By August 1945, the Soviet Union had gained control of the Korean peninsula. That same month, Stalin declared war on Japan and planned an invasion from Korea. However, the U.S. would drop atomic bombs and preempt an early surrender by Japan before the Soviets had a chance to consolidate its forces for its assault.
Though the U.S. managed to prevent any Soviet occupation of Japan, Soviet tanks already overran Korea, and Stalin instated the exiled Kim il-Sung as the leader of the communist occupied areas. This appointment would mean that Kim and later North Korea would have close relationships with the Soviets, unlike the Chinese. From this point on, Kim would consolidate his power among the Korean communists.
Cult of Personality:
The Republic of Korea was declared on May 1948. Even though the United Nations had planned to hold nation-wide elections to determine the leadership of a united Korea, Kim il-Sung would establish the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on September of that same year. The Republic of Korea would become South Korea and the DPRK would become North Korea. Because Kim had been the unchallenged leader of the Soviet occupied territories, he became the absolute ruler of the newly independent North Korea. It was only one year later when the man would go by the title “Great Leader.” From then on, the North Korean government would gradually elaborate on Kim’s grandeur.
On June 25, 1950, Kim il-Sung would call an full-out invasion of South Korea under the impression that the beleaguered South Koreans would welcome the invasion and that the U.S. would not intervene as Korea seemingly had little strategic importance (after all, the U.S. did not intervene when the Communists took over China which had much, much more strategic value than Korea). The Soviets would support North Korea with modern tanks and artillery and convince a reluctant Mao under this condition. Kim could not have been more wrong.
Just when the South Koreans were at the brim of defeat, a U.N. force led by the U.S. would land at Inchon and cut off all the North Korean supply lines. This force would push Kim’s army all the way to the border of China which was when the Chinese army intervened. The People’s Liberation Army, the army of China, had several years of experience fighting a civil war, so U.N. force was pushed all the way back to the 38th parallel. At this point, the war grew into a stalemate. For the next two years, China would take care most of the fighting in the frontlines, much to Kim il-Sung’s frustration.
On July 27, 1953, an armistice was called. Millions had been killed in the struggle leaving both Koreas absolutely devastated.
After the Korean War:
Having failed to conquer South Korea, Kim il-Sung declared the Korean War a victory. Afterall, he protected North Korea from being taken by the United States. However, the rest of his country was in ruins.
To rebuild, he declared a Five Year Plan. Thus, setting up a command economy where the country would be dependant upon the government. This meant that most of the economy was fueled by military efforts to defend the DMZ (demilitarized zone) that was set up between North and South Korea. For the most part, the reconstruction was successful and North Korea enjoyed a better standard of living compared to the South. Upon this post-war era did Kim il-Sung build his ideology: Juche.