Kim Kyung-cheon (Hangul: 김경천; hanja: 金擎天; June 5, 1888 – January 2, 1942) was a Korean independence activist and military leader. Several sources believe North Korean leader Kim Il-sung stole his identity after his death. In 1888, he was born in a rich, Yangban-traditioned family in South Hamgyong Province, Pukchong County, as the fifth son of his father Kim Ding-Hyung. His original name was Kim Eung-cheon (Korean:김응천, Chinese:金應天). In 1909 he married You Jeong. He later entered the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and graduated in 1911, attaing the rank of cavalry lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army. In June 1919 he fled to Manchuria along with Ji Cheong-cheon to join the Korean independence movement, working as a trainer but after only six months he communicated with some Korean activists and moved to Vladivostok to fight under Kim Kyu, who was renowned for victory over a Japanese battalion. His main operation after arriving in Vladivostok was fighting off Japanese-supported Chinese militias. In this period he chose Kim Kyung-cheon as a pseudonym. During the Russian Civil War, his troops managed to impress Red Army commanders with good discipline. In January 1923 he attended the conference of Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai and decided to create a communist Korean regime which would be based in the Soviet Union. However, the Comintern denied the "republic's" legitimacy as an independent entity, leading Ji to leave the Soviet Union while Kim remained. During the Great Purge, Kim was arrested for protesting against Joseph Stalin's Korean Dislocation policy and eventually died in a Soviet prison. He and Ji Cheong-cheon and Shin Dong-cheon were called "3 cheons of South Manchuria" (南满三天). He was also referred to as 擎天金将軍 (경천 김장군) (literally meaning Heaven-supporting General Kim) by Koreans in Manchuria.
Lee Myung-young published a book The Legend of Kim Il-sung in 1974 in which she asserted that the original General Kim Il-sung was an Imperial Japanese Army Academy graduate.
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- 『シベリア出兵 革命と干渉 1917–1922 (Siberia Expedition: Revolution and Intervention)』pp.486-487
Lee Myung-young 『金日成は四人いた(The Four Kim Il-sungs)』成甲書房、2000年。ISBN 4-88086-108-1