. officials arranged Ko Young-sook's departure from the country without consulting South Korean officials.[11]

It is thought that Ko and Kim Jong-il first met in 1972.[10] In 1981, Ko gave birth to son Kim Jong-chul, her first child with Kim. It was Kim's third child, after son Kim Jong-nam (born 1971 to Song Hye-rim), and daughter Kim Sul-song (born 1974 to Kim Young-sook). Kim Jong-il's second child with Ko, present North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, followed between one to three years later after Jong-chul. Their third child, Kim Yo-jong, a daughter, was believed to be about 23 in 2012.[12][13] However, the birth year of Kim Yo-jong is also given as 1987.[10]

On 27 August 2004, various sources reported that she had died in Paris, probably of breast cancer.[14] However, there is another report, stating that she was treated in Paris in 2004 Spring and then flown back to Pyongyang where she fell into coma and died in August 2004.[15]

Cult of personality[edit]

Under North Korea's songbun ascribed status system, Ko's Korean-Japanese heritage would make her part of the lowest "hostile" class. Furthermore, her grandfather worked in a sewing factory for the Imperial Japanese Army, which would give her the "lowest imaginable status qualities" for a North Korean.[16]

Prior to an internal propaganda film released after ascension of Kim Jong-un, there were three attempts made to idolize Ko, in a style similar to that associated with Kang Pan-sŏk, mother of Kim Il-sung, and Kim Jong-suk, mother of Kim Jong-il and the first wife of Kim Il-sung.[17] These previous attempts at idolization had failed, and they were stopped after Kim Jong-il's 2008 stroke.[16]

The building of a cult of personality around Ko encounters the problem of her bad songbun, even though it is usually passed on by the father.[18] Making her identity public would undermine the Kim dynasty's pure bloodline,[16] and after Kim Jong-il's death, her personal information, including name, became state secrets.[17] Ko's real name or other personal details have not been publicly revealed in North Korea, and she is referred to as "Mother of Great Songun Korea" or "Great Mother". The most recent propaganda film called its main character "Lee Eun-mi".

See also[edit]

Select[α] family tree of North Korea's ruling[β] Kim family[γ][δ]
Kim Bo-hyon
Kim Hyong-jik
Kang Pan-sok
Kim Jong-suk
Kim Il-sung
Kim Sung-ae
Kim Yong-ju
Kim Young-sook
Song Hye-rim
Kim Jong-il
Ko Yong-hui
Kim Ok
Kim Kyong-hui
Jang Sung-taek
Kim Pyong-il
Kim Sul-song
Kim Jong-nam
Kim Jong-chul
Kim Jong-un
Ri Sol-ju
c. 1986
Kim Yo-jong
Kim Han-sol
Kim Ju-ae
c. 2012[ε]
  1. ^ To keep the tree of manageable size, it omits some members, e. g., brothers and sisters of Kim Jong-il.
  2. ^ Names of Supreme Leaders of the DPRK (and the name of the article being viewed if any) are in bold font.
  3. ^ Korean names often have a variety of transliterations into English, which can be confusing. For example, "Kim Jong-chul" may also be written "Gim Jeong-cheol" or "Kim Jŏng-ch'ŏl" among many other variations. See Korean romanization for more information.
  4. ^ Huss, Kan; Frost, Clay. "North Korea’s First Family: Mapping the personal and political drama of the Kim clan". msnbc.com. Retrieved 20 January 2013.  (Confirms many, but not all, of the birth and death years. See individual articles for more references.)
  5. ^ a b c d Official biographies of Kim Jong-suk and Kim Jong-il give birth years of 1917 and 1942, respectively, while Kim Jong-un's birth year may actually be 1984. Kim Ju-ae may have been born in late 2012 or early 2013.


  1. ^ "North Korea leader lies in state". BBC. 18 December 2011. Archived from the original on 20 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Lintner, Bertil (2005) Great leader, dear leader: demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, Thailand, page 107, ISBN 974-9575-69-5
  3. ^ French, Paul (2007) North Korea: the paranoid peninsula — a modern history (2nd edition) Zed Books, London, page 267, ISBN 978-1-84277-905-7
  4. ^ Jung A, Yang (30 June 2012). "North Korea: The Glorification Nation". Daily NK. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Kokita, Kiyohito (1 December 2010). "Osaka black mark in Kim's life?". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 3 December 2010. ; see Kokita Kiyohito, Tessa Morris-Suzuki and Mark Selden, Ko Tae Mun, Ko Chung Hee, and the Osaka Family Origins of North Korean Successor Kim Jong Un, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 1 No 2, 3 January 2011.
  6. ^ a b Ki, Ko Young (26 June 2012). "Happy Birthday, Koh Young Hee". Daily NK. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  7. ^ http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/12/511_148516.html
  8. ^ Mark Willacy, Kim Jong-un's grandfather 'was Japanese collaborator', ABC News 11 May 2012
  9. ^ Takahashi, Kosuke (14 July 2012). "Young general comes out as mother's boy". Asia Times. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c Ki, Ko Young (31 May 2011). "Ko Young Hee Image Uncovered". Daily NK. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Kim Jong-un’s aunt fled to U.S.; She and husband sought asylum in 1998, had cosmetic surgery". JoongAng Ilbo. 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 
  12. ^ Lee Young-jong; Kim Hee-jin (8 August 2012). "Kim Jong-un’s sister is having a ball". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  13. ^ "Kim Yo Jong". North Korea Leadership Watch. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  14. ^ Hart, Joyce (2007) Kim Jong II: Leader of North Korea Rosen Publishing Group, New York, page 60, ISBN 978-1-4042-1901-4
  15. ^ Brooke, James (27 August 2004). "A Mystery About a Mistress in North Korea". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c Ko Young-ki (26 June 2012). "Happy Birthday, Ko Young Hee". Daily NK. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Cho Jong-ik (30 July 2012). ""Great Mother" revealed to World". Daily NK. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  18. ^ Andrei Lankov (3 December 2011). "North Korea's new class system". Asia Times. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 

External links[edit]