The career of the anti-Japanese war veteran Kim Il is replete with anecdotes, many of them showcasing Kim Jong Il’s ennobling sense of moral obligation to his revolutionary forerunners.
The following happened after he began working as First Vice-President of the DPRK in April 1976.
In the lounge of a building where an important meeting was about to begin, the General was having a talk with the old veteran. Studying his fingers carefully, he asked his aide how many cigarettes he smoked a day.
The reply was a great surprise to him.
In fact, Kim Il was widely known as a heavy smoker.
President Kim Il Sung once joked that during the anti-Japanese armed struggle the light of Kim Il’s cigarette had been flickering even when the campfire had died out at the secret camp, adding that if many cigarette butts had been unearthed at the site of a bivouac, it meant that Kim Il’s regiment had spent the night there.
Now the veteran became an inveterate smoker. It seemed impossible to wean him from this bad habit, an addiction resulting from his life-long, indefatigable exertions.
But the General could not tolerate it.
He gave the aide a severe telling-off: Smoking is impairing his health but you have not done anything against it. You are the very man who must control his smoking. His doctor and family members cannot do so because he is away from them most of the time. You are failing to do what you ought to do. This means that you are derelict in your duty. You should have cared more about his health. I will punish you. You deserve a severe punishment.
The aide stood still, filled with remorse, and Kim Il was more nervous.
Upon coming back from the meeting, he took out the cigarette pack, pipe and matchbox from his pockets.
His decision to quit smoking could not last long. He felt ill at ease all the time, fumbling in his empty pockets, opening the drawers, toing and froing in his room, and even begging the visitors for cigarettes. This caused great inconvenience in his life.
One day his aide came in with a matchbox and cigarettes.
“Please take these things,” he said with an amused smile.
“What? Are you teasing me?”
“No, sir. These cigarettes will cause no harm to you.”
Kim Il gaped in wonder at his aide.
The latter explained: After reproaching him, the General was anxious about the veteran’s health. He said that Kim Il had supported the President through thick and thin over the long period of the revolutionary struggle, noting that it would be difficult for him to relinquish his long-standing habit. Then he tasked officials concerned with obtaining harmless cigarettes for him.