The political philosophy known as juche became the official autarkic state ideology of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1972.1 Although foreign scholars often describe juche as “self-reliance,” the true meaning of the term is much more nuanced. Kim Il Sung explained: ".. Establishing juche means, in a nutshell, being the master of revolution and reconstruction in one’s own country. This means holding fast to an independent position, rejecting dependence on others, using one’s own brains, believing in one’s own strength, displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, and thus solving one’s own problems for oneself on one’s own responsibility under all circumstances".
The DPRK claims that juche is Kim Il Sung’s creative application of Marxist-Leninist principles to the modern political realities in North Korea. Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il have successfully wielded the juche idea as a political shibboleth to evoke a fiercely nationalistic drive for North Korean independence and to justify policies of self-reliance and self-denial in the face of famine and economic stagnation in North Korea. Kim Il Sung envisioned three specific applications of juche philosophy: political and ideological independence, especially from the Soviet Union and China; economic self-reliance and self-sufficiency; and a viable national defense system.
The governing principles of juche were clearly expressed by Kim Il Sung in a speech entitled “Let Us Defend the Revolutionary Spirit of Independence, Self-Reliance, and Self-defense More Thoroughly in All Fields of State Activities,” which he delivered to the Supreme People’s Assembly on December 16, 1967.4 In it, he declared that
…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...
Domestic and Foreign Independence
The principle of political independence is one of the central tenets of juche ideology. With respect to international relations, the principles of juche stress complete equality and mutual respect among nations. Furthermore, juche ideology asserts that every state has the right of self-determination in order to secure the happiness and prosperity of its people as it best sees fit. These political tenets – equal sovereignty and nonintervention – would satisfy the fierce desire for respect and security of a small and weak ationstate such as North Korea.
Inside North Korea 2009
Welcome to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea! This government-produced travel documentary depicts our Five Passes trip (August 15-19) to the hermit kingdom. Highlights are the Arirang Games, DMZ, and Pyongyang Metro. With the propaganda narrative and Communist music, the film has all the hallmarks of the North Korean aesthetic. North Korea secretly loves Americans. Kim Jong-il's Juche state religion wants you! Please be advised that trip participants did not blindly accept what their tour guides said. Their critical views are not shown - due to film maker bias.
Furthermore, he claimed that his regime’s “success” was credited to the independent manner in which all problems were solved, conforming Marxist-Leninist principles to the specific conditions of North Korea without altering their fundamental substance. Domestically, Kim asserted that it was imperative to build internal political forces to ensure chaju. The pivotal factor in the success of achieving chaju would be the extent to which the people rallied around the party and the leader Kim Il Sung, and later Kim Jong Il himself. This insistence on internal unity of support, stemming perhaps from the elder Kim’s disgust with internal factionalism before the Korean War, conveniently helped to justify his consolidation of personal power.
North Korea - The Juche Era Documentary
Just what does make North Korea tick? In every sense the country and its people still see themselves at war. Isolated and ostracised for decades, everything in this quirky place is choreographed to display maximum unity and strength. Produced by Bulgarian TV this unseen film manages to travel throughout the country. It provides an enthralling and unique behind the scenes view of a country which rarely allows outsiders to see inside. Two million troops still face each other along the border between North and South Korea. We have enough troops and military hardware to withstand a strike from the South and to win. Huge billboards and loudspeakers shout invective at the other side. The cruel ferocity of the Korean war left the North scarred and in a permanent state of defensive hostility.
Under thousands of umbrellas in the Pyongyang rain, North Koreans endlessly practise their parades. They are showing faith in the idea of Juche, created by Kim Il- Sung. Juche means to rely on your own strength. Kims son Kim Jong-Il succeeded him and has continued with his fathers bizarre philosophies. All Koreans must take part in the colourful ceremonies which have come to define this country in foreign eyes. Every walk of life is invaded by Songun, or military orientated doctrine. At a nursery school a special syllabus imparts the spirit of survival, with constant reference to their leader. Some may progress to Man Gjun De Military School, the most elite in Pyongyang. The school turns out some of the most committed officers in the world, ready to strike back at anyone who attacks our country. Half of North Koreas budget goes on military spending. It turns a handsome profit (reputedly half a billion dollars annually) exporting missiles to the Middle East.
An independent and self-sufficient national economy is necessary both in order to secure political integrity and to achieve national prosperity. Charip – economic independence – is seen as the material basis for chaju, or political independence. Kim Il Sung feared that economic dependence on foreign aid would render the state a political satellite of other countries. He believed that it would be impossible to successfully build a socialist republic without the material and technical foundations that would come from an independent national economy. This economy would consist of a powerful base of heavy industry with the machine-building industry at its core, which would equip light industry, agriculture, transport, and all other branches of the economy.
According to Kim Jong Il,
.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
There are three major schools of thought regarding the origins of the juche ideology. The first of these is the instrumental perspective, which emphasizes domestic and international relations factors. The second perspective focuses on the influence of traditional Korean politics. The last viewpoint considers juche to be original political thought stemming directly from the life experiences of Kim Il Sung.
The instrumentalist viewpoint focuses on both domestic and foreign political factors as the root of the juche ideology. Some scholars believe that Kim’s unstable power during and immediately following the Korean War caused him to deploy ideological purges in order to consolidate his political position, using the juche principle of national solidarity as a domestic instrument of personal cult-building.
To this end, Kim Il Sung forbade any other ideology from being discussed or taught in North Korea. Since the content and application of the juche ideology were very ambiguous until the late 1960s, Kim Il Sung was the only one who could successfully wield and implement the philosophy. Thus, implementing and executing policies based on juche effectively consolidated Kim Il Sung’s absolute political power and indirectly provided ideological justification for his dictatorship in North Korea.
Life in North Korea 1 of 2 - BBC Doc State of Mind
The second perspective is more long-term and focuses on the influence of traditional political culture in Korea. The scholars in this second camp argue that juche is a reflection of a centuries-old tradition of independence from foreign powers. Strategically located at a peninsular tip of the East Asian continent, Korea has long been a pawn of contention between its two powerful neighbors, China and Japan. From the earliest recorded history, the Korean people have fought fiercely to maintain their independence in the face of multiple invasions by Mongols, Manchurians, Han Chinese and Japanese pirates and samurais. The sum total of these invasions may qualify Korea as the most oft-invaded territory in the world.
Under the Yi Dynasty, which ruled Korea from 1392 until the Japanese annexation in 1910, Korea became a highly defensive state with a foreign policy of isolation towards the outside world. When Kim Il Sung came to power in North Korea in 1945, he arguably reverted to the highly isolationist policies of pre-modern Korea. Furthermore, this viewpoint encompasses the exposition of juche as a brand of Korean Leninist nationalism, a “creative adoption of Marxism-Leninism” peculiarly suited to the Korean situation, described by Kim Jong Il as
...............a difficult and complex revolution which had to deal with the tasks of the anti-imperialist, national-liberation revolution, with formidable Japanese imperialism as the target, and those of the anti-feudal, democratic revolution simultaneously..................
Life in North Korea 2 of 2 - BBC Documentary State of Mind
To establish juche is a question of special importance for us in the light of our country’s geographical situation and environments, of the peculiarities of its historical development, and the complex and arduous nature of our revolution.
The juche idea is a Weltanschauung, or world view, that affirms the penultimate value of man’s interests. According to juche ideology, man has ultimate control over the world and of his own destiny because he alone has chajusong, or creativity and consciousness. Adherents to the juche philosophy claim that this viewpoint of man as dominating and reshaping the world is a unique contribution of juche ideology to the body of philosophical knowledge. Despite this claim to originality, there is nothing particularly revolutionary or novel in the tenets of the juche philosophy. Kim Il Sung’s policy stances on subjects such as the class struggle, the idea of the mass line, the role of the single great leader in history and the importance of belief in one’s own capabilities were all drawn primarily from Chinese and Eastern European thought. Kim Il Sung’s genius lay in his ability to fuse these elements together to capitalize on the North Korean drive for independence.
Friends of Kim - Documentary 1/8
North Korea is the country many love to hate. Declared as a nation on the axis of evil by George W. Bush but embraced by an international delegation of friends: the Korean Friendship Association.They set out for a march through North Korea. Its aim: to show solidarity with the regime and the North Korean people. The authorities even allowed some US citizens in and an American journalist from ABC. This 'International March for Korea's Peace and Reunification' is organised by the KFA, the Korean Friendship Association; a worldwide group of supporters of North Korea. Its leader is a 29 year old Spanish citizen, Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les y Perez. Originating from an aristocratic family he heads an organization with mainly young members who are fed up with the consumerism of the Western world. In 12 days the 22 participants of the march travel through a country full of monuments, propaganda and poverty. Friends of Kim is a film about idealism, trust and crime. What begins as a magical mystery tour ends in a road to claustrophobia.
Kim’s early knowledge of communism came from the Chinese communist guerrilla army with which he trained from 1935 to 1941. During this time, he was tutored and influenced by Wei Zhengmin, a superior Chinese political officer in his guerrilla group. While Kim never acknowledged the extent of his subordination to and affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party, many scholars contend that Kim was a member of the CCP.24 By the end of the Korean War, Chinese influence in North Korea had overtaken that of the Soviet Union. Kim closely followed Mao Zedong’s political thought and action, which heavily influenced the development of the DPRK’s political institutions in the late 1940s and 1950s. One example of this emulation was the North Korean strategy of Chollima Undong, which was inspired by Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward movement of 1958-1960.25 The multi-year economic plans, stress upon rural self-sufficiency and nationalistic and revolutionary fervor that inspired the Great Leap Forward are all characteristics of the juche ideology of economic self-sufficiency. Kim’s assertion that
…if one lacks the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, one will lose faith in one’s own strength, fail to try to tap the inner resources of one’s country, grow indolent and loose, and fall into passivism [sic] and conservatism
The juche ideology that is trumpeted by North Korea as Kim Il Sung’s ingenious and original contribution to the body of political philosophy is really drawn from a centuries-old tradition of Korean political thought. Kim himself has acknowledged that he drew the term and idea of juche from Korean scholars in the early twentieth century, who in turn drew inspiration from Confucian ideas dating back to the original state philosophy of independence espoused by Korean rulers. The tradition of strong nationalism among the Korean people coexisted with another tradition called sadaechuii, in which the Confucian palace officials and educated elite groups jockeyed for foreign support through sycophancy.31 Kim’s juche ideology may represent his reaction to the slave mentality of sadaechuii as well as an indebtedness to the original nationalistic strain of Korean political culture. Aside from its tremendous appeal to the deep traditional Korean antipathy towards foreign influence, juche serves to intensify the nationalism of the North Korean people, who are told that world civilization originated from the Korean peninsula.
Friends of Kim - Documentary 4/8
Indoctrination in juche ideology was seen as the primary concern in the revolutionary struggle for chajusong and the subsequent construction of a socialist republic.33 Establishing a juche mindset meant the promotion of the attitude that the Korean people could solve all of their problems by their own talents and initiative. Cultivating a sense of national dignity and revolutionary pride was especially important, as evidenced by the great lengths to which cultural aspects of North Korean life such as music and entertainment were monopolized and dictated by the Party under Kim Jong Il, Kim Il Sung’s son and successor.
Friends of Kim - Documentary 5/8