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North Korea, what is all about - The Political Philosophy of Juche + "Friends of Kim"  Documentary

x013The 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.

 

 

Key Components of the Juche Ideology

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.



In practice, this political stance has caused North Korea to truly become a hermit kingdom because of the huge stigma juche places upon cooperation with outside powers. According to juche as interpreted by the DPRK, yielding to foreign pressure or tolerating foreign intervention would make it impossible to maintain chaju, or the defense of national independence and sovereignty. This in turn would threaten the nation’s ability to defend the interests of the people, since political independence is seen as being absolutely critical for economic selfsustenance and military self-defense. Kim Jong Il predicted that dependence on foreign powers would lead to the failure of the socialist revolution in Korea.

Among countries that he considered socialist peers, such as China, the  USSR, Cuba and several African countries, Kim Il Sung urged cooperation and stressed the need for mutual support and limited dependence. However, while acknowledging that it was important to learn from the examples of other socialist countries, Kim Il Sung was highly sensitive to the problems of flunkeyism towards Moscow and Beijing and the inevitable Marxist-Leninist dogmatism that he abhorred during his guerrilla days. In constructing the socialist revolution in North Korea, he warned that the North Koreans must “…resolutely repudiate the tendency to swallow things of others undigested or imitate them mechanically.”

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.

Life in Pyongyang struggles to emerge from the shadows of the great granite monoliths. Only with hidden cameras is it possible to see inside supermarkets for ordinary Koreans; why would you want to go in there; the guide insistently demands to every request. Worker brigades march to work, spade in hand, glorifying their leader in song. In local stores, each person is allotted goods in a strictly controlled system: shoes, a suit, a lamp.
Though the poster on the wall reads; We support our dear leader in producing soy milk!, the bags on the floor read UNICEF. North Korea is fed mainly by foreign humanitarian aid, a million tonnes of it each year. Citizens supplement their daily food intake by fishing in the Taedong River. In the 1990s North Koreans were starving. Today, even in the countryside, they have food. They can grow crops in their small gardens to sell at market, unofficially (it does not reflect the ideals of Juche but has quietly been allowed to develop to avoid the starvation prevalent in the 90s). But there is no escaping the ever present State: even in the fields loudspeakers call for the populace to be ready to fight and every family is called on to prepare their children for the army.

During a very unusual - for a foreigner - visit to ordinary Korean homes, we find a basic but secure existence home grown vegetables and fish from the river stock the fridge. They might appear to have the basic essentials but the family clearly remains in the same state of denial as everyone else in this odd country. My greatest dream is for the Juche ideals to succeed in every part of the world, states the 27 year old daughter of the household.




Economic Independence

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



Independent food production was seen as being of particular significance because successful farming would provide the people with stabilized living conditions and means to independently support themselves. Just as important to the survival and independence of the national economy was the establishment of reliable and independent sources of raw materials and fuel. Extensive modernization of the economy and training for technically-minded cadres were considered indispensable for the construction of an independent national economy as well.

Kim Il Sung was careful to maintain that building an independent national economy on juche principles of self-reliance was not synonymous with building an isolated economy. Looking at the size of American aid to South Korea, which equaled its fledgling economy’s gross domestic product during the immediate post-war years, Kim Il Sung recognized that North Korea would not be able to survive without significant aid from its communist sponsors. Thus, he encouraged close economic and technical cooperation between socialist countries and newly-emerging nations as an aid in economic development and ideological unity.

Origins of the Juche Philosophy

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.

Instrumental Perspective

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


Taken from the BBC Documentary A State of Mind.


Perhaps more saliently, juche as the guiding principle of foreign policy was utilized as a means of balancing power between the Soviet Union and China, and as a means to curb the Soviet and Chinese influence in the country. Kim’s wariness of Sino-Soviet involvement in North Korean domestic affairs was exacerbated by his personal dislike of the Soviets and the country’s national inferiority complex towards major powers. Kim became uneasy about the Soviet Union’s gradual movement towards peaceful coexistence with the United States in the 1960s. However, because of the economic and military aid Pyongyang was receiving from Moscow, as well as Kim’s professed value for unity in the Marxism-Leninism struggle against imperialism, North Korea continued to support Soviet positions on most issues. Gradually, North Korea began to use the juche tenet of foreign non-intervention and national selfdetermination as an ideological excuse for cordoning off its governance from Moscow and Beijing. Eventually, North Korea repudiated both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China as a socialist imperialist state, accusing its leaders of abandoning pure Marxism-Leninism principles to pursue capitalist gains.

Traditional Political Culture

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




Baek Nam Un, a Korean sociologist who later aided Kim Il Sung, said that the situation in Korea requires an independent and creative adoption of Marxism and Leninism, and a peculiar synthesis of nationalism and socialism.
Kim Il Sung himself said:

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 third viewpoint is the North Koreans’ view of juche as a prime example of their late Supreme Leader’s brilliance and originality. This last group insists that juche was the intellectual result of Kim Il Sung’s highly exaggerated and romanticized personal experience as a guerrilla fighting against the Japanese in the 1930s. This immediate attribution of juche to Kim Il Sung’s personal history is emphasized by his son and heir Kim Jong Il in his book On the Juche Idea. He argues that his father “put forward a juche-oriented line for the Korean revolution” and that “…this was a historical event which heralded the creation of the juche idea and the birth of the juche-oriented revolutionary line.”22 Kim Il Sung himself had at times maintained that the juche ideology grew out of two major frustrations he felt with the Korean revolution during the anti-Japanese struggle: first, the revolutionary vanguard had lost contact with the proletarian masses and were waging a theoretical battle without mass support; and second, that “flunkeyism” – seeking Moscow’s favor – and factionalism were corrupting the revolution from the inside.

Philosophical Underpinnings of Juche Ideology

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.




Debt to Maoist Thought

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



Friends of Kim - Documentary 2/8


is highly reminiscent of the Yan’an era of the CCP, during which a belief in the power of the will to overcome seemingly impossible barriers was permanently embedded into Maoist thought.26; 27 The underlying principle of the juche ideology is the faithful application of Marxism- Leninism in a case-specific manner that would best suit the history, political conditions and current realities of the country. This theory of different means to the penultimate goal of communism was first stressed by Mao Zedong, especially during the rectification campaign of 1942-44 on the need to “sinify” Marxism- Leninism and halt the mechanical and dogmatic acceptance of the Soviet model as the “universal truth.”28; 29 Thus, the main tenet of Kim Il Sung’s thought can be directly attributed and traced to Mao.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, Kim Il Sung was never willing to publicly acknowledge his ideological debt to Mao, especially after the institutionalization of the juche ideology as North Korea’s sole political philosophy by the DPRK in the early 1960s. Following this formal linkage of the juche ideology with North Korean nationalism, the inferiority implications of acknowledging such a great debt to a foreign leader was probably insurmountable both for the consistency of the independent juche ideology and for Kim’s personal pride.

Friends of Kim - Documentary 3/8


Korean and Confucian Roots

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



Application to Society

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



The Kim Il Sung regime instructed the North Korean people in the juche ideology using an analogy drawn from human anatomy. The Great Leader is the brain that makes decisions and issues orders, the Party is the nervous system that channels information, and the people are the bone and muscle that physically execute the orders.35 This belief system, inculcated in North Koreans since early childhood, made them docile and loyal to Kim Il Sung even in the face of famines and energy crises that have devastated the country. The juche ideology was widely supported among the North Korean populace because of the doctrine that the success of the socialist revolution depends upon the extent to which the masses rally around and support the leadership. When Kim Il Sung unilaterally declared juche to be the governing principle of all aspects of North Korean life, as well as the ideological basis of all state policies, the philosophy gained the full authority of Kim Il Sung’s godlike status. Having established the infallibility of the juche philosophy and consolidated their own political power, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were able to use juche principles of self-sustenance and political and military independence as justification for policies such as the routing of a huge percentage of national income towards military expenditures, despite the famine sweeping through the populace. Due to the power and influence of one man, the Great Leader, the juche philosophy became inextricably embedded in the economic, political, military and cultural aspects of life in the DPRK.

Friends of Kim - Documentary 6/8



Friends of Kim - Documentary 7/8



Friends of Kim - Documentary 8/8




source
http://www.stanford.edu

 

 

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