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Torch symbolizing the Juche ideology at the top of the Juche Tower in Pyongyang
Korean name
Revised Romanization Juche sasang
McCune–Reischauer Chuch'e sasang
Literally "subject(ive) thought" [1]

Juche (McCune–Reischauer: Chuch'e) ( /dʒˈtʃ/ ; Loudspeaker.svg English pronunciation  ; Korean : 주체/主體, lit. ' subject '; Korean pronunciation:  [tɕutɕʰe] ; usually left untranslated [1] or translated as "self-reliance") is the official ideology of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), described by the government as "Kim Il-sung's original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought". [2] It postulates that "man is the master of his destiny", [3] that the Korean masses are to act as the "masters of the revolution and construction" and that by becoming self-reliant and strong, a nation can achieve true socialism. [3]


Kim Il-sung (1912–1994) developed the ideology, which was originally viewed as a variant of Marxism–Leninism until it became a distinct ideology [2] while it incorporated the historical materialist ideas of Marxism–Leninism and strongly emphasized the individual, the nation state and its sovereignty. [2] Consequently, the North Korean government adopted Juche into a set of principles and it has used these principles to justify its policy decisions from the 1950s onwards. Such principles include moving the nation towards claimed jaju (자주;自主, "independence") [2] through the construction of a jarip (자립;自立, "national economy") and an emphasis upon jawi (자위;自衛, "self-defence") in order to establish socialism. [2]

The ideology developed after losing its original Marxist–Leninist elements. [4] [5] According to North Korea: A Country Study by Robert L. Worden, Marxism–Leninism was abandoned immediately after the start of de-Stalinisation in the Soviet Union and it has been totally replaced by Juche since at least 1974. [6]


Juche comes from the Sino-Japanese word 主體 (modern spelling: 主体), whose Japanese reading is shutai. The word was coined in 1887 to translate the concept of Subjekt in German philosophy (subject, meaning "the entity perceiving or acting upon an object or environment") into Japanese. The word migrated to the Korean language at around the turn of the century and retained this meaning. [7] Shutai went on to appear in Japanese translations of Karl Marx's writings. [8] North Korean editions of Marx used the word Juche even before the word was attributed to Kim Il-sung in its supposedly novel meaning in 1955. [9]

In today's political discourse on North Korea, Juche has a connotation of "self-reliance", "autonomy" and "independence". [10] [11] [12] It is often defined in opposition to the Korean concept of Sadae , or reliance on the great powers. [13] South Koreans use the word without reference to the North Korean ideology. [14]



Official statements by the North Korean government attribute the origin of Juche to Kim Il-sung's experiences in the Anti-Imperialist Youth League in 1930 in his liberation struggle against Japan. [3] [15] The first documented reference to Juche as an ideology appeared in 1955 in a speech given by Kim Il-sung entitled "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work". The speech had been delivered to promote a political purge similar to the earlier Yan'an Rectification Movement in China. [16]

Hwang Jang-yop, Kim's top adviser on ideology, discovered Kim's 1955 speech in the late 1950s when Kim, having established a cult of personality, [17] sought to develop his own version of Marxism–Leninism into a North Korean ideology. [18] [19]


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. [20]

In the 1965 speech "On Socialist Construction in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the South Korean Revolution" given on 14 April 1965, Kim Il-sung outlined the three fundamental principles of Juche:

  1. Political independence (Korean : 자주; RR : jaju; MR : chaju)
  2. Economic self-sustenance (Korean : 자립; RR : jarip; MR : charip)
  3. Self-reliance in defence (Korean : 자위; RR : jawi; MR : chawi)

On the Juche Idea , the main work on Juche, was published in North Korea in Kim Jong-il's name in 1982. [21] In North Korea it functions as "the authoritative and comprehensive explanation of Juche". [21] According to the treatise, the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) is responsible for educating the masses in the ways of Juche thinking. [21] According to the treatise, Juche is inexorably linked with Kim Il-sung and it "represents the guiding idea of the Korean Revolution [...] we are confronted with the honorable task of modeling the whole society on the Juche idea". [21] 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" [21] while criticizing the "communists and nationalists" of the 1920s for their elitist posture, claiming that they were "divorced from the masses". [22] The WPK's break with basic premises of Marxism–Leninism emerges more clearly in the article "Let Us March Under the Banner of Marxism–Leninism and the Juche Idea". [22]

In August 1997, the Central People's Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea promulgated regulations regarding use of the Juche Era calendar. Gregorian calendar dates are used for years before 1912 while years from 1912 (the year of Kim Il-sung's birth) are described as "Juche years". The Gregorian year 2021, for example, is "Juche110" as 2021-1911=110. When used, "Juche years" are often accompanied by the Gregorian equivalent, i.e. "Juche110, 2021" or "Juche110 (2021)". [23]

International outreach

Kim believed that Juche's principles could be applied around the world, not just in Korea. [24] Since 1976 North Korea has organized international seminars on Juche. The International Scientific Seminar on the Juche Idea took place in Antananarivo from 28 September to 30 September 1976 under the sponsorship of the Democratic Republic of Madagascar. Many prominent party and government officials, public figures, representatives of revolutionary and progressive organizations, scientists and journalists from more than fifty countries attended. Malagasy President Didier Ratsiraka expressed strong sympathies and support for North Korea. An excerpt from the opening speech says:

Regardless of the opposition forces, the determination of the people and their strength and conviction are not measured by territorial dimensions, possession of advanced technology, still less, opulence or riches. For those who wish to forget the lesson of history so easily and so quickly, Algeria, Viet Nam( sic ), 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. [25]

The International Institute of the Juche Idea was established[ by whom? ] in Tokyo in 1978 in order to supervise the activities of international Juche research-groups. [26] The Juche Tower in Pyongyang, completed in 1982, incorporated commemorative plaques from supporters and Juche Study Groups from around the world. [11] In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Panther Party of the United States expressed sympathy for the Juche ideology. [27] [28] In 2016, the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party identified Juche as the guiding idea in its governance of the city of Bhaktapur. [29]



Kim Jong-il possibly first mentioned Kimilsungism in 1974 [30] and it was introduced[ by whom? ] alongside the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System. [31] Not long after the term's introduction into the North Korean lexicon, Kim Jong-il allegedly launched a "Kimilsungism-isation[ sic ] of the Whole Society" campaign. [32] Campaigns were introduced so as to strengthen Kim Jong-il's position within the Workers' Party of Korea. [32] According to political analyst Lim Jae-cheon, "Kimilsungism refers to the thoughts of Kim Il-sung. It is interchangeable with the juche[ sic ] idea". [32] However, in his 1976 speech "On Correctly Understanding the Originality of Kimilsungism", Kim Jong-il said that Kimilsungism comprises the "Juche idea and a far-reaching revolutionary theory and leadership method evolved from this idea". [33] Previously the official media had described Kim Il-sung's thoughts as "contemporary Marxism–Leninism" - by calling them "Kimilsungism", Kim Jong-il was trying to elevate the ideas to the same level as Maoism, Hoxhaism and Stalinism. [34] The younger Kim further argued that Kim Il-sung's thoughts had evolved and they therefore deserved their own distinct name. [34] [ need quotation to verify ] He further added that "Kimilsungism is an original idea that cannot be explained within the frameworks of Marxism–Leninism. The idea of Juche, which constitutes the quintessence of Kimilsungism, is an idea newly discovered in the history of mankind". [34] Kim Jong-il went further, stating that Marxism–Leninism had become obsolete and must be replaced by Kimilsungism: [35]

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. [35]

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". [35] In many ways, the new terminology signaled a move from socialism to nationalism. [35] This became very clear in a Kim Jong-il speech in 1982, when North Korea celebrated Kim Il-sung's 70th birthday in which love for the nation came before love for socialism. [36] This particularism gave birth to such concepts as "A Theory of the Korean Nation as Number One and Socialism of Our Style". [37]

Following the death of Kim Jong-il in December 2011, Kimilsungism became Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism at the 4th Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea  [ ko ] [38] in April 2012. As well as stating that the WPK was "the party of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il", the conference proclaimed Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism as "the only guiding idea of the party". [38] 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". [39] Kim Jong-un, the WPK First Secretary, said:

"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." [40]

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 Kim Jong-il introduced on 27 December 1990 in the speech "Socialism of Our Country is a Socialism of Our Style as Embodied by the Juche idea". [37] Speaking after the Revolutions of 1989 that brought down the Eastern Bloc regimes, Kim Jong-il explicitly stated that North Korea needed—and survived because of—Socialism of Our Style. [37] He argued that socialism in Eastern Europe failed because they "imitated the Soviet experience in a mechanical manner". [37] According to Kim, they failed to understand that the Soviet experience was based on specific historical and social circumstances and could not be used by other countries aside from the Soviet Union itself. [37] 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". [37] Kim Jong-il went on to criticize "dogmatic application" of Marxism–Leninism, stating: [41]

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. [41]

North Korea would not encounter such difficulties because of the conceiving of Juche. [42] In his words, North Korea was "a backward, colonial semifeudal society" when the Communists took over, but since the North Korean Communists did not accept Marxism because it was based on European capitalist experiences, or Leninism, which was based on Russia's experience, they conceived of Juche. [42] Additionally, he believed the situation in North Korea was also more complex because of the American presence in South Korea. [42] Thanks to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il argued, the revolution had "put forward original lines and policies suited to our people's aspirations and the specific situation of our country". [42] "The Juche idea is a revolutionary theory which occupies the highest stage of development of the revolutionary ideology of the working class", Kim Jong-il said, further stating that the originality and superiority of the Juche idea defined and strengthened Korean socialism. [42] He then conceded by stating that Socialism of Our Style was "a man-centered Socialism", explicitly making a break with basic Marxist–Leninist thought, which argues that material forces are the driving force of historical progress, not people. [42] Socialism of Our Style was presented as an organic sociopolitical theory, using the language of Marxism–Leninism, saying: [43]

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. [43]

"Great Leader" theory

Unlike Marxism–Leninism, which considers improvements in the material conditions of production and exchange as the driving force of historical progress (known as historical materialism), Juche considers human beings in general the driving force in history. [44] It is summarized as "the popular masses are placed in the center of everything, and the leader is the center of the masses". [44] Juche, North Korea maintains, is a "man-centered ideology" in which "man is the master of everything and decides everything". [44] In contrast to Marxist–Leninist thought in which people's decisions are inextricably linked to their relations to the means of production (a concept referred to as "relations of production"), in Juche thought man is independent and decides everything. [44] Just like Marxist–Leninist thought, Juche believes history is law-governed, but that it is only man who drives progress, stating that "the popular masses are the drivers of history". [45] However, for the masses to be successful, they need a "Great Leader". [45] Marxism–Leninism argues that the popular masses will lead (on the basis of their relation to production), but in North Korea the role of a Great Leader should be essential for leadership. [46] This theory allegedly helped Kim Il-sung establish a unitary, one-man rule over North Korea. [46]

The theory turns the Great Leader into an absolutist, supreme leader. [47] The working class is not to think for themselves, but instead to think through the Great Leader. [47] 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. [47] Class struggle can be realized only through the Great Leader and difficult tasks in general and revolutionary changes in particular can be introduced only through and by the Great Leader. [47] In historical development, it is the Great Leader who is the leading force of the working class. [47] The Great Leader is also a flawless and incorruptible human being who never commits mistakes, who is always benevolent and who always rules for the masses. [48] For the Great Leader system to function, a unitary ideological system must be in place. [49] In North Korea, that unitary ideological system is known as the Ten Principles for a Monolithic Ideological System. [49]

The "masses"

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 nation into three classes, namely peasant, worker and samuwon (intellectuals and professionals), where each was just as important as the other. The samuwon class consisted of clerks, small traders, bureaucrats, professors and writers. This was a unique class that was created to increase education and literacy of North Korea's population.

Normally, Communist nations would value only the farmers or laborers, thus in the Soviet Union the intelligentsia was not defined as an independent class of its own, but rather as a "social stratum" that recruited itself from members of almost all classes: proletariat, petite bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie. However, a "peasant intelligentsia" was never mentioned. Correspondingly, the "proletarian intelligentsia" was exalted for bringing forth progressive scientists and Marxist theoreticians whereas the "bourgeois intelligentsia" was condemned for producing "bourgeois ideology", which were all non-Marxist worldviews. Language reforms followed revolutions more than once, such as the New Korean Orthography in North Korea (which failed due to Korean ethnic nationalist fears of precluding Korean unification), or the simplification of Chinese characters under Mao Zedong (a consequence of the divergent orthographic choices of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China), or the simplification of the Russian language after the 1917 revolution in Russia and consequent struggle against illiteracy, known in Soviet Russia as Likbez (Likvidaciya Bezgramotnosti, liquidation of illiteracy).

They believed in rapid industrialization through labor and in subjecting nature to human will. By restructuring social classes into a mass of people who are theoretically all equal, the North Korean government claimed it would be able to attain self-reliance or Juche in upcoming years. This is questionable, because the country suffers massive food shortages annually and is heavily dependent on foreign aid. [50]


Songun (literally "military-first policy") was first mentioned on 7 April 1997 in Rodong Sinmun under the headline "There Is a Victory for Socialism in the Guns and Bombs of the People's Army". [51] It defined the military-centered thinking of the time by stating; "the revolutionary philosophy to safeguard our own style of socialism under any circumstances". [51] The concept was credited to "Respected General Kim Jong-il". [51] In a joint editorial on 16 June 1998 entitled "Our Party's Military-First Politics Will Inevitably Achieve Victory and Will Never Be Defeated" by Kulloja (the WPK theoretical magazine) and Rodong Sinmun, it was stated that Songun meant "the leadership method under the principle of giving priority to the military and resolving the problems that may occur in the course of revolution and construction as well as establishing the military as the main body of the revolution in the course of achieving the total tasks of socialism". [52] 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. [52] 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. [52] This date is considered the beginning of the Songun era. [52]

Juche in practice

In the view of some observers, Juche is not mere rhetoric, but rather an ideal of self-reliance that North Korea has attempted to put into practice. [53] [54] [55]


Based on On the Juche Idea , Kim Jong-il argued: "Independence is not in conflict with internationalism but is the basis of its strengthening". [56] He stated that North Korea co-operated with "socialist countries", the "international communist movement" and "newly-emerging nations" on the basis of non-interference, equality and mutual benefit. [57]

North Korea emerged from Soviet occupation and fought alongside the Chinese Communists in the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War. However, it soon asserted its independence from both the Soviet Union and China. Though it rejected de-Stalinization, it avoided taking sides in the Sino-Soviet split. As the Communist bloc split, introduced market reforms and collapsed, North Korea increasingly emphasized Juche in both theory and practice. [58] [59] [60]

North Korea was admitted to the Non-Aligned Movement in 1975 and began to present itself as a leader of the Third World. It fostered diplomatic relations with developing countries and promoted Juche as a model for others to follow. [61] [62]

National survival has been seen as a guiding principle of North Korea's diplomatic strategy. [63] Even in the midst of economic and political crises, North Korea continues to emphasize its independence on the world stage. [64]


In On the Juche Idea, Kim Jong-il stated: "In order to implement the principle of economic self-sufficiency, one must build an independent national economy". [57] More specifically, he stated, "Heavy industry with the machine-building industry as its backbone is the pillar of an independent national economy". [65] He also emphasized the importance of technological independence [66] and self-sufficiency in resources. [67] However, he stated that this did not rule out international economic co-operation. [67]

In 1956, Kim Il-sung declared Juche to be the guiding principle of the North Korean economy. After the devastation of the Korean War, North Korea began to rebuild its economy with a base in heavy industry, with the aim of becoming as self-sufficient as possible. [68] As a result, North Korea developed what has been called the "most autarkic industrial economy in the world". [53] [69] North Korea received a lot of economic aid and technical assistance from the Soviet Union and China, but it did not join Comecon, the Communist common market. [70] [55] In the 1990s, it had one of the world's lowest rates for dependence on petroleum, using hydroelectric power and coal instead of imported oil. [71] Its textile industry uses vinylon, known as the "Juche fiber", which was invented by a Korean and which is made from locally available coal and limestone. [72] [73] The history of the development of vinylon often featured in propaganda that preached the virtues of technological self-reliance. [69] North Korea had 10,000 CNC machines in 2010. [74] The first domestic homemade CNC machine was introduced in 1995 and in 2017 it has around 15,000 machines. [75]

Commentators have often pointed out the discrepancy between the principle of self-sufficiency and North Korea's dependence on foreign aid, especially during its economic crisis in the 1990s. [76] The pursuit of economic autarky has been blamed for contributing to the crisis. [77] On this view, attempts at self-sufficiency led to inefficiency and to the neglect of export opportunities in industries where there was a comparative advantage. [78]


In On the Juche Idea, Kim Jong-il stated: "Self-reliance in defense is a fundamental principle of an independent sovereign state". [79] He stated that it was possible to get aid from friends and allies, but that this would be effective only if the state was militarily strong in its own right. [80] He advocated a state where "all the people are under arms and the whole country becomes a fortress". [81] He also advocated the development of a local defense industry to avoid dependence on foreign arms suppliers. [82]

North Korea has attempted to put this into practice. [83] The Korean People's Army is one of the largest on earth. It has developed its own nuclear missile. [84] [85] Domestic production of UDMH fuel for liquid fueled missiles [86] and Tumansky RD-9 Turbojet engine which powers Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 and Shenyang J-6. [87] CNC machines are used for production of missiles and centrifuges. [75] North Korea's propaganda since the Korean War has contrasted its military autonomy with the presence of American forces in the South. [69]

Religious features of Juche

Some South Korean scholars categorize Juche as a national religion or they compare its facets to those of some religions. For instance, Juche has been compared to pre-existing religions in Korea (notably neo-Confucianism and Korean shamanism) due to their shared familiar principles. [88] While the influence of traditional East Asian religions on Juche is widely disputed, the ideology has been thought of by several academic studies as having aspects of a national and indigenous religious movement in addition to being a political philosophy due to the following features: the presence of a sacred leader, rituals and familism. [89] Despite the religious features of Juche, it is a highly atheistic ideology that discourages the practice of mainstream religions. This draws from Juche's Marxist−Leninist origins. North Korea is officially an atheist state (although the native religion Cheondoism is tolerated and even maintains a political party), but some argue that it maintains a cult of personality identical to a religion.

Presence of a Sacred Leader

Although the ideology appears to emphasize the central role of the human individual, Juche can be fulfilled only through the masses’ subordination to a single leader and accordingly, his successor. The ideology teaches that the role of a Great Leader is essential for the popular masses to succeed in their revolutionary movement because without leadership they are unable to survive. [90] This is the foundation of the personality cult directed at Kim Il-sung. The personality cult explains how the Juche ideology has been able to endure until today, even during the North Korean government's undeniable dependence on foreign assistance during its famine in the 1990s. [89] The concept of the "Sacred leader" in Juche as well as the cult around the Kim family has been compared to the State Shinto ideology of Imperial Japan in which the Emperor was seen as a divine being. [91]

Through the fundamental belief in the essential role of the Great Leader, the former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung has become the "supreme deity for the people" and the Juche doctrine is reinforced in North Korea's constitution as the country's guiding principle. [92] The parallel relationship structure between Kim Il-sung and his people to religious founders or leaders and their followers has led many scholars to consider Juche a religious movement as much as a political ideology. [88] However, those familiar with cults would again posit that Juche bypasses the tenets of religion completely and instead meets the criteria of a totalitarian cult. [93]

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. [90] They argue that the North Korean working class or the proletariat has been stripped of their honor and therefore call the cult of personality non-Marxist and non-democratic. [94]


The religious behavior of Juche can also be seen in the perspectives of the North Korean people through refugee interviews from former participants in North Korea's ritual occasions. One pertinent example is the Arirang Festival, which is a gymnastics and artistic festival held in the Rungnado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. All components of the festival, from the selection of performers, mobilization of resources, recruitment of the audience and publicity for the show have been compared to facets of a national religious event. [95]

The Arirang Festival has been described to demonstrate the power of the North Korean government to arrange a form of religious gathering. It has done so by "appropriating a mass of bodies for calisthenic and performative arts representing the leader as the Father and his faithful followers". [96] The Festival's effectiveness in transforming its participants into loyal disciples of Juche seems to originate from the collectivist principle of "one for all and all for one" and the ensuing emotional bond and loyalty to the leader. [96] According to the accounts of refugees who have been recruited to mass gymnastics, the collectivist principle has been nurtured through physical punishment such as beatings and more importantly the organization of recruits into small units, whose performances were held accountable by larger units. [97] 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. [96]


Charles K. Armstrong argues that familism has transformed itself into a kind of political religion in the form of Juche. With the emergence of Juche as North Korea's guiding political principle since the 1960s, the familial relationship within the micro-family unit has been translated into a national, macro-unit with Kim Il-sung representing the father figure and the North Korean people representing his children. Juche is thus based on the language of family relationships with its East Asian or neo-Confucian "resonances of filial piety and maternal love". [98]

North Korea claims that the Juche idea has a wide international following which displays tributes from other socialist movements towards the idea in the entrance hall of the Juche Tower Tributestojuche.jpg
North Korea claims that the Juche idea has a wide international following which displays tributes from other socialist movements towards the idea in the entrance hall of the Juche Tower

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. [99] 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. [100] In effect, North Korea's familial nationalism has supplanted the "rather abstract, class-oriented language of socialism with a more easily understandable and identifiable language of familial connections, love and obligations". [101]

The cult of personality surrounding Kim expanded into a family cult when Kim Jong Il became the heir apparent after assuming important posts in the WPK and military in the early 1980s. [102] Armstrong calls this a "family romance", which is a term Freud had used to describe "the neurotic replacement of a child's real parents with fantasy substitutes". [103] 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. [88]

Analysis and reception

Throughout the 1990s, the North Korean regime became increasingly nationalistic. [104] Speeches and official announcements contained references to socialism, but they did not contain any references to Marxist–Leninist thought nor did they contain references to any basic communist concepts. [105] Shin Gi-wook argues that "there is no trace of Marxist–Leninism or the Stalinist notion of nationhood [in North Korea]. Instead, the government stresses the importance of the Korean people's blood, soul and national traits, echoing earlier Korean nationalists such as Sin Chaeho, Yi Kwangsu and Choe Namson. [105]

Charles K. Armstrong says that "North Korean communism would not only be quite distinctive from the Soviet model, it would in some respects turn Marxism–Leninism upside-down". [106] The key differences are that the North Koreans place the primacy of ideology over materialism, retaining the vocabulary of family lineage and nationalism and giving it primacy over class struggle and supporting social distinction and hierarchy over classless society and egalitarianism. [106] He concluded that North Korea may look "Stalinist in form", but that it was "nationalist in content". [106]

Brian Reynolds Myers dismisses the idea that Juche is North Korea's leading ideology, regarding its public exaltation as being designed to deceive foreigners. He argues that it exists to be praised and not actually read. [107] Based on his own experiences living in North Korea, Felix Abt describes Myers' arguments as "shaky" and "questionable". Having seen the extent to which North Korean university students actually believe in Juche, Abt says it is "rather absurd" to describe the ideology as "window-dressing" for foreigners. He also questions how only three decades of Japanese occupation could simply upend the impact of "thousands of years" of history in Korea. [54]

Dae-Sook Suh has stated that Kim-Il Sung had failed to explain the difference between socialist patriotism which Kim stated that he supported and nationalism which Kim stated that he opposed. Suh also criticised Kim for allegedly failing to explain how Marxism–Leninism has been applied to Korean conditions. [108]

In both China and Vietnam, where Marxism–Leninism is promoted by the state, Juche has been widely criticized and ridiculed. The criticism and ridicule of Juche is stronger in China because China's contribution during the Korean War is ignored by the North Korean leadership. [109] [110]

See also

Related Research Articles

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The politics of North Korea takes place within the framework of the official state philosophy, Juche, a concept created by Hwang Jang-yop and later attributed to Kim Il-sung. The Juche theory is the belief that only through self-reliance and a strong independent state, can true socialism be achieved.

Constitution of North Korea Constitution

The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the constitution of North Korea. It was approved by the 6th Supreme People's Assembly at its first session on 27 December 1972, and has been amended and supplemented in 1998, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2016 and twice in 2019. It replaced the country's first constitution which was approved in 1948.


Songun (선군정치/先軍政治) is the "military first" policy of North Korea, prioritizing the Korean People's Army in the affairs of state and allocation of resources. "Military first" as a principle guides political and economic life in North Korea, with "military-first politics" dominating the political system; "a line of military-first economic construction" acting as an economic system; and "military-first ideology" serving as the guiding ideology.

North Korean literature Literature of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea

Reading is a popular pastime in North Korea, where literacy and books enjoy a high cultural standing, elevated by the regime's efforts to disseminate propaganda as texts. Because of this, writers are held in high prestige.

Eternal leaders of North Korea

Eternal leaders of Juche Korea refers to the practice of granting posthumous titles to deceased leaders of North Korea. The phrase "Eternal leaders of Juche Korea" was established by a line in the preamble to the Constitution, as amended on 30 June 2016, and in subsequent revisions.

The Communist movement in Korea emerged as a political movement in the early 20th century. Although the movement had a minor role in pre-war politics, the division between the communist North Korea and the anti-communist South Korea came to dominate Korean political life in the post-World War II era. North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, continues to be a Juchesocialist state under the rule of the Workers' Party of Korea. In South Korea, the National Security Law has been used to criminalize advocacy of communism and groups suspected of alignment with North Korea. Due to end of economic aid from Soviet Union after its dissolution in 1991 and impractical ideological application of Stalinist policies in North Korea over years of economic slowdown in the 1980s and receding during the 1990s, North Korea replaced Communism with the Juche ideology in its 1992 and 1998 constitutional revisions for the personality cult of Kim's family dictatorship and opening of North Korean market economy reform, though it still retains a command economy with complete state control of industry and agriculture. North Korea maintains collectivized farms and state-funded education and healthcare.

Workers Party of Korea Ruling political party of North Korea

The Workers' Party of Korea is the founding and ruling political party of North Korea. It is the largest party represented in the Supreme People's Assembly and coexists de jure with two other legal parties making up the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. However, these minor parties are completely subservient to the WPK, and must accept the WPK's "leading role" as a condition of their existence.

North Korean cult of personality Veneration of the ruling Kim family

The North Korean cult of personality surrounding its ruling family, the Kim family, has existed in North Korea for decades and can be found in many examples of North Korean culture. Although not acknowledged by the North Korean government, many defectors and Western visitors state there are often stiff penalties for those who criticize or do not show "proper" respect for the regime. The personality cult began soon after Kim Il-sung took power in 1948, and was greatly expanded after his death in 1994.

Kim Jong-il bibliography Wikipedia bibliography

Kim Jong-il was the Supreme Leader of North Korea from 1994 to 2011.

Kim Il-sung bibliography Wikipedia bibliography

Kim Il-sung was the leader of North Korea for 46 years, from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994.

6th Congress of the Workers Party of Korea 1980 party conference in North Korea

The 6th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) was held in the February 8 House of Culture in Pyongyang, North Korea, from 10–14 October 1980. The congress is the highest organ of the party, and is stipulated to be held every four years. 3,062 delegates represented the party's membership; 117 foreign delegates attended the congress, without the right to speak. The congress saw the reappointment of Kim Il-sung as WPK General Secretary and the Presidium of the Politburo established as the highest organ of the party between congresses.

Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System Anti-dissent ideology enforcing the Kim familys rule in North Korea

Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System are a set of ten principles and sixty-five clauses establishing standards for governance and guiding the behaviors of the people of North Korea.

The History of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) encompasses the period from 1949 onwards.

<i>With the Century</i> Book by Kim Il-sung

Reminiscences: With the Century is the autobiography of Kim Il-sung, founder and former president of North Korea. The memoirs, written in 1992 and published in eight volumes, retell Kim's life story through his childhood to the time of Korean resistance. Initially, a total of 30 volumes were planned but Kim Il-sung died in 1994 after just six volumes; the seventh and eight volumes were published posthumously. The work reveals early influences of religious and literary ideas on Kim's thinking. An important part of North Korean literature, With the Century is held as a valuable if somewhat unreliable insight into the nation's modern history under late colonial Korea. The book is considered one of a few North Korean primary sources widely available in the West and as notable research material for North Korean studies.

<i>On the Art of the Cinema</i> Book by Kim Jong-il

On the Art of the Cinema is a 1973 treatise by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. It is considered the most authoritative work on North Korean filmmaking.

<i>On the Juche Idea</i> Book by Kim Jong-il

On the Juche Idea is a treatise attributed to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on the North Korean Juche ideology. It is considered the most authoritative work on Juche.

Rules of the Workers Party of Korea Constitution of North Koreas ruling party

The Rules of the Workers' Party of Korea is the by-laws of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK). It sets the rules of the organization and membership of the party. According to the rules, the WPK Congress is the highest body of the party and it, along with the WPK Conference, can amend the rules. The rules defines the character, task, and methodology of the party. According to it, the Party strives to impose communism on the whole of the Korean Peninsula. Recent revisions of the rules have defined Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism as the ideology of the party.

Kapsan Faction Incident Failed attempt to weaken the Kim familys power in North Korea

The Kapsan Faction Incident was an unsuccessful attempt to undermine the power of Kim Il-sung, the leader of North Korea, around the year 1967. The "Kapsan faction" was a group of veterans of the anti-Japanese struggle of the 1930s and 1940s that was initially close to Kim Il-sung. In the wake of the 2nd Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in 1966, the faction sought to introduce economic reforms, challenge Kim Il-sung's cult of personality, and appoint its ringleader Pak Kum-chol as his successor.

<i>On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work</i>

On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work, known as the "Juche Speech", was a speech delivered on 28 December 1955 by Kim Il-sung. The address mentioned his Juche ideology by name for the first time. It is considered one of Kim's most important works and a "watershed moment" in North Korean history. Views differ if the speech used the term juche to launch an ideology or more conservatively to assert that the Korean people were the subject of the revolution. The former believes that Juche, as a distinct ideology, was developed by Hwang Jang-yop on his re-discovery of the speech. The speech was published for the first time in 1960 and in many subsequent, heavily edited revisions since.



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Further reading