Workers' Party of Korea

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Coordinates: 39°1′15.23″N 125°45′10.99″E / 39.0208972°N 125.7530528°E / 39.0208972; 125.7530528

Workers' Party of Korea
Chosŏn Rodongdang
First Secretary Kim Jong-un
Eternal General Secretary Kim Jong-il
Presidium Kim Jong-un
Kim Yong-nam
Choe Ryong-hae
Founded 30 June 1949
Headquarters Kim Il-sung Square, Pyongyang, North Korea
Newspaper Rodong Sinmun
Youth wing Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League and Young Pioneer Corps
Ideology Juche (see "Ideology" section)
National affiliation Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland
International affiliation Attends the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
Supreme People's Assembly
601 / 687
Party flag
Flag of the Workers' Party of Korea.svg
Politics of North Korea
Political parties
Workers' Party of Korea
Chosŏn'gŭl 조선로동당
Hancha 朝鮮勞動黨
Revised Romanization Joseon Lodongdang
McCune–Reischauer Chosŏn Rodongdang

The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK)[note 1] is the founding and ruling political party of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). The WPK is the sole governing party of North Korea, although it coexists alongside two other legal parties that make up the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. It was founded in 1949, by a merger of the Workers' Party of North Korea and the Workers' Party of South Korea.

The WPK is organized on the Monolithic Ideological System and the Great Leader, a system and a theory conceived by Kim Yong-ju and Kim Jong-il. Formally, the highest body of the WPK is the Congress, but a congress has not been convened since the 6th Congress in 1980. While the WPK is in theory similar to other communist parties, in practice it is far less institutionalized and the role of informal politics plays a far greater role than what is normal. Institutions such as the Central Committee, Secretariat, the Central Military Commission (CMC), the Politburo and the Presidium have far less power than that formally bestowed upon them by the party's Charter. Kim Jong-un is the current WPK leader, and serves concurrently as First Secretary and CMC Chairman.

The WPK is committed to Juche, 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 the sentence in preamble which stated that the party was committed "to building a communist society", replacing it with new lines showing the party's adherence to songun (literally military-first politics). In recent years ideology has focused on explaining the Kim family's dominance over the political system and on the perceived imperialist enemies of the party and state.


Founding and early years (1945–1953)[edit]

On 13 October 1945, the North Korean Bureau of the Communist Party of Korea (NKB–CPK) was established,[1] with Kim Yong-bom as its first Chairman.[2] However, the NKB–CPK remained subordinate to the CPK Central Committee headquartered in Seoul, and headed by Pak Hon-yong.[3] Two months later, at the 3rd Plenum of the NKB, Kim Yong-bom was replaced in office by Kim Il-sung, an event probably orchestrated by the Soviet Union.[4] In the spring of 1946, the North Korean Bureau was turned into the Communist Party of North Korea (and Kim Il-sung was elected its Chairman.[5] On 22 July 1946, the Soviet authorities in North Korea, established the United Democratic National Front, a popular front led by the Communist Party of North Korea.[6] Soon after, the Communist Party of North Korea merged with the New People's Party, a party composed mostly of communists from China.[6] On 28 July 1946 a special commission between the two parties ratified the merger, and on 29 July 1946 the merger became official.[7] One month later, 28–30 August 1946, the newly founded party held its founding congress and established the Workers' Party of North Korea (WPNK).[7] The congress elected Kim Tu-bong (the earlier leader of the New People's Party) as the first WPNK Chairman, while Kim Il-sung was appointed WPNK Deputy Chairman.[7] Despite his formal downgrading in the party hierarchy, Kim Il-sung remained the party's leader.[8]

Kim Il-sung alongside Pak Hon-yong in Pyongyang, 1948

Party controlled was strengthened throughout the country after the congress.[9] On 27–30 March 1948, the WPNK convened its 2nd Congress.[10] While Kim Tu-bong was still the party's formal head, Kim Il-sun gave the main report to the congress.[11] In it, he claimed that North Korea was "a base of democracy", in contrast to South Korea which was, he believed, dictatorial.[11] On 28 April 1948, the Special Session of the Supreme People's Assembly approved the constitution (proposed and written by WPNK cadres), leading to the official establishment of an independent North Korea.[12] However, the constitution did not call for the establishment of an independent North Korea, but rather for a unified communist Korea; the constitution proclaims the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to be Seoul, not Pyongyang.[13] Kim Il-sung was appointed the head of government of this new state, while Kim Tu-bong served as head of the legislative branch.[14] A year later, on 30 June 1949, the Workers' Party of Korea was proclaimed through a merger of the WPNK and the Workers' Party of South Korea.

Kim Il-sung was not the most ardent supporter for a military solution to reunify Korea, that role goes to the South Korean communists headed by Pak Hon-yong.[15] However, after several meetings with Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, the North Koreans started a full-scale invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950 (the start of the Korean War).[16] With American intervention in the war, the DPRK nearly collapsed, but was saved by Chinese intervention in the conflict.[16] The war had the beneficial effect of weakening Soviet influence over Kim Il-sung and the WPK.[17] It was around this period, the main fault-lines in early WPK politics were created, four factions were formed; Domestic (a group WPK cadres who had stayed in Korea during Japanese rule), Soviet Koreans (Koreans who had been sent from the Soviet Union), Yanan (Koreans from China), and guerrilla (the personal faction of Kim Il-sung).[17] However, Kim Il-sung would not be able to strengthen his position any further until the end of the Korean War.[17]

Kim Il-sung's consolidation of power (1953–1980)[edit]

A propaganda mosaic commemorating the triumphant homecoming of Kim Il-sung after he "liberated Korea from Japan".

The party-to-party worsened between the WPK–Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) when Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin's successor, began pursuing the policy of de-Stalinization.[18] Because of the Sino–Soviet conflict, an ideological conflict waged between the CPSU and the Communist Party of China (CPC), Kim Il-sung was able to maneuver between the two socialist superpowers, and by doing so, weakened their influence on the WPK.[18] By 1962, Kim Il-sung and the WPK favored the CPC over the CPSU in the ideological struggle, and "for a few years North Korea almost unconditionally supported the Chinese position on all important issues."[18] The main conflict between the WPK and the CPSU in this period was that Kim Il-sung did not support the denunciation of either Stalinism, Stalin and his cult of personality, or the creation of a collective leadership and the theory of peaceful coexistence between the capitalist and the socialist world.[18] Kim Il-sung believed peaceful coexistence to be synonymous with capitulation, and knew that de-Stalinization in North Korea would effectively end his unlimited power over the WPK.[18] The result of the souring of relations between the CPSU and the WPK was that the Soviet Union cut off its aid to North Korea.[19] As a result, several industries were on the brink of disaster, and China was unwilling to increase its aid to North Korea.[19] Not long after, Mao Zedong initiated the Cultural Revolution, an event criticized by the WPK as "left-wing opportunism" and as a manifestation of "Trotskyist theory of a permanent revolution."[19] Relations towards the CPSU and the CPC were stabilized in the 1960s, with WPK making it clear it would be neutral in the Sino–Soviet conflict.[19] This in turned strengthened Kim Il-Sung's position within the WPK.[19]

By the 1960s onwards, Kim Il-sung's cult of personality reached new proportions.[20] Earlier, the cult of personality was not any greater than that bestowed to Stalin or Mao, but after 1972, when Kim Il-sung's birthday became the country's main public holiday it reached gigantic proportions.[20] He was bestowed titles such as "Great Leader", the "Sun of the Nation, "The Iron All-Victorious General" and "Marshal of the All-Mighty Republic" by WPK and state publications.[20] Official propaganda stated, for instance, that "burning loyalty to the leader" was one of the main characteristics of any Korean person.[20]

Kim Il-sung and his guerilla faction had purged the WPK of opposing factions in the 1950s and the 1960s to the dismay of both the CPC and the CPSU.[17] At first the Domestic faction was purged in 1953–55, then the Yunan faction in 1957–58 and at last the Soviet Koreans, together with anyone deemed unfaithful to the WPK leadership in the purge of 1957–62.[21] According to historian Andrei Lankov, "Kim Il-sung had become not only supreme, but also the omnipotent ruler of North Korea, —no longer merely 'first amongst equals', as had been the case in the late 1940s."[22] After purging the opposition within the WPK, Kim Il-sung consolidated his power base by the means of nepotism and hereditary succession; that is, not only hereditary succession in the Kim family, but hereditary succession amongst members of the guerilla faction.[23] From the late-1980s onwards, "a high (and increasing) proportion of North Korean high officials have been sons of high officials."[23] Since the 1960s, Kim Il-sung had actively appointed members of his own family to positions of power.[24] By the early 1990s, several of the most leading offices in the country were held by people in his family; Kang Song-san, (Premier of the Administrative Council, the government, and served as member of the WPK Secretariat), Pak Song-chol (Vice President), Hwang Jang-yop (a member of the WPK Secretariat), Kim Chung-rin (a member of the WPK Secretariat), Kim Yong-sun (Head of the WPK International Department and a member of the WPK Secretariat), Kang Hui-won (Secretary of the WPK Pyongyang Municipal Committee and Deputy Premier of the Administrative Council), Kim Tal-hyon (Minister of Foreign Trade), Kim Chan-ju (Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Chairman of the Administrative Council), and Yang Hyong-sop (President of the Academy of Social Sciences and the Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly).[24] These people were appointed solely because of their blood and family ties to the Kim family, and presumably retain their positions as long as the Kim family controls the WPK and the country.[24] The reason for Kim's blatant nepotism and his active support of the guerilla's factions own nepotistic behaviour can be explained by the fact that Kim Il-sung did not want the party bureaucracy to pose a danger, which it did in other socialist states, to his and his son's rule.[24]

At first, it was generally believed by foreign observers that Kim Il-sung was planning that his brother Kim Yong-ju would succeed him.[25] Kim Yong-ju's authority gradually increased until he became co-chairman of the North–South Coordination Committee.[25] From late 1972 until the 6th WPK Congress, Kim Yong-ju became an increasingly remote figure within the regime; at the 6th Congress, he lost his seats in the Politburo and on the Central Committee.[25] However, rumors were confirmed that Kim Il-sung began grooming Kim Jong-il in 1966.[25] From 1974 until the 6th Congress, Kim Jong-il (called the "Party centre" by North Korean media) became the second-most-powerful man in North Korea.[25] The choice of Kim Jong-il met with considerable criticism, with some accusing Kim Il-sung of creating a dynasty and/or turning North Korea into a feudal state.[26]

Kim Jong-il's apprenticeship and rule (1980–2011)[edit]

With Kim Jong-il's official appointment as heir apparent at the 6th Congress, power became more centralized in the Kim family.[27] WPK officials began to make open statements about Kim Jong-il's succession, and from 1981 onwards Kim Jong-il began to participate and lead on-guide tours.[27] The final nail in the coffin came in 1982, when Kim Jong-il was awarded the Hero of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea title and wrote On the Juche Idea, which acted as Juche's answer to Mein Kampf.[27] While foreign observers believed Kim Jong-il's appointment would lead to the rise of a younger generation, Kim Jong-il in On the Juche Idea made it clear that his leadership would not represent the beginning of a new generational leadership.[28] With crisis facing Kim Il-sung's and Kim Jong-il's leadership both and at home and abroad, the WPK was unable to tackle them, in part because of the establishment of a gerontocracy at the highest level of the WPK and the state.[29]

Kim Jong-il headed the WPK without pretense of following the party Charter. However, the party was revitalized at the very end of his rule, at the 3rd WPK Conference

With the death of Oh Jin-u on 25 February 1995, Kim Jong-il became the sole remaining living member of the Presidium of the Politburo, nominally the highest body of the WPK when the Central Committee was not in session.[30] While no public listing of members of the WPK Central Military Commission (CMC), the highest party organ on military affairs, were published between 1993 and 2010, clear signs of movements within the military hierarchy were shown throughout 1995.[31] On the WPK's 50th anniversary, Kim Jong-il initiated a reshuffle of the CMC (and the military leadership in general) in a bid to appease both the old guard and younger officials.[31] Kim Jong-il did not however reshuffle the WPK Central Committee or the government, with membership changes in these bodies (during the 1990s) coming only from members dying of natural causes.[32] From 1995 onwards, Kim Jong-il went on to favor the military over the WPK and the state.[32] Problems began to mount as the economic crisis became coupled with a famine, in which at least a half a million people died, weakened Kim Jong-il's control over the country.[33] However, instead of initiating structural reforms to tackle the issue, the press began to criticize the WPK's lack of control over the economy, with the local and provincial branches of the WPK being criticized for not being able to carry out central-level instructions.[34] He further criticized the WPK at a speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of Kim Il-sung University; "The reason why people are loyal to the instructions of the Central Committee is not because of party organizations and workers, but because of my authority."[34] In his speech Kim Jong-il revealed that Kim Il-sung had told him to keep out of economic work, claiming it was better to leave it to the experts; after the speech the WPK's responsibility of running the economy were given to the Administrative Council, the central government.[34] By late-1996 Kim Jong-il had reached the belief that neither the WPK nor the central government were able to supervise and control the country, and began shifting control over to the military.[35]

On 8 July 1997, the three-year mourning period for Kim Il-sung was ended.[36] Later in the year, on 8 October 1997, Kim Jong-il was appointed to the newly established office of General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea.[36] There was much discussion among foreign experts why Kim Jong-il was appointed General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea instead of succeeding his father in the old office of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.[36] In a clear breach to the WPK Charter, Kim Jong-il was not elected as WPK General Secretary by a plenum of the Central Committee, but rather by a joint announcement of the 6th Central Committee and the CMC.[36] While many believed that Kim Jong-il would call a congress shortly after his appointment to elect a new WPK leadership, nothing came of it.[36] The WPK organization would not be revitalized until the 3rd Conference in 2010.[36] Until then, Kim Jong-il ruled as an autocrat, with all power emanating from him.[36] Only in WPK bodies deemed very important, were new members and heads appointed swiftly.[36] The 10th Supreme People's Assembly convened on 5 September 1998; it amended the North Korean constitution.[37] The newly-amended constitution elevated the National Defense Commission (NDC), an organ which was previously responsible for supervising the military, the highest organ of the state.[38] The new constitution gave the cabinet and the NDC more independence from WPK officials, however, it would be a mistake to assume that this weakened the party.[39] Kim Jong-il remained WPK General Secretary, and exerted great control over the Organization and Guidance Department, responsible for appointing members to the central party leadership, as well as other institutions.[39] While the central WPK leadership composition was not renewed, at least not in one specific event, until 2010, the WPK remained important because of its role as a mass organization.[40]

On 26 June 2010, the Politburo announced that it was summoning delegates for the 3rd Conference.[40] The official explanation was the need to "reflect the demands of the revolutionary development of the Party, which is facing critical changes in bringing about the strong and prosperous state and chuche [Juche] development."[40] The 3rd Conference met on 28 September, and revised the party Charter, elected and dismissed members of the Central Committee, Secretariat, Politburo and Presidium as well as other bodies.[40] The 3rd Conference was used to formalize Kim Jong-un as heir apparent.[41] VIce Marshal Ri Yong-ho and General Kim Kyong-hui (the sister of Kim Jong-il) were appointed to leading positions in the Korean People's Army and the WPK to help Kim Jong-un consolidate power.[42] The following year, on 17 December 2011, Kim Jong-il died.[43]

Kim Jong-un's rule (2011 onwards)[edit]

After Kim Jong-il died on 17 December 2011, North Korean elites moved to consolidate Kim Jong-un's position. He was declared to be in charge of the country as soon as the official report on Kim Jong-il's death was published on 19 December. On 26 December 2011, the official newspaper Rodong Sinmun hailed him as supreme leader of the party and the state. On 30 December, a meeting of the Politburo officially appointed him Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, after he was allegedly nominated for the position by Kim Jong-il himself in October 2011 (the anniversary of Kim Jong-il's assumption of general-secretaryship).

Despite being not even a Politburo member, Kim Jong-un was nevertheless proclaimed to the unofficial position of supreme leader of the Workers' Party of Korea. Key posts as general secretary, chairman of the Central Military Commission, and Chairman of the National Defence Commission, as well as two seats in the five-member Politburo Presidium, remained vacant.

After celebrations for Kim Jong-il's 70th anniversary (during which he was elevated to the rank of Taewonsu, usually translated as Grand Marshal or Generalissimo), on 18 February the Politburo announced the convening of the 4th Party Conference for mid-April 2012 (near the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung) "to glorify the sacred revolutionary life and feats of Kim Jong Il for all ages and accomplish the Juche cause, the Songun revolutionary cause, rallied close around Kim Jong Un."[44] Participants in the provincial party conferences endorsed the election of Kim Jong-un as a delegate to the 4th Party Conference. According to KCNA, provincial party conferences were held in Jagang, South Hwanghae, North Pyongan, and Kangwon and a city party conference was held in Rason (Rajin-Sonbong is one of three province-level cities). On 26 March 2012, Kim was elected a delegate to the 4th Party Conference by the party organization of the Korean People’s Army.

At the 4th Party Conference on 11 April, Kim Jong-il was declared to be the Eternal General Secretary and Kim Jong-un was elected to the newly created post of First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, as well as Politburo Presidium member. The Conference proclaimed Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism "as the only guiding idea of the party".[45]


Great Leader[edit]

Unlike orthodox Marxism–Leninism, which places material forces as the driving force of historical progress, North Korea considers human beings in general as the driving force in history.[46] It is summarized as "popular masses are placed in the center of everything, and the leader is the center of the masses".[46] Juche, North Korea states, is a "man-centered ideology" in which the "man is the master of everything and decides everything".[46] Unlike man in orthodox communist thought, in which man's decisions are inextricably linked to his/her relations to the means of production (concept referred to as "relations of production"), in Juche thought man is independent and decides everything.[46] 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".[47] However, for the masses to be successful, they need a "Great Leader".[47] Marxism–Leninism, which argues that the popular masses will lead (on the basis of their relation to production), whereas in North Korea, the role of a Great Leader should be essential.[48] This theory helped Kim Il-sung establish a unitary, one-man rule over North Korea.[48]

The theory turns the "Great Leader" into an absolutist, supreme leader.[49] The working class is not to think for themselves, but instead to think through the "Great Leader".[49] 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.[49] Class struggle can only be realized through the "Great Leader", and difficult tasks in general and revolutionary changes in particular can only be introduced through, and by, the "Great Leader".[49] Thus, in historical development, it is the "Great Leader" who is the leading force of the working class.[49] The "Great Leader" is also a flawless human being, who never commits mistakes, who is always benevolent, and who always rules for the masses.[50] The leader is incorruptible.[50] For the "Great Leader" system to function, a unitary ideological system has to be in place.[51] In North Korea, that unitary ideological system is known as the "Monolithic Ideological System".[51]

Kim dynasty[edit]

The Kim dynasty began with Kim Il-sung, the first leader of the WPK and North Korea.[52] The official line is that the North Korean system functions "well" because it was established by Kim Il-sung, and that his successors are of the same bloodline.[53] Because of this, every child is educated in "The revolutionary history of the Great Leader" and "The revolutionary history of the Dear Leader".[53] Kim Il-sung's first choice of successor was Kim Yong-ju, his own brother, but later decided to appoint his own son, Kim Jong-il as his successor.[25] This decision was formalized at the 6th Congress.[25] Kim Jong-il appointed his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor at the 3rd Conference (held in 2010), and he succeeded his father in early 2011.[41] Because of the familial succession, and the appointment of family members to high offices, the Kim family have been referred to interchangeably as a dynasty and/or a royal family.[54]

Monolithic Ideological System[edit]


Tomatoes, which are completely red to the core, are considered worthy Communists; apples, which are red only on the surface, are considered to need ideological improvement; and grapes are completely hopeless.

—The three main groups (friendly, neutral, and hostile) are metaphorically described as tomatoes, apples, and grapes, respectively.[55]

Songbun is the name given to the caste system established on 30 May 1957 by the WPK Politburo when they adopted the resolution "On the Transformation of the Struggle with Counter-Revolutionary Elements into an All-People All-Party Movement" (often referred to as the "May 30th Resolution).[56] The report led to a purge of North Korean society, every individual was checked for his or her's allegiance to the party and the leader.[57] The purge did not begin in earnest until 1959, when the WPK established a new organ to supervise them.[57] The body was headed by Kim Il-sung's brother, Kim Yong-ju.[57] The North Korean population was divided into three groups; "hostile forces", "neutral forces" and "friendly forces".[57] The caste a person received was hereditary.[57] "Hostile forces" can not live close to Pyongyang (the country's capitol) or any other major cities, or live close to North Korea's border with other countries.[57] Songbun affects access to educational and employment opportunities and particularly whether a person is eligible to join the WPK.[55] The importance of Songbun has diminished with the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the North Korean economy (and the Public Distribution System) in the 1990s.[58]


Party leader[edit]

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The party has been led by four different offices throughout its existence; Chairman of the Central Committee (1946–1966), General Secretary of the Central Committee (1966–1994, post vacant until 1997), General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (1997–2012) and First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (2012 onwards). The office of Chairman of the Central Committee was established at the 1st Congress (held in August 1946), and elected Kim Tu-bong (not a member of the Kim family) to the office.[7] This office was abolished in 1966 at the 2nd Conference (held in October), and replaced with the office of the General Secretary of the Central Committee.[59] Through this office, Kim Il-sung became the formal head of the party's Secretariat.[59] Kim Il-sung died in 1994, leaving the post of General Secretary of the Central Committee vacant for three years.[60] On 8 October 1997 Kim Jong-il was appointed to the new office, General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea in a joint notice by the Central Committee (CC) and the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Workers' Party of Korea; "[both the CC and the CMC) pronounce comrade Kim Jong-il as general-secretary of the party, based upon the wishes of the entire People's Army, people, and the members of the party."[60] At the 3rd Conference the Charter was amended to state that the General Secretary had to concurrently hold the office of Chairman of the Central Military Commission.[61] When Kim Jong-il died, the WPK decided at the 4th Conference to leave the post of WPK General Secretary vacant, and made Kim Jong-il "Eternal General Secretary".[62] Kim Jong-un was elected to the newly-established office of First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea.[62] The office was established to "represent and lead the whole party as its head and... materialize the ideas and lines of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il."[63]

Congress and Conference[edit]

The party Congress is the WPK's highest body. Formerly it was stated that a congress was to be convened every fifth year, but the 3rd Conference, held in September 2010, revised the party Charter to state that the Central Committee could convene a congress when it wished so as long as it gave the rest of the party a six-month notice.[64]


The Charter, commonly referred to as Rules and Constitution, is the party's by-laws.[65] The Charter was revised at the 3rd Conference (the last time it had been revised was at the 6th Congress in 1980).[66][67] The Charter was revised to state that the party's First Secretary had to concurrently hold the office of Chairman of the party's Central Military Commission.[61] It is notable for dropping the sentence in the prologue which states that the ultimate goal of the WPK was to "build a communist society", despite this the Charter still mentions Marxism–Leninism.[64] The ultimate goal was now "to embody the revolutionary cause of Juche in the entire society".[64] This was further changed at the 4th Conference, when Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism became "the only guiding idea of the party".[68] The article which states that a party congress needed to be convened every fifth year was amended.[64] At last, two new chapters were added; "The Party and the People's Power" and "The Party Logo and Flag of Party".[69]

However, while the Charter is the party's de jure highest document, Kim-il Sung and Kim Jong-il have breached party protocol throughout their respective rules, by not convening party congresses or Central Committee plenums among others.[66] The Charter is in fact powerless since no organs supervises if the rules are being followed at the central-level.[70]

Central Committee[edit]

The WPK headquarters, and the home of the WPK Central Committee, Pyongyang.

The Central Committee is, according to the party's Charter, elected by the delegates of a party congress.[56] In practice, however, this has not been the case.[56] During Kim Il-sung's rule, he along with the rest of the central leadership chose who was to sit on the Central Committee; the delegates simply approved a prearranged list.[56] Since no party congress has been held since the 6th, the 6th Central Committee still remains in session.[56] The 3rd Conference, held in September 2010, elected a new Central Committee (however, not electing it for a new term, since that power is vested in the party congress).[71] The Central Committee and it's apparatus was weakened greatly under Kim Jong-il, with several vacant offices not being filled.[72] From 2005 onwards Kim Jong-il took several steps to revitalize the party, first and foremost by appointing senior officials to new posts; Pak Nam Gi was appointed Head of the Planning and Finance Department and Jang Song-thaek was appointed Head of the Administrative Department, which oversaw all security matters, and which indirectly restoring the duties and responsibilities he had as Head of the Organization Guidance Department.[73] It is generally believed that the bid to strengthen the party has continued under Kim Jong-un.

The Central Committee is not a permanent body, and must convene according to the party's Charter at least once every six month.[56] However, no Central Committee plenum (meeting) was convened between 1993 and 2010.[40] In the timespan 1948–1961 held an average meeting rate per year of 2.4,[56] around the same rate as that of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[56] When it did meet, in this period, meetings lasted often not any longer than one day.[56] However, the power of the Central Committee did not lay in how many times it met, but its own apparatus.[56] The Central Committee apparatus, controlled by the Politburo rather than by the members of the Central Committee, functioned as the nominal government of North Korea under Kim Il-sung.[56] At last, members of the Central Committee are either full members, who can vote at plenums, and candidate members, who can participate at meetings (but not vote) or take the place of a full member who can't participate.[74]

Bodies of the Central Committee[edit]


The Politburo, formerly the Political Committee, was the highest body of the WPK when the Central Committee was not in session.[75] Currently, the Politburo is second highest organ when the Central Committee is not in session; the highest being the Presidium of the Politburo.[76] The Politburo contains full (voting) and candidate (non-voting members), and act as the party's executive and legislative branch when the Central Committee is not in session.[77] Until the 3rd Conference, the Politburo was elected by the Central Committee in the immediate aftermath of a congress.[77] The party charter specifically states that the Politburo should meet at least once a month, but there is little evidence of this having actually happened.[77] Members of the Politburo can concurrently serve in party or state commissions, as members of the Secretariat, Central Committee or government or serve in the Central Committee apparatus for that matter.[77] Evidence suggests that the Politburo functions much like the CPSU Politburo under Stalin, with Politburo members acting as the party leader's personal staff rather than actual policy-makers.[77] However, this has not always been the case, before Kim Il-sung purged the party opposition, the Politburo did function as a decision-making body were policies could be discussed.[77] Since Kim Il-sung's consolidation of power, the Politburo has turned into a rubber stamp body, and leading members of the Politburo have disappeared, unexplained over time; the last such incident in 1977 with Kim Tong-gyu.[78] Members of the Politburo, at least under Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, lacked strong power bases, and were therefore depended on the party leader for their position.[78] Because of this, the Politburo was turned into a loyal servant of the party leader.[78]

Similar to the Central Committee, the Politburo laid dormant during much of Kim Jong-il's rule.[79] However, after many years of being dormant, the 3rd Conference elected new members to the Politburo.[79] While many foreign observers believed it would signify a generational shift, it did not; the youngest member was 53 years of age while the average age was 74 (with 12 being over the age of 80).[79] The majority of new members were either personal aides to Kim Jong-il or Kim family members.[79] Kim Kyong-hui (Kim Jong-il's sister) and Jang Song-thaek (Kim Kyong-hui's husband) were appointed as full member and candidate member respectively.[79] Several of Jang's proteges were elected as candidate members, such as Chu Sang Song (Minister of People's Security), U Tong-chuk (First Deputy Director of the State Security Department) and Choe Ryong-hae (Secretary for Military Affairs).[79] Pak Jong-su (First Deputy Head of the Organization Guidance Department), a leading facilitator of Kim Jong-un's succession, was appointed a candidate member of the Politburo.[79] The majority of the new members were either cabinet members, military officials, party secretaries and officials from the security establishment.[79] 10 members from the National Defense Commission were appointed to the Politburo, as well as three deputy premiers.[79] Leading economic experts such as Hong Sok-syong and Tae Jong-su became members, as well as leading foreign experts such as Kang Sok-chu, Kim Yong-il, and Kim Yang-kon.[79] At the 4th Conference, one-third of the Politburo was dismissed due to unannounced retirements and dismissals.[80] Jang Song-thaek, Pak To Chun and Vice Marshal Kim Jong-gak were promoted from candidate to full membership status in the Politburo, while Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong and Ri Myong Su, all members of the Central Military Commission, were appointed to full-membership status in the Politburo.[81] Kwak Pom Gi, O Kuk Ryol, Ro Tu Chol, Ri Pyong Sam and Jo Yon Jun were elected candidate members of the Politburo.[81]


The Presidium of the Politburo was established at the 6th Congress in 1980, and became the highest WPK organ when the Politburo and the Central Committee were not in session.[76] With the death of Oh Jin-u in 1995, Kim Jong-il remained the only member of the Presidium still alive, the four others (Kim Il-sung, Kim Il, Oh Jin U, and Lee Jong-ok) dying in office.[82] Between Oh Jin-u's death and the 3rd Conference, there was no reports which indicated that either Kim Jong-il or the central party leadership were planning to appoint new members of the Presidium.[83] The 1990s, especially after Kim Il-sung's death, began a period in which even pretense to follow the WPK Charter was dropped.[82] The Presidium was revitalized at the 3rd Conference, with four new members being appointed; Kim Yong-nam (Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, head of state), Choe Yong-rim (Premier, head of government), Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok (Director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army) and Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho (Chief of the General Staff).[79] The appointment of two military officers was seen by analysts to tie the WPK to Kim Jong-il's policy of "military-first" politics.[79] It was believed that Ri Yong-ho was serving as Kim Jong-un's personal military escort at the time, similar to Oh Jin-u's role during the early part of Kim Jong-il's rule.[79] At the 4th Conference, Vice Marshall Choe Ryong-hae was appointed a member of the Presidium.[81]


The Secretariat was established at the 2nd Conference in October 1966, and was similar to its counterpart in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) during Joseph Stalin's rule.[59] The formal head of the Secretariat was the General Secretary of the Central Committee.[59] It was responsible for overseeing and implementing Party policies as well as supervising party organs.[59] Its unknown how much independence the body has, but its likely a subservient body to the WPK leader, similar to the CPSU Secretariat during Stalin's rule[59] Until 1966, the WPK had no body similar to the Secretariat, which is strange seeing that a Secretariat was one of the most powerful bodies in other communist ruling parties.[59] It should be noted that the Secretariat was established during a power struggle, and was therefore formed as a means to strengthen Kim Il-sung's personal control over the party's lower-level organizations.[59] This explains why the large majority of the members of the 1st Secretariat were either full or candidate members of the WPK Politburo.[59] After winning the power struggle with his contenders in 1967–1968, the status of the Secretariat waned, which "has been reflected by the lower status of cadres appointed to the Secretariat in recent years", most notably at the 6th Congress. [59] At the 6th Congress, only 3 members out of 9 served concurrently as full-members of the Politburo; they were Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jung-rin (not a member of the Kim family).[84]

The Secretariat's prestige's continued to dwindle during Kim Jong-il's rule, with 5 out of 12 members dying in the interregnum between the 21st Plenary Session of the 6th Central Committee (held in December 1993) and the 3rd Conference.[85] Of the 7 remaining members, three were retired at the 3rd Conference.[85] The four incumbents were Kim Jong-il, Kim Ki-nam (Head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department), Choe Tae-pok (Head of the International Department) and Hong Sok-syong (Head of the Finance and Planning Department).[86] 7 new members were appointed to the Secretariat; Choe Ryong-hae as Secretary for Military Affairs, Mun Kyong-dok as Secretary for Pyongyang Affairs (through his office as Secretary of the WPK Pyongyang City Committee), Pak To-chun as Secretary of Defense Industry, Kim Yong-il as Secretary for International Affairs (took over Choe Tak-pok's portfolio's), Kim Yang-kon as Secretary for South Korean Affairs and Head of the United Front Department, Kim Pyong-hae as Secretary for Personnel and Thae Chong-su as Secretary of General Affairs (through his office as Head of the General Affairs Department).[87] At the 4th Conference, no members were retired, but Kim Kyong-hui (sister of Kim Jong-il) and Kwak Pom-gi were appointed as members, and Kim Jong-un, through his office as First Secretary, replaced the dead Kim Jong-il.[88]

Central Military Commission[edit]

The Central Military Commission was established in 1962.[89] An amendment to the WPK Charter in 1982 is believed to have made the CMC the equal of the Central Committee, making it able, for instance, to elect the WPK leader.[90] However, despite this, there are some who believe that at the 3rd Conference, the CMC became yet again responsible to the Central Committee.[67] According to Article 27 of the WPK Charter, the CMC is the highest party organ on military affairs and commands the Korean People's Army (KPA).[89] Another responsibility is guiding and developing the ammunitions of the KPA.[89] However, in practice, the CMC is a ceremonial body, and is subordinate to the National Defense Commission, a state organ.[89] The CMC Chairman has to concurrently serve as WPK First Secretary.[61]

The last public listing of the CMC was at the 21st Plenary Session of the 6th Central Committee (held in December 1993).[91] By the 3rd Conference, 7 out of the 19 members listed in 1993 were remaining, the other members had either passed away, retired or purged.[91] The CMC was revitalized at the 3rd Conference, with Kim Jong-un and Ri Yong-ho being elected CMC deputy chairmen.[91] With the exception of his Central Committee membership, this was Kim Jong-un's only title at this stage.[91] In many ways, the CMC functioned as an official forum for Kim Jong-un to build a patronage network.[91] New members included Vice Marshal Kim Yong-chun (Minister of People's Armed Forces), General Kim Myong-ruk (Chief of the Operation Bureau of the General Staff), General Yi Pyong-chol (Commander of the Korean People's Air Force), Admiral Chong Myong-do (Commander of the Korean People's Navy), Lieutenant General Kim Yong-chol, Colonel General Choe Kyong-song (both heads of the KPA's special forces), General Choe Pu-il and Colonel General Choe Sang-ryo (both members of the General Staff).[91] Civilians also had seats in the CMC, such as Jang Song-thaek (Head of the Administrative Department) for instance.[91] At the 4th Conference, Choe Ryong-hae was appointed CMC Chairman, while Vice Marshal Hyon Chol-hae, General Ri Myong-su and Kim Rak-gyom were elected to the CMC.[81]

Control Commission[edit]

The Control Commission, formerly the Inspection Commission, is elected by the party congress, but personnel changes can be made by a convening of a party conference or by the Central Committee.[92] Along with the Organization Guidance Department and the Cadre Affairs Department, the Control Commission is one of the leading central bodies of the WPK.[92] The Control Commission "is responsible for regulating membership" of the WPK, as well as looking into disciplinary issues involving party members. Investigation ranges from graft to anti-party and counter-revolutionary activities, but in general encompasses every party who violates party rules.[92] Lower-level organizations of the party, such as the organizations in the provincial and county-level, as well as individual members, can appeal directly to the Control Commission on cases if they see fit.[92]

Central Auditing Commission[edit]

The 3rd Conference reestablished the Central Auditing Commission (CAC).[93] Kim Chang-su and Pak Myong-sun were elected Chairman and Deputy Chairman respectively.[93] 13 other members were elected to the CAC.[93] The 4th Conference elected new members to the Central Auditing Commission to fill vacancies, but the people and the general membership of the CAC was not disclosed to the public.[81] In March 2013, at the 23rd Plenary Session of the 6th Central Committee, the entire CAC membership was replaced and new members were elected.[94] The new members were not disclosed to the public.[94]


Under Kim Jong-il's rule the Central Committee apparatus had undergone several reorganizations, but some departments were left largely untouched (mainly those responsible for the internal and organizational affairs of the party);[91] Organization Guidance, Propaganda and Agitation and the Cadre Affairs deapartments.[95] In contrast, departments responsible for overseeing the economy or South Korean affairs were constantly revamped, such as the Administrative Department (which was reestablished in 2006 after being a section of the Organization Guidance Department since the 1990s).[96] The United Front Department had its ups-and-downs during Kim Jong-il's rule, but was in 2006–2007 the centre of a purge.[96] The Economic Planning Department and the Agricultural Policy Department were abolished altogether in 2002–2003 in a move to strengthen the cabinet's control over the economy.[96] Further changes came in 2009 when the Film Department and the Light Industry Industrial Policy Department were established, while Office 38 was merged into Office 39 (and then reestablished later), the External Liaison Department was moved from WPK jurisdiction to the Cabinet, while Office 35 and the Operations Department were moved from WPK jurisdiction to the KPA Reconnaissance Bureau.[96] By the 3rd Conference, it became known to foreign observers that the Civil Defense Department had been abolished, and that certain heads of departments had retired (such as Chong Pyong-ho, Kim Kuk-tae and Ri Ha-il for instance).[96]

Apparatus-level organs (as of the 3rd Conference)[95]

Lower-level organization[edit]

The former member pin of the WPK

The WPK have local organizations for the three-levels of North Korean local government; (1) provinces and province-level municipalities, (2) special city, ordinary cities and urban districts and (3) rural counties and villages.[97] North Korea has nine provinces, and a provincial party committee exists in all nine of them.[97] The composition of these lower-organs are decided by the WPK a tier-up.[97]

The WPK has two kinds of members; regular and probationary.[98] Membership is open to those 18 years of age and older but is granted only to those who have demonstrated their qualifications; applica­tions are submitted to a cell along with a proper endorsement from two party members with at least two years in good standing.[98] An application is acted on by the plenary session of a cell; an affirmative decision is subject to ratification by a county-level party committee.[98] After approving an application, a one-year probationary period is mandatory, but it may be waived under certain unspecified “special circumstances,” allowing the candidate to become a full member.[98] Recruitment is under the direction of the Organization and Guidance Department and its local branches.[98]

The WPK claimed a membership of more than 3 million persons as of 1988, a significant increase from the 2 million members announced in 1976.[99] Later information on party membership strength has not been forthcoming from North Korea.[99] This increase may have been a result of the active mobilization drive for the Three Revolutions Team Movement.[99] The WPK has three constituencies: industrial workers, peasants, and intellectuals, that is, office workers.[99] Since 1948 indus­trial workers have constituted the largest percentage of party members, followed by peasants and intellectuals.[99] Beginning in the 1970s, when North Korea’s population reached the 50 percent urban mark, the com­position of the groups belonging to the party changed.[100] More people working in state-owned enterprises became party members, and the number of members working in agricultural cooperatives decreased.[100]


The Party's symbol is an adaptation of the communist hammer and sickle, but with a traditional Korean calligraphy brush used for writing, symbolizing the "working intellectual".


The WPK maintains a leftist image,[101] and normally sends a delegation to the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties where the WPK receives some support.[102] For instance, its 2011 resolution “Let us jointly commemorate the Birth Centenary of the Great Leader comrade President Kim Il Sung as a Grand Political Festival of the World’s Humankind” was signed by 30 of the 79 attending parties.[103] However, North Korea specialist Brian Reynolds Myers argues that there is a stark difference between DPRK’s and WPK’s propaganda to the international audience and domestic propaganda.[101] After analyzing the domestic propaganda, he concluded that the WPK is not a far-left or communist party, but rather a far-right party.[101] Myers holds that the party has a platform of “race-based, paranoid nationalism that has nothing to do with Marxism–Leninism,” making it more comparable to 1930’s Japan than to the communist parties of the Eastern Bloc.[104]


Relation to Marxism–Leninism[edit]

"Whatever the name and however elaborate his claim, Kim's Juche idea is nothing more than xenophobic nationalism that has little relevance to communism."

—Suh Dae-Sook, the author of Kim Il-sung: The North Korean Leader.[105]

Juche developed in a similar fashion to Stalinism (officially referred to as Marxism–Leninism under Stalin).[106] That is, a strong leader took power and presented himself as the only defender of ideological orthodoxy.[106] Many North Korean leaders, before and after Stalin's death, viewed Stalinism as the only correct interpretation of Marxism.[107] While the term Juche was first used in Kim Il-sung's speech "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work" (published in 1955), Juche as a coherent ideology did not develop until the 1960s.[108] Similar to Stalinism, Juche led to the development of an unofficial ideological system (later formalized) which defended the central party leadership.[107] Until circa 1972, Juche was referred to as a "creative application" of Marxism–Leninism and "the Marxism–Leninism of today" for instance, while Kim Il-sung was hailed as "the greatest Marxist–Leninist of our time".[107] However, by 1976, Juche had become a separate ideology altogether, with Kim Jong-il stating that Juche was "a unique ideology, the contents and structures which cannot simply be described as Marxist–Leninist."[107]

At the 5th Congress, Juche was elevated to the same level as Marxism–Leninism.[109] It gained in prominence during the 1970s, and at the 6th Congress in 1980, it was recognized as the only ideology of the WPK.[109] During the 1980s, Juche was transformed from a practical ideology to a pure ideology.[109] On the Juche Idea, the main book on Juche, was published in Kim Jong-il's name in 1982.[110] Juche, is according to the treatise, inexorably linked with Kim Il-sung, and "represents the guiding idea of the Korean Revolution ... we are confronted with the honorable task of modeling the whole society on the Juche idea".[110] 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".[110] The WPK's break with basic premises of Marxism–Leninism is spelled out clearer in the article "Let Us March Under the Banner of Marxism–Leninism and the Juche Idea".[111]

Despite the fact that Juche was conceived as a creative application of Marxism and Leninism,[112] there is little direct linkage between Juche theory and the theories of Marxism and Leninism.[113] A further problem is that policies were explained without Marxist or Leninist rationale, making it hard to trace specific influences from these ideologies.[113] Its easier to connect Juche with nationalism, but not a peculiar form of nationalism (the WPK claims to be socialist patriotists).[113] Considering how socialist patriotism is defined by the WPK, its difficult to see the difference between it and bourgeoise nationalism—the main difference is that socialist patriotism is nationalism in a socialist state.[114] Secondly, Juche developed as a reaction to foreign occupation, involvement and influence (mostly by the Chinese and Soviets) in North Korean affairs, and hence can be described "as a normal and healthy reaction of the Korean people to the deprivation they suffered under foreign domination."[115] However, there is nothing uniquely Marxist or Leninist in this reaction, and the main reason for it being described as communist is that it occurred in a self-proclaimed socialist state.[115] The main problem being that the WPK, and the North Korean leadership in general, have failed to explain how their policies are Marxist, Leninist or even communist, and the difference between Juche and the latter; the exception being that Juche is defined as Korean and the others are defined as foreign.[116]

Basic tenets[edit]

"You requested me to give a detailed explanation of the Juche idea. But there is no end to it. All the policies and lines of our Party emanate from the Juche idea and they embody this idea."

—Kim Il-sung, when asked by a Japanese interviewer to define Juche.[117]

Juche's main objective for North Korea is political, economic and military independence.[118] Kim Il-sung, in his speech to “Let Us Defend the Revolutionary Spirit of Independence, Self-Reliance, and Self-defense More Thoroughly in All Fields of State Activities", to the Supreme People's Assembly in 1967 summarizes Juche as following;[118]

"the Government of the Republic will implement with all consistency the line of independence, self-sustenance, and self-defense to consolidate the political independence of the country (chaju), build up more solidly the foundations of an independent national economy capable of insuring the complete unification, independence, and prosperity of our nation (charip) and increasing the country's defense capabilities, so as to safeguard the security of the fatherland reliably by our own force (chawi), by splendidly embodying our Party's idea of juche in all fields."[119]

The principle of political independence, referred to as chaju, is one of the central tenets.[120] Juche stresses equality and mutual respect amongst nations, and asserts that every state has the right of self-determination.[120] In practice, this belief in the right of self-determination and equal sovereignty has turned North Korea into a hermit kingdom.[120] As interpreted by the WPK, yielding to any form of foreign pressure or intervention would break the basic premise of Chaju, and directly threaten the country's ability to defend its sovereignty.[120] This could explain why Kim Jong-il believed that the Korean revolution would fail if North Korea became dependent on a foreign entity.[120] In relations with fellow socialist countries, such as China and the Soviet Union, Kim Il-sung urged cooperation, mutual support and dependence, and even acknowledged that it was important for North Korea to learn from other countries.[120] Despite this, Kim Il-sung abhorred the notion that North Korea could and should be dependent on either China or the Soviet Union, and did not wish to follow their respective models dogmatically.[120] Kim Il-sung specifically said that the WPK needed to "resolutely repudiate the tendency to swallow things of others undigested or imitate them mechanically".[120] He attributed the successes in North Korea on the WPK's independent manner of implementing policies.[120] To ensure the safety of North Korean independence, official pronouncement stressed the need for the people to unify under the WPK and the Great Leader.[120]

Economic independence, referred to as charip, is seen as the material bases of chaju.[120] One of Kim Il-sung's biggest fears was the possibility of North Korea becoming dependent on foreign aid, believing it could threaten North Korea's ability to construct socialism.[120] Only a country with a strong independent economy, Kim Il-sung believed, could construct socialism.[120] Charip stresses building an independent national economy which has heavy industry (with machine-building industry at its core).[120] This sector would then, in theory equip all other sectors of the economy.[120] In the words of Kim Jong-il;[121]

"building an independent national economy means building an economy which is free from dependence on others and which stands on its own feet, an economy which serves one’s own people and develops on the strength of the resources of one’s own country and by the efforts of one’s people."[121]

The last, military independence, referred to as chawi, was considered crucial by Kim Il-sung.[121] While Kim Il-sung did acknowledge that North Korea may need military support in case of war against the imperialist enemies, he emphasized domestic response.[121] The party and state's attitude to military confrontation was summed by Kim Il-sung as following; "We do not want war, nor are we afraid of it, nor do we beg peace from the imperialists."[121]

According to Juche, man has ultimate control over himself and therefore has the ability to change the world.[122] The explanation being that man can change things because he has consciousness.[122] This is a break with classical Marxism, which states that humans are dependent on their relations to the means of production.[123] Grace Lee contends that Juche's view's on individual ability contradicts classical Marxism.[123] She further adds that the Juche view that the revolution is led by a Great Leader, rather than a group of knowledgeable revolutionaries, is a break with Vladimir Lenin's conception of a vanguard party.[123]



Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels never clarified the different between nation and law, and rather focused on class divisions within nations.[107] They argued that nation and law (as it existed during their time) would be vanquished and replaced by proletarian rule.[107] This was the mainstream view with Soviet theoreticians in the 1920s.[124] By 1929, this position was under attack, with Stalin at the helm.[124] Stalin attacked Nikolai Bukharin's position that the proletariat was hostile to the state, whatever inclination the state had.[124] He argued that since the state in the Soviet Union was in the transition from the capitalist mode of production to the socialist, the relationship between the state and the proletariat was harmonized.[124] By 1936 Stalin argued that the state would still be in existence even if the Soviet Union reached the communist mode of production if the socialist world was still encircled by the forces of capitalism.[124] Kim Il-sung would take this position to its logical conclusion, arguing that the state (and the oppressive functions of the state) would exist, even if North Korea reached the communist mode of production, until the future world revolution.[124] The reason being that, as long as capitalism survived (even if the socialist world was in a clear majority), North Korea could still be threatened by a capitalist restoration.[125]

The rehabilitation of the state in the Soviet Union under Stalin, and under Kim Il-sung, led to the rehabilitation of the nation in official discourse.[125] Despite official statements that the Soviet Union was based upon class and not nation, the term itself was rehabilitated in the 1930s.[125] Similar occurrence happened during Kim Il-sung's rule, in 1955, hallmarked with his speech; "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work". In it, he said;[125]

"What we are doing now is not a revolution in some foreign country but our Korean revolution. Therefore, every ideological action must benefit the Korean revolution. To fullfill the Korean revolution, one should be perfectly cognizant of the history of our national struggle, of Korea's geography, and our customs."[125]

From then on, Kim Il-sung and the WPK stressed the role in which "revolutionary tradition" and the cultural tradition of Korea played in the Korean revolution.[125] At party meetings, members and cadres were learnt about North Korea's national prestige and its coming rejuvenation.[125] Old traditional customs were brought back to showcase Koreaness.[125] Further, by 1965, Kim Il-sung claimed that if communists continued to oppose individuality and sovereignty, the movement as a whole would be threatened by dogmatism and revisionism.[126] He criticized those communists, he believed, who subscribed to "national nihilism by praising all things foreign and vilifying all things national", and who at the same time tried to copy foreign models onto their own country.[126] By the 1960s, Juche had become a full-fledged ideology, which called for a distinct path for North Korean socialist construction and non-interference in its affairs, however, by the 1970s Juche became defined as a system whose "fundamental principle was the realization of sovereignty".[126]

While WPK theoreticians were at first hostile towards using the terms "nation" and "nationalism", being still influenced by the Stalinist definition of the state, by the 1970s the Stalinist definition of the nation was changed from "a stable, historically formed community of people based on common language, territory, economic life, and culture" to include "Shared bloodline".[126] In the 1980s, common economic life was removed from the slogan, and the shared bloodline was emphasized more.[127] With the democratic transition undergoing in South Korea and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the WPK revised the meaning of nationalism.[127] Having previously been defined in Stalinist terms, being a weapon of the bourgeoise to exploit the workers, nationalism was changed from being a reactionary idea to a progressive one.[127] More specifically, Kim Il-sung separated from "nationalism" and what he called "genuine nationalism"; genuine nationalism was a progressive idea, while nationalism remained reactionary.[127] He specified that;[127]

"True nationalism [genuine nationalism] is similar to patriotism. Only a genuine patriot can become a devoted and true internationalist. In this sense, when I say communist, at the same time, I mean nationalist and internationalist."[127]

Allegations of xenophobia[edit]

In the 1960s, the WPK began forcing ethnic Koreans to divorce their Europeans partners (mostly from the Eastern Bloc).[128] A high-standing WPK official said the marriages were "a crime against the Korean race".[128] The Eastern Bloc embassies located in North Korea began to accuse the regime of fascism.[128] In May 1963, a Soviet diplomat described the political circle around Kim Il-sung as "political Gestapo" (the Gestapo being the secret service of Nazi Germany).[128] Similar remarks were given by other Eastern Bloc officials in North Korea, with the East German ambassador referring to the policy as "Goebbelsian" (a reference to Joseph Goebbels, a leading Nazi German).[128] According to Jasper Becker, these remarks came during the nadir in relations between North Korea and the Eastern Bloc, but the remarks do point out the racist nature of Kim Il-sung's policies.[128]

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 and that it exists to be praised and not actually read.[129] pointing out that North Korea's latest constitution, of 2009, omits all mention of communism.[130] Myers states that Juche is merely a sham ideology developed to extol Kim Il-sung as a political thinker alongside Mao Zedong.[104] According to The Cleanest Race, the North Korean state's military-first policy, racism and xenophobia – as indicated, for example, by an extreme sense of race-based nationalism and incidents like the attempted lynching of Black Cuban diplomats and the forced abortions of North Korean women pregnant with ethnic Chinese children – mean it is founded on the politics of the far-right inherited from Imperial Japan during their colonial occupation of Korea, rather than the far-left.[129][130]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sometimes referred to as the Korean Workers' Party (KWP).



  1. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 20.
  2. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 21.
  3. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 22.
  4. ^ Lankov 2002, pp. 21–22.
  5. ^ Lankov 2002, pp. 28–29.
  6. ^ a b Lankov 2002, p. 29.
  7. ^ a b c d Lankov 2002, p. 31.
  8. ^ Lankov 2002, pp. 31–32.
  9. ^ Lankov 2002, pp. 33–40.
  10. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 40.
  11. ^ a b Lankov 2002, p. 42.
  12. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 44.
  13. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 45.
  14. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 47.
  15. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 60.
  16. ^ a b Lankov 2002, p. 61.
  17. ^ a b c d Lankov 2002, p. 62.
  18. ^ a b c d e Lankov 2002, p. 65.
  19. ^ a b c d e Lankov 2002, p. 66.
  20. ^ a b c d Lankov 2002, p. 70.
  21. ^ Lankov 2002, pp. 62–63.
  22. ^ Lankov 2002, p. 63.
  23. ^ a b Lankov 2002, p. 72.
  24. ^ a b c d Lankov 2002, p. 73.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Lee 1982, p. 442.
  26. ^ Lee 1982, p. 434.
  27. ^ a b c Buzo 1999, p. 105.
  28. ^ Buzo 1999, pp. 105–106.
  29. ^ Buzo 1999, p. 106.
  30. ^ Gause 2011, p. 7.
  31. ^ a b Gause 2011, p. 8.
  32. ^ a b Gause 2011, p. 11.
  33. ^ Gause 2011, pp. 11–13.
  34. ^ a b c Gause 2011, p. 13.
  35. ^ Gause 2011, p. 15.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h Gause 2011, p. 18.
  37. ^ Gause 2011, p. 22.
  38. ^ Gause 2011, p. 23.
  39. ^ a b Gause 2011, p. 24.
  40. ^ a b c d e Park & Snyder 2013, p. 20.
  41. ^ a b Park & Snyder 2013, pp. 30–32.
  42. ^ Choi & Hibbitts 2010, p. 3.
  43. ^ Park & Snyder 2013, p. 19.
  44. ^ DPRK's ruling party to convene conference in April
  45. ^ 4th Party Conference of WPK Held, Rodong Sinmun, 12 April 2012.
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  47. ^ a b Lee 2004, p. 5.
  48. ^ a b Lee 2004, p. 6.
  49. ^ a b c d e Lee 2004, p. 7.
  50. ^ a b Lee 2004, p. 8.
  51. ^ a b Lee 2004, p. 9.
  52. ^ Becker 2005, p. 44.
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