October 31, 2020

Meet the man who saved Kim Il Sung’s life

Meet Yakov Novichenko, the only foreigner with a personality cult in North Korea

On March 1, 1946, a mass rally was held in Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung present. During the rally, a member of a South Korean government-backed terrorist group – known as the White Shirt Society – tossed a grenade onto the stage near several Soviet and North Korean officials and the Great Leader himself.

Soviet officer Yakov Novichenko quickly jumped on the grenade and saved Kim Il Sung’s life. Thanks to a large book strapped underneath his belt, Novichenko survived the attack but suffered terrible injuries: He lost one of his arms and suffered severe damage to his eyes. However, he gained the lifelong friendship of the Kim family, and the only personality cult the North Korean state has ever devoted to a non-Korean.