Juche (/dʒuːˈtʃeɪ/; Korean: 주체/主體, lit. 'subject'; Korean pronunciation: [tɕutɕʰe]; usually left untranslated or translated as "self-reliance") is the official state ideology of North Korea, described by the government as "Kim Il-sung's original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought". It postulates that "man is the master of his destiny", that the Korean masses are to act as the "masters of the revolution and construction" and that by becoming self-reliant and strong a nation can achieve true socialism.
Kim Il-sung (1912–1994) developed the ideology, originally viewed as a variant of Marxism–Leninism until it became distinctly Korean in character whilst incorporating the historical materialist ideas of Marxism–Leninism and strongly emphasizing the individual, the nation state and its sovereignty. Consequently, the North Korean government adopted Juche into a set of principles it uses to justify its policy decisions from the 1950s onwards. Such principles include moving the nation towards claimed jaju ("independence"), through the construction of jarip ("national economy") and an emphasis upon jawi ("self-defence") in order to establish socialism.
The practice of Juche is firmly rooted in the ideals of sustainability through agricultural independence and a lack of dependency. The Juche ideology has been criticized by many scholars and observers as a mechanism for sustaining the totalitarian rule of the North Korean regime and justifying the country's heavy-handed isolationism and oppression of the North Korean people. It has also been described as a form of Korean ethnic nationalism, but one that promotes the Kim family as the saviours of the "Korean race" and acts as a foundation of the subsequent personality cult surrounding them.
|Revised Romanization||Juche sasang|
|Literally "subject(ive) thought"|
Juche comes from a Sino-Japanese word 主體 whose Japanese reading is shutai. The word was coined in 1887 to translate the concept of Subjekt in German philosophy (subject, meaning "the entity perceiving or acting upon an object or environment") into Japanese. The word migrated to the Korean language at around the turn of the century and retained this meaning. Shutai went on to appear in Japanese translations of Karl Marx's writings. North Korean editions of Marx used the word Juche even before the word was attributed to Kim Il-sung in its supposedly novel meaning in 1955.
In today's political discourse on North Korea, Juche has a connotation of "self-reliance", "autonomy" and "independence". It is often defined in opposition to the Korean concept of Sadae, or reliance on the great powers. South Koreans use the word without reference to the North Korean ideology.
Official statements by the North Korean government attribute the origin of Juche to Kim Il-sung's experiences in the Anti-Imperialist Youth League in 1930 in his "liberation struggle" against Japan. The first documented reference to Juche as an ideology appeared in 1955 in a speech given by Kim Il-sung entitled "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work". The speech had been delivered to promote a political purge similar to the earlier Yan'an Rectification Movement in China.
Hwang Jang-yop, Kim's top adviser on ideology, discovered Kim's 1955 speech in the late 1950s when Kim, having established a cult of personality, sought to develop his own version of Marxism–Leninism into a North Korean ideology.
In his 1955 speech, the first known to refer to Juche, Kim Il-sung said:
To make revolution in Korea we must know Korean history and geography as well as the customs of the Korean people. Only then is it possible to educate our people in a way that suits them and to inspire in them an ardent love for their native place and their motherland.
In the speech "On Socialist Construction and the South Korean Revolution in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" given on 14 April 1965, Kim Il-sung outlined the three fundamental principles of Juche:
On the Juche Idea, the main work on Juche, was published in North Korea in Kim Jong-il's name in 1982. In North Korea it functions as "the authoritative and comprehensive explanation of Juche". According to the treatise, the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) is responsible for indoctrinating the masses in the ways of Juche thinking. According to the treatise, Juche is inexorably linked with Kim Il-sung and it "represents the guiding idea of the Korean Revolution [...] we are confronted with the honorable task of modeling the whole society on the Juche idea". Kim Jong-il states in the work that Juche is not a creative application of Marxism–Leninism, but rather "a new era in the development of human history" while criticizing the "communists and nationalists" of the 1920s for their elitist posture, claiming that they were "divorced from the masses". The WPK's break with basic premises of Marxism–Leninism emerges more clearly in the article "Let Us March Under the Banner of Marxism–Leninism and the Juche Idea".
In August 1997, the Central People's Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea promulgated regulations regarding use of the Juche Era calendar. Gregorian calendar dates are used for years before 1912 while years from 1912 (the year of Kim Il-sung's birth) are described as "Juche years". The Gregorian year 2019, for example, is "Juche 108" as 2019-1911=108. When used, "Juche years" are often accompanied by the Gregorian equivalent, i.e. "Juche 108, 2019" or "Juche 108 (2019)".
Kim's regime saw Juche principles as applicable around the world, not just in Korea. Since 1976 North Korea has organized international seminars on Juche. The International Scientific Seminar on the Juche Idea took place in Antananarivo from 28 September to 30 September 1976 under the sponsorship of the Democratic Republic of Madagascar. Many prominent party and government officials, public figures, representatives of revolutionary and progressive organizations, scientists and journalists from more than fifty countries attended. Malagasy President Didier Ratsiraka expressed strong sympathies and support for North Korea. An excerpt from the opening speech says:
Regardless of the opposition forces, the determination of the people and their strength and conviction are not measured by territorial dimensions, possession of advanced technology, still less, opulence or riches. For those who wish to forget the lesson of history so easily and so quickly, Algeria, Viet Nam, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola – and closer to us – Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Azania are excellent examples which make them deeply reflect on. What we want is not the perfection of political independence alone. The evil forces craftily manipulate the economic levers in order to perpetuate their supremacy and reduce us to vassals and eternal mendicants.
The International Institute of the Juche Idea was established in Tokyo in 1978 to supervise international Juche research-groups. The Juche Tower in Pyongyang, completed in 1982, incorporated commemorative plaques from supporters and Juche Study Groups from around the world. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Panther Party of the United States expressed sympathy for the Juche ideology. In 2016, the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party identified Juche as the guiding idea in its governance of the city of Bhaktapur.
Kimilsungism was first mentioned by Kim Jong-il in the 1970s and was introduced alongside the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System. Not long after the term's introduction into the North Korean lexicon, Kim Jong-il allegedly launched a "Kimilsungism-isation [sic] of the Whole Society" campaign. These campaigns were introduced so as to strengthen Kim Jong-il's position within the Workers' Party of Korea. According to political analyst Lim Jae-cheon, "Kimilsungism refers to the thoughts of Kim Il-sung. It is interchangeable with the juche [sic] idea". However, in his 1976 speech "On Correctly Understanding the Originality of Kimilsungism" he said that Kimilsungism comprises the "Juche idea and a far-reaching revolutionary theory and leadership method evolved from this idea". In the past Kim Il-sung's thoughts had been described by the official media as "contemporary Marxism–Leninism", but by calling it Kimilsungism, Kim Jong-il was trying to elevate it to the same level as Maoism, Hoxhaism and Stalinism. The younger Kim further argued that Kim Il-sung's thoughts had evolved and they therefore deserved their own distinct name. He further added that "Kimilsungism is an original idea that cannot be explained within the frameworks of Marxism–Leninism. The idea of Juche, which constitutes the quintessence of Kimilsungism, is an idea newly discovered in the history of mankind". Kim Jong-il went further, stating that Marxism–Leninism had become obsolete and must be replaced by Kimilsungism:
The revolutionary theory of Kimilsungism is a revolutionary theory which has provided solutions to problems arising in the revolutionary practice in a new age different from the era that gave rise to Marxism–Leninism. On the basis of Juche (idea), the leader gave a profound explanation of the theories, strategies and tactics of national liberation, class emancipation and human liberations in our era. Thus, it can be said that the revolutionary theory of Kimilsungism is a perfect revolutionary theory of Communism in the era of Juche.
According to analyst Shin Gi-wook, the ideas of Juche and Kimilsungism were in essence the "expressions of North Korean particularism over supposedly more universalistic Marxism–Leninism". In many ways, it signaled a move from socialism to nationalism. This was made very clear in a speech in 1982, when North Korea celebrated Kim Il-sung's 70th birthday in which love for the nation came before love for socialism. This particularism gave birth to such concepts as A Theory of the Korean Nation as Number One and Socialism of Our Style.
Following the death of Kim Jong-il, Kimilsungism was turned into Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism at the 4th Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea. As well as stating that the WPK was "the party of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il", Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism was made "the only guiding idea of the party". In the 4th Conference's aftermath, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) stated that "the Korean people have long called the revolutionary policies ideas of the President [Kim Il-sung] and Kim Jong-il as Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism and recognized it as the guiding of the nation". Kim Jong-un, the WPK First Secretary, said that "Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism is an integral system of the idea, theory and method of Juche and a great revolutionary ideology representative of the Juche era. Guided by Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, we should conduct Party building and Party activities, so as to sustain the revolutionary character of our Party and advance the revolution and construction in line with the ideas and intentions of the President and the General."
Socialism of Our Style, also referred to as Korean-style socialism and our-style socialism within North Korea, is an ideological concept Kim Jong-il introduced on 27 December 1990 in the speech "Socialism of Our Country is a Socialism of Our Style as Embodied by the Juche idea". Speaking after the Revolutions of 1989 that brought down the Eastern Bloc regimes, Kim Jong-il explicitly stated that North Korea needed—and survived because of—Socialism of Our Style. He argued that socialism in Eastern Europe failed because they "imitated the Soviet experience in a mechanical manner". According to Kim, they failed to understand that the Soviet experience was based on specific historical and social circumstances and could not be used by other countries aside from the Soviet Union itself. He added that "if experience is considered absolute and accepted dogmatically it is impossible to build Socialism properly, as the times change and the specific situation of each country is different from another". Kim Jong-il went on to criticize "dogmatic application" of Marxism–Leninism, stating:
Marxism–Leninism presented a series of opinions on building of Socialism and Communism, but it confined itself to presupposition and hypothesis owing to the limitations of the conditions of their ages and practical experiences [...] But many countries applied the principles of Marxist–Leninist materialistic conception of history dogmatically, failing to advance revolution continually after the establishment of the socialist system.
North Korea would not encounter such difficulties because of the conceiving of Juche. In his words, North Korea was "a backward, colonial semifeudal society" when the Communists took over, but since the North Korean Communists did not accept Marxism because it was based on European capitalist experiences, or Leninism, which was based on Russia's experience, they conceived of Juche. Additionally, he believed the situation in North Korea was also more complex because of the American presence in South Korea. Thanks to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il argued, the revolution had "put forward original lines and policies suited to our people's aspirations and the specific situation of our country". "The Juche idea is a revolutionary theory which occupies the highest stage of development of the revolutionary ideology of the working class", Kim Jong-il said, further stating that the originality and superiority of the Juche idea defined and strengthened Korean socialism. He then conceded by stating that Socialism of Our Style was "a man-centered Socialism", explicitly making a break with basic Marxist–Leninist thought, which argues that material forces are the driving force of historical progress, not people. Socialism of Our Style was presented as an organic sociopolitical theory, using the language of Marxism–Leninism, saying:
The political and ideological might of the motive force of revolution is nothing but the power of single-hearted unity between the leader, the Party, and the masses. In our socialist society, the leader, the Party, and the masses throw in their lot with one another, forming a single socio-political organism. The consolidation of blood relations between the leader, the Party and the masses is guaranteed by the single ideology and united leadership.
Unlike Marxism–Leninism, which considers improvements in the material conditions of production and exchange as the driving force of historical progress (known as historical materialism), Juche considers human beings in general the driving force in history. It is summarized as "the popular masses are placed in the center of everything, and the leader is the center of the masses". Juche, North Korea maintains, is a "man-centered ideology" in which the "man is the master of everything and decides everything". In contrast to Marxist–Leninist thought in which people's decisions are inextricably linked to their relations to the means of production (a concept referred to as "relations of production"), in Juche thought man is independent and decides everything. Just like Marxist–Leninist thought, Juche believes history is law-governed, but that it is only man who drives progress, stating that "the popular masses are the drivers of history". However, for the masses to be successful, they need a "Great Leader". Marxism–Leninism argues that the popular masses will lead (on the basis of their relation to production), but in North Korea the role of a Great Leader should be essential for leadership. This theory allegedly helped Kim Il-sung establish a unitary, one-man rule over North Korea.
The theory turns the Great Leader into an absolutist, supreme leader. The working class is not to think for themselves, but instead to think through the Great Leader. The Great Leader is the "top brain" (i.e. "mastermind") of the working class, meaning that he is the only legitimate representative of the working class. Class struggle can be realized only through the Great Leader and difficult tasks in general and revolutionary changes in particular can be introduced only through and by the Great Leader. In historical development, it is the Great Leader who is the leading force of the working class. The Great Leader is also a flawless and incorruptible human being who never commits mistakes, who is always benevolent and who always rules for the masses. For the Great Leader system to function, a unitary ideological system must be in place. In North Korea, that unitary ideological system is known as the Ten Principles for a Monolithic Ideological System.
Unlike the Joseon dynasty, where there was a huge gap between the upper and lower classes, North Korea had adopted the concept of a gathered-together "people". Instead of a strict social hierarchy, North Korea had in theory divided the union into three classes, namely peasant, worker and samuwon (intellectuals and professionals), where each was just as important as the other. The samuwon class consisted of clerks, small traders, bureaucrats, professors and writers. This was a unique class that was created to increase education and literacy of North Korea's population.
Normally, Communist nations would value only the farmers or laborers, thus in the Soviet Union the intelligentsia was not defined as an independent class of its own, but rather as a "social stratum" that recruited itself from members of almost all classes: proletariat, petite bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie. However, a "peasant intelligentsia" was never mentioned. Correspondingly, the "proletarian intelligentsia" was exalted for bringing forth progressive scientists and Marxist theoreticians whereas the "bourgeois intelligentsia" was condemned for producing "bourgeois ideology", which were all non-Marxist worldviews. Language reforms followed revolutions more than once, such as the New Korean Orthography in North Korea (which failed due to Korean ethnic nationalist fears of precluding Korean unification), or the simplification of Chinese characters under Mao Zedong (a consequence of the divergent orthographic choices of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China), or the simplification of the Russian language after the 1917 revolution in Russia and consequent struggle against illiteracy, known in Soviet Russia as Likbez (Likvidaciya Bezgramotnosti, liquidation of illiteracy).
They believed in rapid industrialization through labor and in subjecting nature to human will. By restructuring social classes into a mass of people who are theoretically all equal, the North Korean government claimed it would be able to attain self-reliance or Juche in upcoming years. This is questionable, because the country suffers massive food shortages annually and is heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Songun (literally "military-first policy") was first mentioned on 7 April 1997 in Rodong Shinmun under the headline "There Is a Victory for Socialism in the Guns and Bombs of the People's Army". It defined the military-centered thinking of the time by stating; "the revolutionary philosophy to safeguard our own style of socialism under any circumstances". The concept was credited to "Respected General Kim Jong-il". In a joint editorial on 16 June 1998 entitled "Our Party's Military-First Politics Will Inevitably Achieve Victory and Will Never Be Defeated" by Kulloja (the WPK theoretical magazine) and Rodong Sinmun, it was stated that Songun meant "the leadership method under the principle of giving priority to the military and resolving the problems that may occur in the course of revolution and construction as well as establishing the military as the main body of the revolution in the course of achieving the total tasks of socialism". While the article clearly referred to "our Party", this was not a reference to the WPK but rather to the personal leadership of Kim Jong-il. On 5 September 1998, the North Korean Constitution was revised and it made clear that the National Defence Commission, the highest military body, was the supreme body of the state. This date is considered the beginning of the Songun era.
Based On the Juche Idea, Kim Jong-il argued: "Independence is not in conflict with internationalism but is the basis of its strengthening". He stated that North Korea co-operated with "socialist countries", the "international communist movement" and "newly-emerging nations" on the basis of non-interference, equality and mutual benefit.
North Korea emerged from Soviet occupation and fought alongside the Chinese Communists in the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War. However, it soon asserted its independence from both the Soviet Union and China. Though it rejected de-Stalinization, it avoided taking sides in the Sino-Soviet split. As the Communist bloc split, introduced market reforms and collapsed, North Korea increasingly emphasized Juche in both theory and practice.
North Korea was admitted to the Non-Aligned Movement in 1975 and began to present itself as a leader of the Third World. It fostered diplomatic relations with developing countries and promoted Juche as a model for others to follow.
National survival has been seen as a guiding principle of North Korea's diplomatic strategy. Even in the midst of economic and political crises, North Korea continues to emphasize its independence on the world stage.
In On the Juche Idea, Kim Jong-il stated: "In order to implement the principle of economic self-sufficiency, one must build an independent national economy". More specifically, he stated, "Heavy industry with the machine-building industry as its backbone is the pillar of an independent national economy". He also emphasized the importance of technological independence and self-sufficiency in resources. However, he stated that this did not rule out international economic co-operation.
In 1956, Kim Il-sung declared Juche to be the guiding principle of the economy. After the devastation of the Korean War, North Korea began to rebuild its economy with a base in heavy industry, with the aim of becoming as self-sufficient as possible. As a result, North Korea developed what has been called the "most autarkic industrial economy in the world". North Korea received a lot of economic aid and technical assistance from the Soviet Union and China, but it did not join Comecon, the Communist common market. In the 1990s, it had one of the world's lowest rates for dependence on petroleum, using hydroelectric power and coal instead of imported oil. Its textile industry uses vinylon, known as the "Juche fiber", which was invented by a Korean and which is made from locally available coal and limestone. The history of the development of vinylon often featured in propaganda that preached the virtues of technological self-reliance. North Korea had 10,000 CNC machines in 2010. The first domestic homemade CNC machine was introduced in 1995 and in 2017 it has around 15,000 machines.
Commentators have often pointed out the discrepancy between the principle of self-sufficiency and North Korea's dependence on foreign aid, especially during its economic crisis in the 1990s. The pursuit of economic autarky has been blamed for contributing to the crisis. On this view, attempts at self-sufficiency led to inefficiency and to the neglect of export opportunities in industries where there was a comparative advantage.
In On the Juche Idea, Kim Jong-il stated: "Self-reliance in defense is a fundamental principle of an independent sovereign state". He stated that it was possible to get aid from friends and allies, but that this would be effective only if the state was militarily strong in its own right. He advocated a state where "all the people are under arms and the whole country becomes a fortress". He also advocated the development of a local defense industry to avoid dependence on foreign arms suppliers.
North Korea has attempted to put this into practice. The Korean People's Army is one of the largest on earth. It is currently developing its own nuclear ballistic missile. Domestic production of UDMH fuel for liquid fueled missiles and Tumansky RD-9 Turbojet engine which powers Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 and Shenyang J-6. CNC machines are used for production of missiles and centrifuges. North Korea's propaganda since the Korean War has contrasted its military autonomy with the presence of American forces in the South.
Some South Korean scholars categorize Juche as a national religion or they compare its facets to those of some religions. For instance, Juche has been compared to pre-existing religions in Korea (notably neo-Confucianism and Korean shamanism) due to their shared familiar principles. While the influence of traditional East Asian religions on Juche is widely disputed, the ideology has been thought of by several academic studies as having aspects of a national and indigenous religious movement in addition to being a political philosophy due to the following features: the presence of a sacred leader, rituals and familism. Despite the religious features of Juche, it is a highly atheistic ideology that discourages the practice of mainstream religions. This draws from Juche's Marxist−Leninist origins. North Korea is officially an atheist state, but maintains a cult of personality identical to a religion, much like the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.
Although the ideology appears to emphasize the central role of the human individual, Juche can be fulfilled only through the masses’ subordination to a single leader and accordingly, his successor. The ideology teaches that the role of a Great Leader is essential for the popular masses to succeed in their revolutionary movement because without leadership they are unable to survive. This is the foundation of North Korean cult of personality surrounding Kim Il Sung. The personality cult explains how the Juche ideology has been able to endure until today, even during the North Korean government's undeniable dependence on foreign assistance during its famine in the 1990s. The concept of the "Sacred leader" in Juche as well as the cult around the Kim family has been compared to the State Shinto ideology of Imperial Japan in which the Emperor was seen as a divine being.
Through the fundamental belief in the essential role of the Great Leader, the former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung has become the "supreme deity for the people" and the Juche doctrine is reinforced in North Korea's constitution as the country’s guiding principle. The parallel relationship structure between Kim Il-sung and his people to religious founders or leaders and their followers has led many scholars to consider Juche a religious movement as much as a political ideology. However, those familiar with cults would again posit that Juche bypasses the tenets of religion completely and instead meets the criteria of a totalitarian cult.
Juche's emphasis on the political and sacred role of the leader and the ensuing worshipping by the popular masses has been critiqued by various intellectual Marxists. They argue that the North Korean working class or the proletariat has been stripped of their honor and therefore call the cult of personality non-Marxist and non-democratic.
The religious behavior of Juche can also be seen in the perspectives of the North Korean people through refugee interviews from former participants in North Korea’s ritual occasions. One pertinent example is the Arirang Festival, which is a gymnastics and artistic festival held in the Rungnado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. All components of the festival, from the selection of performers, mobilization of resources, recruitment of the audience and publicity for the show have been compared to facets of a national religious event.
The Arirang Festival has been described to demonstrate the power of the North Korean government to arrange a form of religious gathering. It has done so by "appropriating a mass of bodies for calisthenic and performative arts representing the leader as the Father and his faithful followers". The Festival's effectiveness in transforming its participants into loyal disciples of Juche seems to originate from the collectivist principle of "one for all and all for one" and the ensuing emotional bond and loyalty to the leader. According to the accounts of refugees who have been recruited to mass gymnastics, the collectivist principle has been nurtured through physical punishment such as beatings and more importantly the organization of recruits into small units, whose performances were held accountable by larger units. The Festival’s ritualistic components of collectivism serve to reinforce a "certain structure of sociality and affect", establishing Kim Il Sung as the "Father" in both the body and psyche of the performers.
Charles K. Armstrong argues that familism has transformed itself into a kind of political religion in the form of Juche. With the emergence of Juche as North Korea's guiding political principle since the 1960s, the familial relationship within the micro-family unit has been translated into a national, macro-unit with Kim Il-sung representing the father figure and the North Korean people representing his children. Juche is thus based on the language of family relationships with its East Asian or neo-Confucian "resonances of filial piety and maternal love".
Armstrong also notes that North Korea has actually transferred the "filial piety of nationalism in the family of the leader himself" by positioning Kim Il-sung as the universal patriarch. He argues that while the official pursuit of the Juche ideology in the 1960s signaled North Korea's desire to separate from the "fraternity of international socialism", the ideology also replaced Stalin as the father figure with Kim Il-sung. In effect, North Korea's familial nationalism has supplanted the "rather abstract, class-oriented language of socialism with a more easily understandable and identifiable language of familial connections, love and obligations".
The cult of personality surrounding Kim expanded into a family cult when Kim Jong Il became the heir apparent after assuming important posts in the WPK and military in the early 1980s. Armstrong calls this a "family romance", which is a term Freud had used to describe "the neurotic replacement of a child's real parents with fantasy substitutes". Through the establishment of the North Korean family romance with the language, symbols and rituals related to familism, Kim Il Sung has been consecrated even further posthumously as the Great Father.
Throughout the 1990s, the North Korean regime became increasingly nationalistic—at least, in its official pronouncements—leading Kim Chonghun to state that "Socialism of our Style" was really "Socialism without Socialism". Speeches and official announcements made references to socialism, but neither to Marxist–Leninist thought nor to any basic communist concepts. Shin Gi-wook argues that "there is no trace of Marxist–Leninism or the Stalinist notion of nationhood [in North Korea]. Instead, Kim stresses the importance of the Korean people's blood, soul and national traits, echoing earlier Korean nationalists such as Sin Chaeho, Yi Kwangsu and Choe Namson. He no longer has any interest in applying Marxism–Leninism to the North Korean situation; indeed it is no longer useful for the country".
Charles K. Armstrong says that "North Korean Communism would not only be quite distinctive from the Soviet model, it would in some respects turn Marxism–Leninism upside-down". The key differences are that the North Koreans place the primacy of ideology over materialism, retaining the vocabulary of family lineage and nationalism and giving it primacy over class struggle and supporting social distinction and hierarchy over classless society and egalitarianism. He concluded that North Korea may look "Stalinist in form", but that it was "nationalist in content".
Brian Reynolds Myers dismisses the idea that Juche is North Korea's leading ideology, regarding its public exaltation as designed to deceive foreigners. He argues that it exists to be praised and not actually read. Based on his own experiences living in North Korea, Felix Abt describes Myers' arguments as "shaky" and "questionable". Having seen the extent to which North Korean university students actually believe in Juche, Abt says it is "rather absurd" to describe the ideology as "window-dressing" for foreigners. He also questions how only three decades of Japanese occupation could simply upend the impact of "thousands of years" of history in Korea.
Dae-Sook Suh has stated that Kim-Il Sung had failed to explain the difference between Socialist patriotism and nationalism which Kim stated he opposed. Suh also criticised Kim for allegedly failing to explain how Marxism–Leninism has been applied to Korean conditions.
The cinema of North Korea began with the division of Korea and has been sustained since then by the ruling Kim dynasty. Kim Il-Sung and his successor Kim Jong-Il were both cinephiles and sought to produce propaganda films based on the Juche ideology.
Due to the totalitarian regime of North Korea, all film production is supervised by the Workers' Party of Korea and generally concerns propaganda. North Korea has nevertheless produced some non-propaganda films for export to the wider world.Communism in Korea
The Communist movement in Korea emerged as a political movement in the early 20th century. Although the movement had a minor role in pre-war politics, the division between the communist North Korea and the anti-communist South Korea came to dominate Korean political life in the post-World War II era. North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, continues to be a Juche socialist state under the rule of the Workers' Party of Korea. In South Korea, communism remains illegal through the National Security Law. Due to end of economic aid from Soviet Union after its dissolution in 1991 and impractical ideological application of Stalinist policies in North Korea over years of economic slowdown in 1980s and receding during 1990s, North Korea replaced Communism with Juche ideology in its 1992 and 1998 constitutional revisions for the personality cult of Kim's family dictatorship and (albeit reluctanly) opening of North Korean market economy reform, though it still retains a command economy with complete state control of industry and agriculture with collectivized farms and state-funded education and healthcare.Constitution of North Korea
The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the constitution of North Korea. It states that the country is socialist and lays out the framework of the national government and the functions of the ruling state party, the Workers' Party of Korea in relation to the Cabinet and Supreme People's Assembly (the country's parliament). The constitution is divided into 166 articles, split between three sections.
North Korea is also governed by the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System, which some claim have come to supersede the constitution and in practice serve as the supreme law of the country.Culture of North Korea
The contemporary culture of North Korea is based on traditional Korean culture, but developed since the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic in 1948.
Juche ideology asserts Korea's cultural distinctiveness and creativity as well as the productive powers of the working masses.Art in North Korea is primarily didactic; cultural expression serves as an instrument for inculcating Juche ideology and the need to continue the struggle for revolution and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Foreign governments and citizens, especially the Japanese and the Americans, are depicted negatively as imperialists; revolutionary heroes and heroines are seen as saintly figures who act from the purest of motives. The three most consistent themes are martyrdom during the revolutionary struggle (depicted in literature such as The Sea of Blood), the happiness of the present society, and the genius of the leader.Kim Il-sung has been described as a writer of "classical masterpieces" during the anti-Japanese struggle. Novels created under his direction include The Flower Girl, The Sea of Blood, The Fate of a Self-Defense Corps Man, and The Song of Korea; these are considered "prototypes and models of Juche literature and art." A 1992 newspaper report describes Kim in semi-retirement as writing his memoirs—"a heroic epic dedicated to the freedom and happiness of the people."The population has little or no exposure to foreign cultural influences apart from performances by song-and-dance groups and other entertainers brought in periodically for limited audiences. These performances, such as the Spring Friendship Art Festival held annually in April, are designed to show that the peoples of the world, like the North Koreans themselves, love and respect the country's leader. During the 1980s and the early 1990s, the North Korean media gave Kim Jong-il credit for working ceaselessly to make the country a "kingdom of art" where a cultural renaissance unmatched in other countries was taking place. Indeed, the younger Kim was personally responsible for cultural policy.Pyongyang and other large cities offer the broadest selection of cultural expression. "Art Propaganda squads" travel to production sites in the provinces to perform poetry readings, one-act plays, and songs in order to "congratulate workers on their successes" and "inspire them to greater successes through their artistic agitation." Such squads are prominent in the countryside during the harvest season and whenever "speed battles" to increase productivity are held.North Korean society and culture through the lens of theater, film, and everyday performance [make up] an ideology-shaping matrix that not only entertains but also essentially organizes and mobilizes society. The socialist culture has had a tremendous influence on the daily life of people in North Korea.Eternal leaders of North Korea
Eternal leaders of North Korea (주체조선의 영원한 수령) refers to the practice of granting posthumous titles to deceased leaders of North Korea. The phrase "Eternal Leaders of Juche Korea" was established by a line in the preamble to the Constitution, as amended on 30 June 2016, and in subsequent revisions.
It reads (in the original version):
Under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Korean people will uphold the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as the eternal leaders of Juche Korea...Juche-class EMU
The Juche-class (Korean: 주체) is a 4-part electric multiple unit built by the Kim Chong-t'ae Electric Locomotive Works in 1976, intended for high speed train service for the Korean State Railway.Juche Tower
The Juche Tower (more formally, Tower of the Juche Ideology) is a monument in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, named after the ideology of Juche introduced by the country's first leader, Kim Il-sung.Kim Il-sung Square
Kim Il-sung Square is a large city square in the Central District of Pyongyang, North Korea, and is named after the country's founding leader, Kim Il-sung. The square was constructed in 1954 according to a master plan for reconstructing the capital after the destruction of the Korean War. It was opened in August 1954. The square is located on the foot of the Namsan Hill, west bank of the Taedong River, directly opposite the Juche Tower on the other side of the river. It is the 37th largest square in the world, having an area of about 75,000 square meters (807,293 square feet) which can accommodate a rally of more than 100,000 people. The square has a great cultural significance, as it is a common gathering place for rallies, dances and military parades and is often featured in media concerning North Korea.Kim Il-sung bibliography
Kim Il-sung (15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994) was the leader of North Korea for 46 years, from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994.
According to North Korean sources, the works of Kim Il-sung amount to approximately 10,800 speeches, reports, books, treatises and other types of works. North Korean sources say that publishing houses in 110 countries have published works of Kim Il-sung in translations in some 60 languages.Kim Il-sung's works are published and republished in countless collections. These include the 100-volume Complete Works of Kim Il-sung (chŏnjip), the 50-volume Collected Works (chŏjakchip) and the 15-volume Selected Works (sŏnjip). In North Korea, his works are published by the Workers' Party of Korea Publishing House. The earliest work in the Enlarged Edition of Complete Collection of Kim Il Sung's Works is from October 1926. By the time of Kim's death, the collections had ballooned to unpractical sizes with the Selected Works "too long and costly to be used in group study, the only kind the regime felt safe in encouraging" and the Collected Works "unfit to any propaganda purpose except to lead awed schoolchildren past". With more electricity and leisure time, too, such enormous collections were no longer popular.The English editions, published by the Foreign Languages Publishing House, as Kim Il-sung Works, Kim Il-sung Selected Works, and Kim Il-sung Complete Works have reached volume 50, eight, and four, respectively. Volumes 12 and 25 of Kim Il-sung Works and volume seven of Selected Works were never published in English.According to the official North Korean version, Kim Il-sung laid out the Juche ideology in his 1955 speech On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work, although half of the speech is on unrelated matters and the speech praises the Soviets, which is ill-suited to the ideology's stress on self-reliance. For the next ten years Kim failed to elaborate on Juche, even on important occasions such as his speech to mark the tenth anniversary of the North Korean state. The concept had all but completely disappeared from the vocabulary of his works with the exception of a 1960 speech, On the Lessons Drawn From Guidance to the Work of the Kangso County Party Committee, where he passingly mentions it. The next work to deal with Juche in detail was Kim's On Socialist Construction and the South Korean Revolution in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a lecture he had given when visiting Indonesia. The formulation of Juche as it is known today is from a 1972 interview with Mainichi Shimbun journalists, entitled On Some Problems of Our Party's Juche Idea and the Government of the Republic's Internal and External Policies. North Korea scholar B.R. Myers thinks that these occasions are too low-profile for introducing major ideological developments, leading him to conclude that the Juche idea is merely a front.Different editions of collections have played a significant role in the propagation of Juche. In 1960, the second edition of a collection of Kim Il-sung's speeches was published. It included Kim's On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work, which was not considered an important work at the time. After the publication, American scholars translated the speech into English and left the word "Juche" untranslated. According to Myers, this marked the begin of the recognition of Juche as a distinct ideology.According to Myers, Kim Il-sung's cult of personality was consciously trying to match that of Mao Zedong. Thus when Mao was renowned for his poetry, the North Koreans matched this with claiming that Kim Il-sung had written plays during the anti-Japanese struggle of the 1930s. Two plays that were allegedly written by Kim Il-sung are The Sea of Blood and The Flower Girl. Nonetheless, Kim Il-sung also wrote poems, such as one called "Brightest Star", written in 1992 to congratulate Kim Jong-il on behalf of the latter's birthday. Kim Il-sung also wrote song lyrics. Official North Korean history also attributes operas to Kim. Sometimes Kim is attributed with writing the scripts of operas and plays directly, and at other times for providing the actual authors with the plots.Kim delivered a New Year Address since 1 January 1946. Although the tradition was likely copied from the Soviet Union, North Korea made one important distinction. In the Soviet Union, the speech was always delivered by the formal head of state instead of Stalin who held real power. Since the North Korean state had not been organized by 1946, the task fell on Kim as the head of the North Korean Committee of the Communist Party of Korea. Ever since the speech has been delivered by the supreme leader of North Korea instead of the formal head of state, making it an important policy speech identified with the leader personally.With the Century, Kim Il-sung's eight-volume autobiography written shortly before his death, is his most popular work among North Korean readership. The exact number of works attributed to Kim Il-sung that are actually written by him is unclear.Korean era name
Korean era names were used during the period of Silla, Goguryeo, Balhae, Taebong, Goryeo, Joseon, and the Korean Empire. Dangun-giwon, the era name originating from the foundation of Gojoseon is also widely used in Korea as an indication of long civilisation of Korea.North Korean calendar
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea calendar, DPRK calendar, or Juche calendar (Korean pronunciation: [tɕutɕʰe]), named after the Juche ideology, is the system of year-numbering used in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.On the Juche Idea
On the Juche Idea: Treatise Sent to the National Seminar on the Juche Idea Held to Mark the 70th Birthday of the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung, 31 March 1982 (Chosŏn'gŭl: 주체 사상 에 대하여; MR: Chuch'e sasang e taehayŏ) is a treatise attributed to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on the North Korean Juche ideology. It is considered the most authoritative work on Juche.
The work, although probably ghostwritten for him, legitimized Kim as the sole bona fide interpreter of the ideology. The treatise systemizes Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung's thought on the Juche philosophy. The treatise marks Juche's departure from the materialism of Marxism–Leninism and posits the consciousness of the massess as dependent on the working class leader.
According to Kim Jong-il, the Juche idea is composed of a philosophical principle, socio-historical principles, and guiding principles. The philosophical principle can be summarized with Kim Il-sung's maxim that "man is the master of everything and decides everything." The socio-historical principles entail that the working masses are the subject of history. The guiding principles are: independent stance, creative method, and giving precedence to ideological consciousness. Emphasis on independence in particular has given raise to Kim's Songun, or military first, politics.Politics of North Korea
The politics of North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) takes place within the framework of the official state philosophy, Juche, a concept created by Hwang Jang-yop and later attributed to Kim Il-sung. The Juche theory is the belief that through self-reliance and a strong independent state, true socialism can be achieved.North Korea's political system is built upon the principle of centralization. While the North Korean constitution formally guarantees protection of human rights, in practice there are severe limits on freedom of expression, and the government closely supervises the lives of North Korean citizens. The constitution defines North Korea as "a dictatorship of people's democracy" under the leadership of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), which is given legal supremacy over other political parties.
The WPK is the ruling party of North Korea. It has been in power since its creation in 1948. Two minor political parties also exist, but are legally bound to accept the ruling role of the WPK. They, with the WPK, comprise the popular front Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland (DFRF). Elections occur only in single-candidate races where the candidate is effectively selected beforehand by the WPK.In addition to the parties, there are over 100 mass organizations controlled by the WPK. Those who are not WPK members are required to join one of these organizations. Of these, the most important ones are the Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League, Socialist Women's Union of Korea, General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea, and Union of Agricultural Workers of Korea. These four organizations are also DFRF members.Kim Il-sung ruled the country from 1948 until his death in July 1994, holding the offices of General Secretary of the WPK from 1949 to 1994 (titled as Chairman from 1949 to 1972), Premier of North Korea from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to 1994. He was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il. While the younger Kim had been his father's designated successor since the 1980s, it took him three years to consolidate his power. He was named to his father's old post of General Secretary in 1997, and in 1998 became chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC), which gave him command of the armed forces. The constitution was amended to make the NDC chairmanship "the highest post in the state." At the same time, the presidential post was written out of the constitution, and Kim Il-sung was designated "Eternal President of the Republic" in order to honor his memory forever. Most analysts believe the title to be a product of the cult of personality he cultivated during his life.
Outside observers generally views North Korea as a totalitarian dictatorship particularly noting the elaborate cult of personality around Kim Il-sung and his family. The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), led by a member of the ruling family, holds power in the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland of which all political officers are required to be members. The government has formally replaced all references to Marxism–Leninism in its constitution with the locally developed concept of Juche, or self-reliance. In recent years, there has been great emphasis on the Songun or "military-first" philosophy. All references to communism were removed from the North Korean constitution in 2009.The status of the military has been enhanced, and it appears to occupy the center of the North Korean political system; all the social sectors are forced to follow the military spirit and adopt military methods. Kim Jong-il's public activity focused heavily on "on-the-spot guidance" of places and events related to the military. The enhanced status of the military and military-centered political system was confirmed at the first session of the 10th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) by the promotion of NDC members into the official power hierarchy. All ten NDC members were ranked within the top twenty on 5 September, and all but one occupied the top twenty at the fiftieth anniversary of the Day of the Foundation of the Republic on 9 September.Regnal year
A regnal year is a year of the reign of a sovereign, from the Latin regnum meaning kingdom, rule.
The oldest dating systems were in regnal years, and considered the date as an ordinal, not a cardinal number. For example, a monarch could have a first year of rule, a second year of rule, a third year of rule, and so on, but not a zeroth year of rule.
Applying this ancient epoch system to modern calculations of time, which include zero, is what led to the debate over when the third millennium began.
Regnal years are "finite era names", contrary to "infinite era names" such as Christian era, Jimmu era, Juche era, and so on.Religion in Korea
Religion in Korea refers the various religious traditions practiced on the Korean peninsula. The oldest indigenous religion of Korea is Korean shamanism, which has been passed down from prehistory to the present. Buddhism was introduced to Korea from China during the Three Kingdoms era in the 4th century, and the religion flourished until the Joseon Dynasty, when Korean Confucianism became the state religion. During the Late Joseon Dynasty, in the 19th century, Christianity began to gain a foothold in Korea. While both Christianity and Buddhism would play important roles in the resistance to the Japanese occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century, only about 4% of Koreans were members of a religious organization in 1940.Since the division of Korea into two sovereign states in 1945—North Korea and South Korea—religious life in the two countries has diverged, shaped by different political structures. Religion in South Korea has been characterized by a rise of Christianity and a revival of Buddhism, though the majority of South Koreans have no religious affiliation. Religion in North Korea is characterized by state atheism in which freedom of religion is nonexistent. Juche ideology, which promotes the North Korean cult of personality, is regarded by experts as the national religion.Religion in North Korea
There are no known official statistics of religions in North Korea. Officially, North Korea is an atheist state. Based on estimates from the late 1990s and the 2000s, North Korea is mostly irreligious, with the main religions being Korean shamanism and Chondoism. There are small communities of Buddhists and Christians. Chondoism is represented in politics by the Party of the Young Friends of the Heavenly Way, and is regarded by the government as Korea's "national religion" because of its identity as a minjung (popular) and "revolutionary anti-imperialist" movement.Systematization (Romania)
Systematization (Romanian: Sistematizarea) in Romania was a program of urban planning carried out by the Socialist Republic of Romania under the leadership of Nicolae Ceaușescu. Ceaușescu was impressed by ideological mobilization and mass adulation in North Korea's Juche ideology during his East Asia visit in 1971, and began the campaign shortly afterwards.
Beginning in 1974, systematization consisted largely of the demolition and reconstruction of existing villages, towns, and cities, in whole or in part, with the stated goal of turning Romania into a "multilaterally developed socialist society".Vinylon
Vinylon, also known as Vinalon, is a synthetic fiber produced from polyvinyl alcohol, using anthracite and limestone as raw materials. Vinylon was first developed in Japan in 1939 by Ichiro Sakurada, Ri Sung Gi, and H. Kawakami. Trial production began in 1954 and in 1961 the massive February 8 Vinylon Complex was built in Hamhung, North Korea. Vinylon's widespread usage in North Korea is often pointed to as an example of the implementation of the juche philosophy, and it is known as the juche fiber.Vinylon is the national fiber of North Korea and is used for the majority of textiles, outstripping fiber such as cotton or nylon, which is produced only in small amounts in North Korea. Other than clothing, vinylon is also used for shoes, ropes, and quilt wadding.
Japanese-Canadian textile artist Toshiko MacAdam used vinylon in her early works, as it was more economical than nylon.Vinylon is resistant to heat and chemicals but has several disadvantages: being stiff, having a relatively high manufacturing cost, and being difficult to dye.Workers' Party of Korea
The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) is the founding and ruling political party of North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea). It is the largest party represented in the Supreme People's Assembly and coexists de jure with two other legal parties making up the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. However, these minor parties are completely subservient to the WPK, and must accept the WPK's "leading role" as a condition of their existence.
It was founded in 1949 with the merger of the Workers' Party of North Korea and the Workers' Party of South Korea. The WPK also controls the Korean People's Army. This political party (and all of the other parties in the DPRK) remains illegal in South Korea under South Korea's own National Security Act and is sanctioned by Australia, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States.The WPK is organized according to the Monolithic Ideological System and the Great Leader, a system and theory conceived by Kim Yong-ju and Kim Jong-il. The highest body of the WPK is formally the Congress, but in practice a Congress occurs infrequently. Between 1980 and 2016, there were no congresses held. Although the WPK is organizationally similar to communist parties, in practice it is far less institutionalized and informal politics plays a larger role than usual. Institutions such as the Central Committee, the Executive Policy Bureau, the Central Military Commission (CMC), the Politburo and the Politburo's Presidium have much less power than that formally bestowed on them by the party's charter, which is little more than a nominal document. Kim Jong-un is the current WPK leader, serving as Chairman and CMC chairman.
The WPK is committed to Juche, an ideology which has been described as a combination of collectivism and nationalism; and at the 4th Conference (held in 2012), the party charter was amended to state that Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism was "the only guiding idea of the party". At the 3rd Conference (held in 2010), the WPK removed a sentence from the preamble expressing the party's commitment "to building a communist society", replacing it with a new adherence to Songun, that is "military-first" policies. The 2009 revision had already removed all references to communism. Party ideology has recently focused on perceived imperialist enemies of the party and state; and on legitimizing the Kim family's dominance of the political system. Before the rise of Juche and later Songun, the party was committed to Marxist–Leninist thought as well, with its importance becoming greatly diminished over time. The party's emblem is an adaptation of the communist hammer and sickle, with a traditional Korean calligraphy brush. The symbols represent the industrial workers (hammer), peasants (sickle) and intellectuals (ink brush).