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Juche (Chosŏn'gŭl: 주체; hancha: 主體; RR: Chuch'e; Korean pronunciation: ), usually translated as "self-reliance", is the official political ideology of North Korea, described by the regime as Kim Il-Sung's "original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought". The idea states that an individual is "the master of his destiny" and that the North Korean masses are to act as the "masters of the revolution and construction".
Kim Il-Sung (1912-1994) developed the ideology – originally viewed as a variant of Marxism-Leninism – to become distinctly "Korean" in character, breaking ranks with the deterministic and materialist ideas of Marxism-Leninism and strongly emphasising the individual, the nation state and its sovereignty. Consequentially, Juche was adopted into a set of principles that the North Korean government has used to justify its policy decisions from the 1950s onwards. Such principles include moving the nation towards "chaju" (independence), through the construction of "charip" (national economy) and an emphasis upon "chawi" (self-defence), in order to establish socialism.
The Juche ideology has been criticized by scholars and observers as a mechanism for sustaining the authoritarian rule of the North Korean regime, justifying the country's heavy-handed isolationism. It has also been attested to be a form of Korean ethnic nationalism, acting in order to promote the Kim family as the saviours of the "Korean Race" and acting as a foundation of the subsequent personality cult surrounding them. In contrast to such criticism and to accusations of seclusion, the North Korean government claims that Juche has become an internationally influential idea and movement, stressing its "influence" in other nations.
- Origin 1.1
- Development 1.2
- Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism 2.1
- Socialism of Our Style 2.2
- "Great Leader" theory 2.3
- The "masses" 2.4
- Songun 2.5
Religious features of Juche 3
- Presence of a Sacred Leader 3.1
- Rituals 3.2
- Familism 3.3
- Criticism 4
- See also 5
- Footnotes 6.1
- Sources 6.2
- External links 7
|Hancha||主 體 思想|
|Revised Romanization||Juche sasang|
Juche (or chuch'e) is a word which is hard to translate. Literally, it means "subjectivity" or "agency", and in political discourse has a connotation of "self-reliance" and of "independence".
The official line of the North Korean regime attributes the origin of Juche to Kim Il-Sung's experiences in the "Anti-Imperialist Youth League" in 1930 in his "Liberation struggle" against Japan. However, the first documented reference to Juche as an ideology did not appear until 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-yeop, 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 creed.
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.":421–422
In the speech On Socialist Construction and the South Korean Revolution in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, given on April 14, 1965, Kim Il-sung outlined the three fundamental principles of Juche:
- 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)
"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 Juche Tower, completed in 1982, incorporated commemorative plaques from supporters and "Juche Study Groups" from around the world. The Black Panther Party of the US expressed sympathy to the ideology.
On the Juche Idea is the main work on Juche in North Korea, was published 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 (KWP) is responsible for indoctrinating the masses in the ways of Juche thinking. 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". 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 they were "divorced from the masses". The KWP'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.
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 (the year of Kim Il-sung's birth), while years after 1911 are described as "Juche years". The Gregorian year 2015, for example, is "Juche 104", as 2015 = 1911 + 104. When used, "Juche years" are often accompanied by the Gregorian equivalent, i.e. "Juche 104, 2015" or "Juche 104 (2015)".
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 to the North Korean lexicon, Kim Jong-il allegedly launched a "Kimilsungism-ization [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 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 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.
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
Socialism of Our Style, also referred to as Korean-style socialism and our-style socialism within North Korea, 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 regimes in the Eastern Bloc, 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". 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
- C-SPAN Video – Book Discussion on The Cleanest Race: B.R. Myers takes an in-depth look at North Korean society and the domestic propaganda to which its citizens are exposed. Myers argues that North Korea is a paranoid, military-dominated nationalist state with a government that is influenced heavily by Japanese fascism.
- The International Institute of the Juche Idea
- Juche at Naenara
- Revolutionary View of the Leader
Articles & journals
- Cumings 1997, pp. 207,403–404.
- Abt 2014, pp. 73–74.
- Hyung-chan Kim and Tong-gyu Kim. Human Remolding in North Korea: A Social History of Education. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. 2005. p. 10.
- Choe, Yong-ho., Lee, Peter H., and de Barry, Wm. Theodore., eds. Sources of Korean Tradition, Chichester, NY: Columbia University Press, p. 419, 2000.
- French, Paul. North Korea: The Paranoid Peninsula – A Modern History.2nd ed. New York: Zed Books, 2007. 30. Print.
- Cumings 1997, p. 404.
- Kwak 2009, p. 19.
- Kwak 2009, p. 20.
- Rules on use of Juche Era adopted - KCNA.
- Lim 2012, p. 561.
- Shin 2006, p. 89.
- Shin 2006, pp. 89–90.
- Shin 2006.
- Shin 2006, p. 90.
- Shin 2006, pp. 90–91.
- Shin 2006, p. 91.
- Rüdiger 2013, p. 45.
- Alton & Chidley 2013, p. 109.
- Kim Jong-un, Let Us Brilliantly Accomplish the Revolutionary Cause of Juche, Holding the Great Comrade Kim Jong Il in High Esteem as the Eternal General Secretary of Our Party, 6 April 2012.
- Shin 2006, pp. 91–92.
- Shin 2006, p. 92.
- Shin 2006, p. 92–93.
- Lee 2004, p. 4.
- Lee 2004, p. 5.
- Lee 2004, p. 6.
- Lee 2004, p. 7.
- Lee 2004, p. 8.
- Lee 2004, p. 9.
- Kihl & Kim 2006, p. 63.
- Kihl & Kim 2006, p. 64.
- Jung 2013, p. 95.
- Helgesen 1991, p. 205.
- Helgesen 1991, p. 206.
- Jung 2013, p. 101.
- Jung 2013, p. 96.
- Jung 2013, p. 111.
- Armstrong 2005, p. 383.
- Armstrong 2005, p. 389.
- Armstrong 2005, p. 390.
- Armstrong 2005, p. 384.
- Armstrong 2005, p. 385.
- Shin 2006, pp. 91–94.
- Shin 2006, p. 93.
- Shin 2006, p. 94.
- Abt 2014, pp. 62–63.
- 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
- List of Korea-related topics
- Political religion
- Imperial cult
Brian Reynolds Myers 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. Based on his own experiences living in North Korea, Felix Abt describes Myers' arguments as "shaky," "absurd," 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.
Charles K. Armstrong says "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 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."
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 cult of personality surrounding Kim further 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 by 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.
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, the North Korean familial nationalism has supplanted the "rather abstract, class-oriented language of socialism with a more easily understandable and identifiable language of familial connection, love and obligation."
Charles K. Armstrong argues that familism has transformed into a kind of political religion in the form of Juche. With the emergence of Juche as the North Korea's guiding political principle since the 1960s, the familial relationships within the micro-family unit has become translated into a national, macro-unit with Kim Il-sung representing the father figure and the North Korean people his children. Thus, Juche is based on the language of family relationships with its East Asian or neo-Confucian "resonances of filial piety and maternal love."
 Thus, 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. seems to originate from the Juche The Festival's effectiveness in transforming its participants into loyal disciples of  The Arirang Festival has been described to demonstrate the power of the North Korean regime 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."
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, North Korea. 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.
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, calling the cult of personality as non-Marxist and non-democratic.
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 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 to be a religious movement as much as a political ideology.
Although the ideology appears to emphasize the central role of the human individual, Juche can only be fulfilled 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 Korea's cult of personality surrounding Kim Il Sung. The personality cult explains how the Juche ideology has been able to endure until today, even during North Korean government’s undeniable dependence on foreign assistance during its famine in the 1990s.
Presence of a Sacred Leader
Some South Korean scholars categorize Juche as a national religion or compare its allegedly religious facets to those of other religions or religious movements. For instance, Juche has been compared to neo-Confucianism and Korean shamanism. While the influence of East Asian and Western traditional religions on Juche is widely disputed, the ideology has been examined in several academic studies as a national and indigenous religious movement rather than solely a political philosophy for the following features: presence of a sacred leader, rituals, and familism.
Religious features of Juche
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 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.
They believed in the rapid industrialization through labor and believed in subjecting nature to human will. 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.:404:405
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).
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 — peasant, worker and the samuwon (intellectuals and professionals), where each being 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.
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 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. Thus, in historical development, it is the Great Leader who 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 who 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 Marxism–Leninism, which places material forces as the driving force of historical progress (known as historical materialism), North Korea considers human beings in general 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 humans in Marxist-Leninist thought, in which ones decisions are inextricably linked to their 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". Marxism–Leninism argues that the popular masses will lead (on the basis of their relation to production); 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.
"Great Leader" theory
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.