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May 31, 2022
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What is Juche? Ideology of North Korea

What is Juche?  Ideology of North Korea

What is the Juche ideology? Those who have read a bit about North Korea (DPRK) know that explaining their ideology as “socialism” or even “Marxism-Leninism” is completely insufficient.

If you asked a Korean, he would tell you that he follows the principles of Juche. Political theory and philosophy unique to Korea. And first formulated by President Kim Il Sung.

It certainly has its roots in traditional Marxism (the Workers’ Party of Korea began as the Communist Party of Korea). But she has since adopted what she considers a completely unique philosophy. So what is Juche?

What does Juche mean?

The word itself is ambiguous.  Koreans do not translate it in their works.  Although foreign observers have made attempts to understand the meaning of this word.  Most often this ideology is described as meaning "independence".  Regarding the Korean socialist model of countering foreign influence in their affairs.  Striving for independence and perhaps encouraging extreme autarky.

The word itself is ambiguous. Koreans do not translate it in their works. Although foreign observers have made attempts to understand the meaning of this word. Most often this ideology is described as meaning “self-reliance”. Regarding the Korean socialist model of countering foreign influence in their affairs. Striving for independence and perhaps encouraging extreme autarky.

Although this translation may have something to do with the case, it misses a lot. North Korea is not a “country of hermits”. As it is often presented in the press, and trade continues through many countries.

Before the collapse of the USSR, North Korea was happy to accept help from the countries of the socialist bloc. But now she has become “isolationist” because international sanctions require it.

What they have in common with this concept of self-reliance is the rejection of “enslavement” in trade and dependence on others. In the 1960s and 1970s, when Nikita Khrushchev and then Leonid Brezhnev were at the head of the USSR, attempts were made to involve North Korea in the “CMEA”. It was the main trading partnership of the socialist bloc. And it could be considered the socialist equivalent of the EU.

After numerous attempts, Kim Il Sung categorically refused to join.  On the grounds that joining the CMEA would sacrifice Korean independence for better trade deals.  Potentially making them "subjects" USSR.

After numerous attempts, Kim Il Sung categorically refused to join. On the grounds that joining the CMEA would sacrifice Korean independence for better trade deals. Potentially making them “subjects” of the USSR.

Ideology is often seen as a much more human-centered approach to Marxism. Considering man as the master of fate. Presumably, the term was even used as a Korean translation of some of Marx’s writings.

In this sense, the word is both a descriptive term and the name of an ideology. In short, the Juche idea means that the masses of people are the masters of the country and the revolutionary idea. And they are the driving force behind change.

Juche connection with Marxism

This is perhaps the most controversial issue. Depending on whom you ask, ideology is a continuation of Marxism, a departure from it, or marks a complete break with Marxism. Much of what Kim Il Sung wrote was rather focused on the pressing issues of the day. And perhaps the most seminal work on ideology was written by his son Kim Jong Il.

Thus, Kim Jong Il viewed this ideology as a continuation of Marxism-Leninism.  Developing it to "new, higher level".  This is hardly alien to the Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Thus, Kim Jong Il viewed this ideology as a continuation of Marxism-Leninism. Developing it to a “new, higher level”. This is hardly alien to the Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Everything is explained in Kim Jong Il’s 1983 work. Published for the 165th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. This work reveals how the connection with Marxism-Leninism within the ideology. So is the unique ideological doctrine.

What are the unique features of the Juche idea?

Marx believed in a concept known as historical materialism. In the fact that the development and consciousness of a person are formed by direct material conditions. From this it later developed into dialectical materialism. The theory that contradictions between strata of society as a result of material conditions will lead to dialectical conflict.

Through this conflict, what is often called the “unity of opposites” arises. In which contradiction is eliminated to create a new universality. As Marx explicitly states, the material productive forces come into confrontation with the relations of production. There is a clash between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

The basic foundation of socialism is rooted in the fact that those who work with the means of production must control them. For Marx, this is a natural result of the influence of material conditions on human development. What does the Korean ideology offer in response?

The basic foundation of socialism is rooted in the fact that those who work with the means of production must control them.  For Marx, this is a natural result of the influence of material conditions on human development.  What does the Korean ideology offer in response?

Kim Jong Il says that historical and dialectical materialism still certainly has its place. But such a theory is not enough to explain the problems facing a socialist society like Korea.

This is where the Korean understanding of the role of man in socialism is further elucidated. Because Marx believed that material conditions are what primarily regulates the social conditions of a person. Korean leaders thought differently.

Kim Jong Il says that ideology should consider material conditions only as one of the factors. The role of man as the arbiter of fate becomes much more important. Political and ideological life comes to the fore. It is believed that with sufficient ideological education and a revolutionary “spirit” it is possible to overcome problems in material conditions.

What is the universality of Juche?

This mentality is highly revealing in the context of the late Cold War. When the USSR began to fall apart, the entire Eastern Bloc collapsed with it. It’s not just about the mass discontent of the population. The parties themselves saw that material conditions no longer suited socialism. Giving up was a natural outcome.

This mentality is highly revealing in the context of the late Cold War.  When the USSR began to fall apart, the entire Eastern Bloc collapsed with it.  It's not just about the mass discontent of the population.  The parties themselves saw that material conditions no longer suited socialism.  Giving up was a natural outcome.

North Korea has never done this. Despite the fact that their economy was experiencing extreme difficulties during the period of the “difficult march”, and their trading partners disappeared. Instead of going back to capitalism, they looked for new solutions.

They did not mechanically follow the example of the USSR with perestroika. Or China with their policy of openness. Instead, the most important role was given to ideological education.

To get around the situation, new applications of their ideology were used. Indeed, despite the great difficulties, the country survived. This is what Koreans consider to be the superiority of their ideology over orthodox teachings.

But here’s another point of contention. What is the applicability of Juche outside of North Korea? It seems to be considered universal. At the same time, even the Koreans themselves often refer to this ideology as exclusively Korean philosophy.

Juche around the world

In other words, there is a widespread belief in North Korea that socialism cannot be applied mechanically. The experience of each country differs from that of another, which requires a different application of socialism in accordance with their conditions.

In other words, there is a widespread belief in North Korea that socialism cannot be applied mechanically.  The experience of each country differs from that of another, which requires a different application of socialism in accordance with their conditions.

This ideology can be seen as universal because it is an abstract concept of humanity as a whole. However, the specific application of an ideology still cannot be mechanically applied to any other country.

The Korean experience and conditions create their own particular obstacles. Perhaps that is why North Korea had strong relations with many socialist countries. Who had a completely different theory and practice. From Tito’s Yugoslavia to Ceausescu’s Romania and Burnham’s Guyana.

Thus, although the idea of ​​Juche is Korean and only practiced at the national level in the DPRK. It has numerous followers around the world.

Thus, although the idea of ​​Juche is Korean and only practiced at the national level in the DPRK.  It has numerous followers around the world.

It should be noted that the vast majority of adherents were from developing countries. At a time when the liberation and leftist ideology were at the peak of their development. Thus, many of them no longer exist.

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