Stephen Finch


I am a doctoral student of History at Leeds University. My thesis aims to build a more detailed and accurate biography of leader Kim Il-sung through the use of new and re-evaluated sources, particularly from China in relation to the former North Korean leader’s two decades living, studying and fighting in Manchuria. This includes official records from Yuwen School in Jilin, archive material from Harbin, and intepretation of the biography of Shang Yue (尚钺), Kim Il-sung’s high school teacher. My project will use contextual material including in regards to Manchuria during the 1920s and 1930s derived from the Lytton Commission at the League of Nations Archive in Geneva.

This thesis aims to answer other key questions in relation to Kim Il-sung’s biography in relation to the North Korean leader’s whereabouts and activities during the Korean War in relation to the Chinese military occupation of the DPRK up to 1958. Research methods include cross-referencing biographies, including that of Baik Bong from 1969, with documents from other Communist states, notably China. My project seeks to ground North Korean narratives of Kim Il-sung in their appropriate time and place by tracing the evolution and change in these narratives against the historical context of leader and state. 

Research thus far has included scouring book shops, museums, monuments and historical sites in Dandong, Yanji, Jilin, Changchun, Shenyang and Dalian, as well as numerous visits to the DPRK and ROK.

Research interests

I am particularly interested in assessing thought and narratives in their historical context, and in relation to how these impact actions and events with a focus on China and the Korean peninsula in the 20th Century. Related interests include Japanese colonialism, the Korean War, early Cold War, media and propaganda in relation to motivations, production and reception, and geopolitical relations between China, the USSR and the United States and impacts on Northeast Asia.


  • MA Anthropology with Chinese language, SOAS
  • BA Business Studies and French, Sheffield University