Partial list of Americans who met Kim Il Sung

The late DPRK President Kim Il Sung is said to have met thousands of foreigners, but few Americans. Those Americans include:

Affiliation at time of meeting; year(s) met; (d) = deceased

• Harrison Salisbury, New York Times (interview with Kim), (article), 1972 (d)
• John M. Lee, New York Times, 1972 (d)
• Selig Harrison, Washington Post (article and interview with Kim), 1972, Carnegie Endowment, 1994 (d)
• Rep. Stephen Solarz, 1980, 1991 (d)
• Ralph Clough, SAIS, 1980, 1991 (d)
• Stanley O. Roth, House Foreign Affairs Committee, 1991 [likely met Kim as accompanied Solarz; Roth as Assistant Secretary of State for EAP also met Kim Jong Il in 2000]
• Rev. Billy Graham (with Dr. Stephen Linton), 1992, 1994 (for Graham’s accounts of meeting Kim, see Ch. 34 in Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham)
• Former Rep. Richard Ichord, American Freedom Coalition (AFC), 1992 (twice in May & June) (d)
• Former Rep. Bob Mathias, AFC, 1992 (d)
• Amb. Douglas MacArthur II (the General’s nephew), AFC, 1992 (d)
• Max Hugel, former Deputy Director, CIA, 1992 (d)
• [The two AFC delegations that met Kim in May and June 1992 included 40 participants, among them former U.S. congressmen, governors and other senior officials]
• Dr. Robert Grant, AFC, 1992
• Gary Jarmin, AFC, 1992
• Dr. Thomas J. Ward, AFC, 1992
• Larry R. Moffitt, AFC, 1992
• Dr. William J. Taylor, Jr., CSIS, 1992, 1994 (d)
Josette Sheerhan, Washington Times, 1992 (article and interview with Kim), 1994 (written interview with Kim)
• Vicki Yokota, Washington Times, 1992
• Rep. Gary Ackerman, 1993
• [Ackerman was accompanied by two congressional staffers; not clear if they attended meeting with Kim]
• Dr. C. Kenneth Quinones, State Dept., 1993
• Eason Jordan, VP, CNN International, 1994 (twice in April & June)
• Mike Chinoy, CNN, 1992, 1994 (see Ch. 11 of China Live: People Power and the Television Revolution)
• Lt. Col. James G. Zumwalt (USMC, Ret.), 1994
• Dr. Antonio Betancourt, Summit Council, 1992, 1994 (5 times total)*
• Dr. William Selig, Summit Council, 1992 [also met Kim Jong Il]
Dr. Mark P. Barry, Summit Council, 1994
• Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, 1994
• Richard A. Christenson, State Dept., 1994
• Nancy Konigsmark, Carter Center, 1994 (d)
• Amb. Marion Creekmore, Carter Center, 1994

*=also attended Kim Il Sung’s funeral in July 1994, and twice met Kim Jong Il

Does not include the names of any U.S. citizens who were part of CNN’s crews in its 1992 and 1994 visits in which they met Kim Il Sung, nor the names of any Communist Party USA (AKFIC) members who may have met Kim (AKFIC at least got a written response to interview questions); CPUSA head Gus Hall once received a box of presents from Kim. For names of several Korean-Americans who met Kim, likely among at least dozens, please confer Dr. Myers’ comments below.  


7 thoughts on “Partial list of Americans who met Kim Il Sung

  1. I know it’s a partial list, but the fact that Korean-Americans are Americans too makes it hard to claim that Kim Il Sung met “very few Americans.” If anything, he seems to have preferred meeting with them, entire delegations at a time, over other members of the diaspora. A lot of clergy of course, in line with his belief in their usefulness. (In a North Korean historical novel Kim thanks Graham for spreading good “propaganda” about the country.)

    Just to go back to the early 1990s: There was Cho Dongjin and his wife, who led a group of Korean-Americans to Pyongyang in May 1992. (Front page photo in the Rodong Sinmun on May 30.) And there’s that discussion with Dr. Son Wont’ae (1991) in his Collected Works, though I think he met him again in 1994. There is a photo of him with multiple members of Son’s Korean-American delegation. He met Rim Ch’ang-yeong in 1991, as a photograph attests. And if the dictator never met Han S. Park I would be very surprised! Don’t forget Stephen Linton, a Korean-American of a different sort, who met Kim twice.


  2. I see you have Linton next to Graham’s name, so never mind that. I just remembered John M. Lee, a Korean-American NYT reporter who was there with Salisbury, and not merely in a translator function either. The Collected Works talk of Kim’s conversation with NYT reporters (kija-deul).


  3. One last thing: There was an enormous birthday-themed Korean-American delegation in April 1994, led by Yi U-geun, and Kim is known to have attended a banquet attended by at least some of them. Of course this raises the question of how much contact constitutes a meeting.

    And sorry, John M. Lee wasn’t a Korean-American after all, so he gets on the list even if you want to keep the kyopo out of it!


  4. Thank you, Dr. Myers. I intend to include on the list those who were/are U.S. citizens, not just green card holders. This is helpful. Indeed the late John M. Lee was a Southerner who as a NY Times reporter, accompanied Salisbury to Pyongyang. Despite his numerous trips to North Korea, I am surprised but cannot confirm that Han S. Park ever met Kim Il Sung. My conception of meeting Kim Il Sung is that the person likely sat in the conference room, and/or sat in at the luncheon, or at minimum had a group photo with Kim.


  5. Right, Dr. Barry, citizens versus green card holders…That makes it harder to verify who belongs on the list. But I dare say any merely green-card-holding ROK citizens in those early days would have gone there secretly and not had their faces printed in the Rodong Sinmun. (Even the Moon administration would probably not want ROK citizens meeting the North Korean leader on their own initiative.) Anyway, it’s a worthwhile list. A shame so many people on it have passed on. A collection of personal reminiscences would have been helpful to NK scholars.


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