In the late 1970s, North Korean propaganda began to increasingly idolize various members of the Kim Il Sung family. Among the hagiographies of the so-called bloodline of Mt. Paektu is that of Kim Jong Suk (1917–1949), the first wife of Kim Il Sung and the mother of Kim Jong Il. Although her cult has attracted the attention of many scholars, this is the first study on the representation of Kim Jong Suk on the screen. The article provides an analysis of five movies dedicated to her, created between 1979 and 1985. All were written by Paek In-jun, the most important screenwriter in Kim Jong Il’s film production unit.
The image of Kim Jong Suk in cinema is highly idealized and she is ascribed attributes that exceed typical human capacities; however, cinematic representations of her are careful not to suggest any that might be interpreted as supernatural. Kim Jong Suk is a master in both the male and female spheres. She is a compassionate mother, healer, and nurturer, and at other times a ruthless, merciless warrior. The Mother-Warrior figure she represents refers to paradigms popular in the Communist sphere, and Kim Jong Suk’s selflessness is characteristic of the so-called hidden heroes of North Korean cinema. The uniqueness of Kim Jong Suk lies in her close relation with Kim Il Sung, not as a wife but as his most faithful follower. It makes her a convincing messenger of his messianic role.