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The Juche Idea, sometimes spelled Chuch'e (Chosŏn'gŭl: 주체; Hancha: 主體; Korean pronunciation: [tɕutɕʰe]), is a political thesis formed by Kim Il-sung that states that the masses of DPR Korea are the masters of the country's development. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Kim and other party theorists such as Hwang Jang-yop elaborated the Juche Idea into a set of principles that the government uses to justify its policy decisions. Among these are a strong military posture and reliance on Korean national resources.
The name comes from juche, sometimes translated in North Korean sources as "independent stand" or "spirit of self-reliance". It has also been interpreted as "always putting Korean things first".:414 According to Kim Il-sung, the Juche Idea is based on the belief that "man is the master of everything and decides everything".
|Revised Romanization||Juche sasang|
The first known reference to Juche as a North Korean ideology was an anti-Soviet speech given by Kim Il-sung on December 28, 1955. Titled "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work", it was given to promote a political purge similar to the earlier Yan'an Rectification Movement in China. The process for the development of Juche followed a process similar to China's development of Zili Gengsheng, in that both came from a doubt in the benefits of being in the Soviet orbit, and that both ideologies stimulated a turn towards the Third World in foreign policy.
Hwang Jang-yeop, Kim's top adviser on ideology, discovered Kim's 1955 speech at the time when Kim, after having established a cult of personality, sought to develop his own version of Marxism–Leninism into a society-defining credo. Like Marxism-Leninism, Juche ideology espouses state atheism. North Korean sources began to trace the origins of Juche to a June 30, 1930 speech by Kim Il-sung, who was then 18 years old.
In Kim Il-sung's 1955 speech, the first on Juche, he stated:
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.:421
Kim focuses on the importance of education and learning Korean history. Through the education of Korean people's own history will it "stimulate their national pride and rouse the broad masses to revolutionary struggle".:421 Kim talks throughout his speech bulleting monumental events of the past and how certain outcomes could have been prevented. He stresses the importance of remembering their struggle, and that not learning their past, or denying it would "mean that our people did nothing.":422
Kim Il-sung outlined the three fundamental principles of Juche in his April 14, 1965, speech "On Socialist Construction and the South Korean Revolution in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea":
- Political independence (Chosŏn'gŭl: 자주; Hancha: 自主; MR: chaju; RR: jaju)
- Economic self-sustenance (Chosŏn'gŭl: 자립; Hancha: 自立; MR: charip; RR: jarip)
- Self-reliance in defence (Chosŏn'gŭl: 자위; Hancha: 自衛; MR: chawi; RR: jawi)
Kim Jong-il officially authored the definitive statement on Juche in a 1982 document titled On the Juche Idea. He had final authority over the interpretation of the state ideology and incorporated the Songun (army-first) policy into it in 1996.
According to Kim Jong-il's On the Juche Idea, the application of Juche in state policy entails the following:
- The people must have independence (Chosŏn'gŭl: 자주성; Hancha: 自主性; MR: chajusŏng; RR: jajuseong) in thought and politics, economic self-sufficiency, and self-reliance in defense.
- Policy must reflect the will and aspirations of the masses and employ them fully in revolution and construction.
- Methods of revolution and construction must be suitable to the situation of the country.
- The most important work of revolution and construction is molding people ideologically as communists and mobilizing them to constructive action.
The Juche outlook requires absolute loyalty to the revolutionary party and leader. In North Korea, these are the Workers' Party of Korea and the supreme commander, Kim Jong-un.
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, according to which for dates occurring before 1912 the Gregorian calendar year is used exclusively, so that there is no "negative" Juche year, or "Before Juche" concept. For example, 1682 is rendered as "1682", while 2013 is rendered as "Juche 102, 2013" or as "Juche 102 (2013)."
Kimilsungism was first mentioned by Kim Jong-il in the 1970s. It was introduced alongside the "Ten Principles for a Monolithic Ideological System". Not long after the term's introduction in the North Korean lexicon, Kim Jong-il launched the "Kimilsungism-ization of the Whole Society" campaign. These campaigns were introduced so as to strengthen Kim Jong-il's position within the WPK. According to political analyst Lim Jae-cheon "Kimilsungism refers to thoughts of Kim Il-sung. It is interchangeable with the juche 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, Stalinism etc. The younger Kim further argued that Kim Il-sung's thoughts had evolved, and therefore deserved its own distinct name. He further added; "Kimilsungism is an original idea that cannot be explained within the frameworks of Marxism–Leninism. The ideas 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 needed to 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, when 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".
With the death of Kim Jong-il, Kimilsungism was turned into Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism at the 4th WPK Conference. 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"
"Socialism of Our Style", also referred to as Korean-style socialism and our-style socialism, is an ideological concept introduced by Kim Jong-il on 27 December 1990 in his speech "Socialism of Our Country is a Socialism of Our Style as Embodied by the Juche idea". Speaking after the Revolutions of 1989 which brought down the communist regimes in the Eastern Bloc (but not the Soviet Union), he 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". 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 Marxism–Leninism, stating:
"Marxism–Leninism presented a serious 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, and Leninism, which was based on Russia's experience, they conceived of Juche. Also, the situation in North Korea was 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 (however, no reference is made to Marxist–Leninist thought, and it contained instead populist and organic nationalist concepts), 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.
"Great Leader" theory
Unlike orthodox Marxist–Leninists (or communists in general for that matter), which places material forces as the driving force of historical progress, North Korea considers human beings as the driving force in history. It is summarized as "popular masses are placed in the center of everything, and the leader is the center of the masses." Juche, North Korea states, is a "man-centered ideology" in which the "man is the master of everything and decides everything." Unlike man in orthodox communist thought, in which man's decisions are inextricably linked to his/hers relations to the means of production (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; "the popular masses are the drivers of history". However, for the masses to be successful, they need a "Great Leader". In this sense it also breaks with traditional Marxism–Leninism, which argues that the popular masses (on the basis of its relations to production) will lead, in North Korea the popular masses can only bring change through a Great Leader. This theory 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 "topbrain" of the working class, meaning that he is the only legitimate representative of the working class. Class struggle can only be realized through the "Great Leader", and difficult tasks in general and revolutionary changes can only be introduced through, and by, the "Great Leader". Thus, in historical development, it is the "Great Leader" which is the leading force of the working class. The "Great Leader" is also a flawless human being, who never commits mistakes, who is always benevolent and always rules for the masses. The leader is incorruptible. For the "Great Leader" system to function, a unitary ideological system has to 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 a unified social mass, also known as the gathered-together "people". Instead of a strict social hierarchy or a class divided society, North Korea had, in theory, divided the union into three classes — peasant, worker, and the samuwon (intellectuals and professionals) where each sect is 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 in order to increase the education and literacy of North Korea.
Normally, Communist nations would value only the farmers or laborers, thus in the USSR 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 (a consequence of the divergent orthographic choices of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China), or the simplification of the Russian alphabet 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 the rapid industrialization through labor and believed in subjecting nature to human will.:404 By restructuring the social class 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 the upcoming years. This is questionable, as the country suffers massive food shortages annually and is heavily dependent on foreign aid.:405
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". Later, on 16 June 1998, in a joint editorial entitled "Our Party's Military-First Politics Will Inevitably Achieve Victory and Will Never Be Defeated" by Kunroja, the WPK's theoretical magazine, and Rodong Shinmun, it was stated that Songun ment "is 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", that 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.
"Socialism without Socialism"
Throughout the 1990s, the North Korean regime became increasingly nationalistic (at least more so in official pronouncements), leading Kim Chonghun to state that "Socialism of our Style" was "Socialism without Socialism". Speeches and official announcement made references to socialism, but neither to Marxist–Leninist thought nor to any basic communist concepts. Shin Gi-wook argues that "there is no traces of Marxist–Leninist or Stalinist notion of nation [in Korea]. Instead, Kim stresses the importance of the Korean 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." The socialism which the North Korean authorities talk of is socialism without socialism but containing nationalism instead.
Charles K. Armstrong, in his book The North Korean Revolution, wrote that "North Korean Communism would not only be quite distinctive from the Soviet model, it would in some respect turn Marxism–Leninism upside-down." Key differences are that the North Koreans place primacy over ideology over materialism, retaining the vocabulary of family linage 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." Bruce Cumings agreed, stating that North Korea "took from Marxism–Leninism what it wanted and rejected much of the rest." Cumings went on and compared North Korean ideology with Japanese fascism, stating that there are many similarities, and calling North Korea a neo-socialist corporatist state. In short, communism was seen as a tool to strengthened nationalist goals.
Brian Reynolds Myers in his book The Cleanest Race dismisses the idea that Juche is North Korea's leading ideology, regarding its public exaltation as designed to deceive foreigners. pointing out that North Korea's latest constitution, of 2009, omits all mention of communism. Myers states that Juche is merely a sham developed to extol Kim Il-sung as a political thinker alongside Mao Zedong. According to The Cleanest Race, North Korea's government is founded on far-right politics, rather than those of the far left, because of the state's military-first policy, racism, and xenophobia, as evidenced by the attempted lynching of Black Cuban diplomats and forced abortions of North Korean women pregnant with ethnic Chinese children.
- Kim Il-sung bibliography
- Kim Jong-il bibliography
- Arirang Festival
- Juche Tower
- Juchesasangpa, the South Korean representation of Juche as a domestic political movement
- Workers' Party of Korea
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- Rank, Michael (10 April 2012). "Lifting the cloak on North Korean secrecy: The Cleanest Race, How North Koreans See Themselves by B R Myers". Asia Times. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- Hitchens, Christopher (1 February 2010). "A Nation of Racist Dwarfs". Fighting Words (Slate). Retrieved 23 December 2012.
- Staff writer (12 April 2010). "Immersion in propaganda, race-based nationalism and the un-figure-outable vortex of Juche Thought: Colin Marshall talks to B.R. Myers, author of The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why it Matters". quarksdaily.com. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
- Articles & journals
- Lee, Kyo Duk (2004). "The successor theory of North Korea". Peaceful Utilization of the DMZ’ as a National Strategy (Korean Institute for National Reunification). pp. 1–52. ISBN 898479225X.
- Lim, Jae-cheon (May/June 2012). "North Korea's Hereditary Succession Comparing Two Key Transitions in the DPRK". Asian Survey (University of California Press) 52 (3): 550–570.
- Rüdiger, Frank (2013). "North Korea in 2012: Domestic Politics, the Economy and Social Issues". Brill Publishers. pp. 41–72. ISBN 9789004262973.
- Alton, David; Chidley, Rob (2013). Building Bridges: Is There Hope for North Korea?. Lion Books. ISBN 9780745955988.
- Dimitrov, Martin (2013). Why Communism Did Not Collapse: Understanding Authoritarian Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1107035538.
- Kihl, Young; Kim, Hong Nack (2006). North Korea: The Politics of Regime Survival. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 9780765616388.
- McCann, David (1997). Korea Briefing: Toward Reunification. M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 1563248867.
- Shin, Gi-wook (2006). Ethnic Nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, Politics, and Legacy. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804754088.
- North Korea Uncovered, (North Korea Google Earth) See most of North Korea's monuments, political, cultural, economic and military infrastructure on Google Earth.
- The International Institute of the Juche Idea
- Juche Idea Study Group of England
- Songun Politics Study Group USA
- Revolutionary View of the Leader
- A State of Mind (Documentary about Mass Games in North Korea)
- Communist Red Brigades Organization
- The Juche Idea, Shine All Over The World! (Epitaph enshrined in the Tower of Juche Idea, Pyongyang)
- Juche Party of France (Parti Juche de France)