Known by a number of names – including Dear Leader, Generalissimo and Our Father – Kim Jong-il led the hermit state of North Korea for over two decades until his death in 2011.

Every year, the reclusive country holds state-run celebrations marking the birthday of the former DPRK leader on 16 February.

Official biography

Kim's official biography states he was born in a secret military camp on Paekdu Mountain on the northern DPRK border on 16 February 1942. Soviet records claim he was born on 16 February 1941 in Vyatskoye, a village in Russia where his parents were in exile during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

Double rainbow

According to Kim's official biography, his birth was predicted by the appearance of a double rainbow and marked by the sight of a new star and a swallow in the sky.

Afraid of flying

Kim Jong-il was afraid of flying and travelled by private train for state visits – even for journeys that could take days. His private train journeys were just as luxurious as air travel. One Russian diplomat who travelled with Kim described live lobsters that were airlifted each day to the train, despite the millions of North Koreans starving due to famine and poverty.


In 1994, North Korean media reported that Kim shot a 38-under par round on North Korea's only golf course the very first time he attempted the game. He also managed to score 11 holes-in-one – more than Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have managed in their entire careers combined.

Prolific writer

Kim studied at the politics and economics department of Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang. His official biography states he wrote 1,500 books over three years while at university.

Weather control

Some people believed Kim could control the weather with his moods. North Korean defector and human rights activist Yeonmi Park said she used to believe Kim Jong-il could read her thoughts.

Expensive tastes

Kim reportedly had a penchant for donkey meat and imported both expensive French wines, Champagne and Cognac into the country.


In 1978, Kim ordered the kidnapping of famous South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and his wife Choi Eun-hee, to put North Korea's film industry on the world stage. The couple were forced to make seven films before they escaped to the west in 1989.

Film fanatic

Film was one of Kim's great passions. He reportedly had one of the largest personal film collections in the world, with more than 20,000 bootlegged 35mm screening copies from around the globe. The DPRK's control over information meant he was the only person in North Korea who was allowed to watch the films. Two of Kim's favourite films were allegedly Rambo and Godzilla.

No need for toilets

According to an official biography posted on the North Korean state website, Kim Jong-il did not defecate. It has since been removed.