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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
Updated April 16 – “While Billy Graham made two trips to North Korea and knew the elder president Kim Il Sung, Mr. Graham has not said anything like this. These words do not even remotely resemble Mr. Graham’s theology or his language,” Jeremy Blume, the spokesperson of Billy Graham Evangelist Association told NK News.
To celebrate his 104th birth anniversary, North Korean national founder Kim Il Sung was described on Friday as “God” in state media, which even quoted a legendary American evangelist as making the comparison.
North Korea said it was Billy Graham, an American Pastor who visited Pyongyang on couple of occasions, who described Kim Il Sung as God.
“The pastor said that he met the greatest among all human beings, who carried out the ultimate art of politics with high morality and being the saint of all saints,” wrote Rodong Sinmun on the “Day of the Sun.”
“Not believing in God but believing in his people, Premier Kim Il Sung who governs the country in his own way made me think that he might be God,” said Billy Graham in 1992, according to the North Korean publication.
“I admit that Premier Kim Il Sung is God who exists in the world of human beings … he, with his supreme political belief and method has created the greatest heaven on earth that even God might have not been able to do.”
According to the Billy Graham Evangelist Association, Graham visited North Korea in 1992 to meet Kim Il Sung, becoming the first foreign religious leader to preach in Pyongyang. He visited the country again in 1994, and he said he was welcomed “very cordially” by North Koreans and its leader.
It could not be confirmed if Billy Graham actually described Kim Il Sung as “God” as Pyongyang claims. According to KCNA Watch, only three Korean language articles referencing Graham were written previously, and none of them included such claims.
“The cult of personality (on Kim Il Sung) reached insane proportions (in 1970s) and the country shut itself off from the outside world,” wrote Gianluca Spezza, a former research director for NK News, in a previous article.
Graham’s visits to North Korea were undertaken before the country suffered from the “Arduous March,” the devastating famine resulting in anywhere from 800,000 to 3.5 million deaths in the mid-1990s.
This could possibly be the reason why North Korea was described as “heaven on earth,” in the voice of Graham.
“The Supreme Leader said they do not have homeless, beggars, drug addicts or jobless, as the people have their own houses and are living without the worry of a lack of food or getting a job,” Graham was quoted as saying in the article.
“Americans say they like the American way of life, but he emphasized that he favors his own.”
Pastor Eric Foley from Voice of Martyrs, an international missionary group told NK News this is good reason for anyone not to go to North Korea.
“Your reason for visiting will never be heard by North Koreans. Only the words the government wants you to say will be heard,” said Foley.
The North Korean article ended saying that Kim Il Sung is this world’s God.
“Free education, free medical care, food, clothing and shelter all provided by the country,” it reads. “All of these national policies come from Kim Il Sung, the one that treats his people with the highest honor.”
“Kim Il Sung is this world’s God. Why would this country need the Holy Bible?”
The Billy Graham Evangelist Association did not respond to NK News‘ email inquiry about the North Korean article.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons, Kim Il Sung