Juche or Chuch'e is a Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

 word usually translated as "self-reliance." In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

), "Juche" refers specifically to a political thesis of Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung was a Korean communist politician who led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death...

, the Juche Idea, that identifies the Korean masses as the masters of the country's development. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Kim elaborated the Juche Idea into a set of principles that the government uses to justify its policy decisions. Among these are independence from great power
Great power
A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions...

s, a strong military posture, and reliance on Korean national resources. "Juche" has sometimes been translated in North Korean sources as "independent stand" or "spirit of self-reliance", and has also been interpreted as "always putting Korean things first." According to Kim Il-sung, the Juche Idea is based on the belief that "man is the master of everything and decides everything."


North Korean sources trace the origins of Juche to the 1930s. According to these sources the earliest mention of Juche was in a June 30, 1930 speech by Kim Il-sung, who was then 18 years old. The authenticity of these early speeches, however, is disputed.

The first known reference to Juche was a speech given by Kim Il-sung on December 28, 1955, titled "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work." In this speech, Kim urged party propagandists not to import ideas and customs from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, but to portray Korea as a revolutionary nation in its own right. He stated,
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.

Kim focuses on the importance of education and learning Korean history. Through the education of Korean people's own history will it "stimulate their national pride and rouse the broad masses to revolutionary struggle". Kim talks throughout his speech bulleting monumental events of the past and how certain outcomes could have been prevented. He stresses the importance of remembering their struggle, and that not learning their past, or denying it would "mean that our people did nothing."

Hwang Jang-yeop, Kim's top adviser on ideology, discovered this speech later in the 1950s when Kim sought to develop his own version of Marxism–Leninism, which Juche was originally seen as a progression of, and began to craft the idea birthing it into the society-defining credo it became. By 1958, Kim Il-sung had established himself as "the unrivaled ruler in North Korea" and thus started the language used to reference the people's devotion to Kim. This resulted in building a personality cult around him to glorify Kim Il-sung and his family's history and legitimacy as leaders. Even following Kim Il-sung's death he remains the eternal president and even those critical of his son Kim Jung-il still passionately revere him. The rewritten history of Korea goes as far back as 1866 when the "heroic" Kim family and his great-grandfather had fought against American imperialism. This is an example of the way in which the North Korean political machine began to mythologize Kim's history and abilities. The cult of personality surrounding the Kim family has both legitimated and helped garner support for the Juche ideology. Kim Il-sung was revered as the "supreme leader and the sun" of all people.

The Juche Idea itself gradually emerged as a systematic ideological doctrine under the political pressures of the Sino-Soviet split
Sino-Soviet split
In political science, the term Sino–Soviet split denotes the worsening of political and ideologic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during the Cold War...

. Development of an independent approach to Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

 was necessary to remain neutral as the split intensified. After the ideology was pushed aside for almost a decade, in 1963 when Kim spoke of the chuch'e principles to the Korean People's Army
Korean People's Army
The Korean People's Army , also known as the Inmin Gun, are the military forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Kim Jong-il is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army and Chairman of the National Defence Commission...

, the idea emerged again. Kim Il-sung outlined the three fundamental principles of Juche in his April 14, 1965, speech "On Socialist Construction and the South Korean Revolution in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea":
  1. Political independence [chaju]
  2. Economic self-sustenance [charip]
  3. Self-reliance in defense [chawi]

Current North Korean leader Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il, also written as Kim Jong Il, birth name Yuri Irsenovich Kim born 16 February 1941 or 16 February 1942 , is the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea...

 officially authored the definitive statement on Juche in a 1982 document titled On the Juche Idea. He has final authority over the interpretation of the state ideology and incorporated the Songun
Sŏn'gun, often spelled Songun, is North Korea's "Military First" policy, which prioritizes the Korean People's Army in the affairs of state and allocates national resources to the army first...

 (army-first) policy into it in 1996.

The idea of Juche was developed by Kim Il-sung as the guide and foundation of all conduct in North Korea. The meaning of Juche is "self-reliance" and "independence" in politics, economics, defense, and ideology. Juche emphasized independence in political work, self-sustenance in economic endeavors, and self-defense in national defense. Chajusong (self-reliance), minjok tongnip (national or ethnic independence), charip kyongje (independent economy), the common factors that all the colonized peoples wanted at mid-century, are the synonyms of Juche and can be the antonyms of sadaejuui, which means serving and relying upon foreign power. The second character of Juche, che, is found in the late-nineteenth century self-strengthening movement of Li Hung-chang’s term. Che of Juche is same as ti of ti-yung in Chinese learning and tai of kokutai
Kokutai is a politically loaded word in the Japanese language, translatable as "sovereign", "national identity; national essence; national character" or "national polity; body politic; national entity; basis for the Emperor's sovereignty; Japanese constitution". "Sovereign" is perhaps the most...

 in Japanese learning. The Koreans use Juche in their case with the goal of creating a subjective, solipsistic state of mind, the correct thought that must precede and that will then determine correct action but also as a means of defining what is simultaneously modern and Korean.

Ideology and practical application

According to Kim Jong-il's On the Juche Idea, the application of Juche in state policy entails the following:
  1. The people must have independence (chajusong) in thought and politics
    Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

    , economic self-sufficiency
    Self-sufficiency refers to the state of not requiring any outside aid, support, or interaction, for survival; it is therefore a type of personal or collective autonomy...

    , and self-reliance in defense.
  2. Policy must reflect the will and aspirations of the masses and employ them fully in revolution and construction.
  3. Methods of revolution and construction must be suitable to the situation of the country.
  4. The most important work of revolution and construction is molding people ideologically as communists and mobilizing them to constructive action.

The Juche outlook requires absolute loyalty to the revolutionary party and leader. In North Korea, these are the Workers' Party of Korea and Kim Jong-il, respectively.

In official North Korean histories, one of the first purported applications of Juche was the Five-Year Plan of 1956-1961, also known as the Chollima Movement
Chollima Movement
The Chollima Movement was a state-sponsored movement in North Korea, analogous to the Chinese Great Leap Forward, intended to promote rapid economic development. It was launched in 1956. North Korea intensified the work-harder campaign by launching the "three-revolution movement" in 1973...

, which led to the Chongsan-ri Method and the Taean Work System. The Five-Year Plan involved rapid economic development of North Korea, with a focus on heavy industry
Heavy industry
Heavy industry does not have a single fixed meaning as compared to light industry. It can mean production of products which are either heavy in weight or in the processes leading to their production. In general, it is a popular term used within the name of many Japanese and Korean firms, meaning...

, to ensure political independence from both the Soviet Union and China. The Chollima Movement, however, applied the same method of centralized state planning that began with the Soviet First Five-Year Plan
First Five-Year Plan
The First Five-Year Plan, or 1st Five-Year Plan, of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a list of economic goals that was designed to strengthen the country's economy between 1928 and 1932, making the nation both militarily and industrially self-sufficient. "We are fifty or a hundred...

 in 1928. The campaign also coincided with and was partially based on Mao's First Five-Year Plan and the Great Leap Forward
Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward of the People's Republic of China was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China , reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern...

. North Korea was apparently able to avoid the catastrophes of the Great Leap Forward.

Despite its aspirations to self-sufficiency, North Korea has continually relied on economic assistance from other countries. Historically, North Korea received most of its assistance from the USSR until its collapse in 1991. In the period after the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, North Korea relied on economic assistance and loans from "fraternal" countries from 1953–1963 and also depended considerably on Soviet industrial aid from 1953 to 1976. Following the fall of the USSR, the North Korean economy went into a crisis, with consequent infrastructural failures contributing to the mass famine of the mid-1990s. After several years of starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

, the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 agreed to be a substitute for the Soviet Union as a major aid provider, supplying over US$400 million per year in humanitarian assistance. Since 2007, North Korea also received large supplies of heavy fuel oil and technical assistance as scheduled in the six-party talks
Six-party talks
The six-party talks aim to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns as a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program.There has been a series of meetings with six participating states:* The Democratic People's Republic of Korea ;...

 framework. North Korea was the second largest recipient of international food aid in 2005, and continues to suffer chronic food shortages.

Relation to Marxism, Stalinism, and Maoism

In 1972, Juche replaced Marxism-Leninism in the revised North Korean constitution as the official state ideology, this being a response to the Sino-Soviet split
Sino-Soviet split
In political science, the term Sino–Soviet split denotes the worsening of political and ideologic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during the Cold War...

. Juche was nonetheless defined as a creative application of Marxism-Leninism. Kim Il-sung also explained that Juche was not original to North Korea and that in formulating it he only laid stress on a programmatic orientation that is inherent to all Marxist-Leninist states.

After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea’s greatest economic benefactor, all reference to Marxism-Leninism was dropped in the revised 1998 constitution. But Marxist-Leninist phraseology remains in occasional use, for example, socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. The establishment of the Songun doctrine in the mid-1990s, however, has formally designated the military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

, not the proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

 or working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

, as the main revolutionary force in North Korea.

Many commentators, journalists, and scholars outside North Korea equate Juche with Stalinism
Stalinism refers to the ideology that Joseph Stalin conceived and implemented in the Soviet Union, and is generally considered a branch of Marxist–Leninist ideology but considered by some historians to be a significant deviation from this philosophy...

 and call North Korea a Stalinist country. Some specialists have argued otherwise and have attempted to characterize the North Korean state as corporatist (Bruce Cumings
Bruce Cumings
Bruce Cumings is the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History at the University of Chicago and the chairperson of the history department...

), national socialist (Brian Myers
Brian Reynolds Myers
Brian Reynolds Myers is an American associate professor of international studies at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea, a contributing editor for the Atlantic, and an opinion columnist for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal...

), guerrillaist (Wada Haruki), monarchist (Dae Sook-suh), and theocratic (Han S. Park, Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Eric Hitchens is an Anglo-American author and journalist whose books, essays, and journalistic career span more than four decades. He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the...

). Those who have made conditional arguments that North Korea is a Stalinist regime include Charles Armstrong, Adrian Buzo, Chong-sik Lee, and Robert Scalapino.

Kim Il-sung's policy statements and speeches from the 1940s and 1950s confirm that the North Korean government accepted Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's 1924 theory of socialism in one country
Socialism in One Country
Socialism in One Country was a theory put forth by Joseph Stalin in 1924, elaborated by Nikolai Bukharin in 1925 and finally adopted as state policy by Stalin...

and its model of centralized autarkic
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky...

 economic development. Following Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, the North Korean leader wrote an emotional obituary in his honor titled "Stalin Is the Inspiration for the Peoples Struggling for Their Freedom and Independence" in a special issue of the WPK newspaper Rodong Sinmun
Rodong Sinmun
Rodong Sinmun is a North Korean newspaper and the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, published by the Rodong News Agency. It is the most widely read newspaper in the country...

(March 10, 1953), the opening of which reads:
Stalin has died. The ardent heart of the great leader of progressive mankind has ceased to beat. This sad news has spread over Korean territory like lightning, inflicting a bitter blow to the hearts of millions of people. Korean People's Army soldiers, workers, farmers, and students, as well as all residents of both South and North Korea, have heard the sad news with profound grief. The very being of Korea has seemed to bow down, and mothers who had apparently exhausted their tears in weeping for the children they had lost in the bombing of the [American] air bandits sobbed again.

Despite this, statements by Kim Il-sung concerning learning from Stalin and the Soviet experience were later removed from public record.

After Stalin's death, Stalin's cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

 was denounced at the 1956 Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

, North Korean state authorities ended overt adulation of the Soviet leader. But the regime refused to follow the example of Soviet political reform, which it decried as modern revisionism, or join the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance , 1949–1991, was an economic organisation under hegemony of Soviet Union comprising the countries of the Eastern Bloc along with a number of communist states elsewhere in the world...

 (COMECON), the major international trade organization of Marxist-Leninist states subordinated to the economic development of the Soviet Union. Presently, the North Korean government admits no connection between Juche and the ideas of Stalin, though occasional mention is made of his supposed political merits.

Political thinking from Maoist China has greatly influenced North Korea, such as the North's Chollima mass mobilization movements, which were based on China's Great Leap Forward
Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward of the People's Republic of China was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China , reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern...

. However, the ruling party in Pyongyang strongly denounces any Maoist influences on Juche in an attempt to appear independent. So even though the influence of Mao Zedong is also not formally acknowledged in North Korea, WPK ideologists and speech writers began to openly use Maoist ideas, such as the concept of self-regeneration, in the 1950s and 1960s. Maoist theories of art also began to influence North Korean musical theater during this time. These developments occurred as a result of the influence of the Chinese Army's involvement during the Korean War, as well as during the Sino-Soviet split when Kim Il-sung sided with Mao against Soviet de-Stalinization. Kim attended middle school in China, he was conversant in Chinese, and he had been a guerrilla partisan in the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 from about 1931-1941. The postwar Kim Il-sung regime had also emulated Mao’s Great Leap Forward, his theory of the Mass line
Mass line
The Mass Line is the political, organizational or leadership method developed by Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist during the Chinese revolution...

 (qunzhong luxian), and the guerrilla tradition. Juche, however, does not exactly share the Maoist faith in the peasantry over the working class and the village over the city.


After Mao's death, the policies of Maoist autarchic peasant-based socialism were phased out in China. Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

 launched the Four Modernizations
Four Modernizations
The Four Modernizations were goals, set forth by Zhou Enlai in 1963, to strengthen the fields of agriculture, industry, national defense, science and technology...

 program in 1978 and opened China to sweeping economic reforms that incorporated elements of the market economy
Market economy
A market economy is an economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system. This is often contrasted with a state-directed or planned economy. Market economies can range from hypothetically pure laissez-faire variants to an assortment of real-world mixed...

. Deng Xiaoping Theory
Deng Xiaoping Theory
Deng Xiaoping Theory , also known as Dengism, is the series of political and economic ideologies first developed by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. In theory, it does not reject Marxism or Mao Zedong Thought but instead seeks to adapt them to the existing socio-economic conditions of China.Since the...

 was officially instituted in the 1980s. Despite relatively cordial Beijing-Pyongyang relations in this period, the North Korean regime was reluctant to adopt the Chinese open-door policy and model of economic modernization, because its leadership feared such reforms would compromise the Juche ideology and result in political destabilization and events similar to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, also known as the June Fourth Incident in Chinese , were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the People's Republic of China beginning on 15 April 1989...

 (Lee, p. 1998, 1999 ). After the decline and fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 between 1989 and 1991, with the consequent loss of economic aid, North Korea began to undertake cautious, experimental, and selective emulation of the Chinese model.

The Joint Venture Law of 1984 was, however, among the first Deng-inspired North Korean attempts to attract foreign capital within the programmatic orientation of Juche doctrine. This was followed by emulation of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone
Shenzhen Special Economic Zone
Shenzhen Special Economic Zone , established in May 1980, is the first special economic zone in the People's Republic of China...

. North Korea established its first capitalist SEZ
Special Economic Zone
A Special Economic Zone is a geographical region that has economic and other laws that are more free-market-oriented than a country's typical or national laws...

 in 1991, the Rajin-Sonbong Economic Special Zone
Rajin-Sonbong Economic Special Zone
The Rajin-Sonbong Economic Special Zone was established by the North Korean government near Rason to promote economic growth through foreign investment. It is similar to the Special Economic Zone setup by the People's Republic of China and elsewhere to pilot market economics in a designated...

. The 1998 Juche constitution was also written with provisions to defend private property and joint venture enterprises with capitalist countries, making possible the establishment of the Pyongyang-based Research Institute on Capitalism in 2000, and allowing for the price and wage reforms of July 1, 2002. Deng Xiaoping Theory accepts marketization of the Chinese economy as "socialism with Chinese characteristics" or a "socialist market economy
Socialist market economy
The socialist market economy or socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics is the official term used to refer to the economic system of the People's Republic of China after the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. It is also referred to as socialism with Chinese characteristics...

," and the North Korean Juche ideology rationalizes such reforms under the concept of "socialism of our style."

On the role of the nation-state
The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity...

 in Juche, according to Kim Il-sung’s “On the Questions of the Period of Transition from Capitalism to Socialism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” (1967) and Kim Jong-il’s “On Preserving the Juche Character and National Character of the Revolution and Construction” (1997), the goal of revolution and construction under Juche is the establishment of socialism and communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 within the national borders of North Korea. Contrary to the perspectives of classical Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, Juche also maintains that Koreans are a blood-based national community, that the Korean nation-state will remain forever, and that Koreans will always live in Korea and speak Korean (The Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

 also incorporated Khmer Nationalism as an ideological platform, though Marx opposed identity politics
Identity politics
Identity politics are political arguments that focus upon the self interest and perspectives of self-identified social interest groups and ways in which people's politics may be shaped by aspects of their identity through race, class, religion, sexual orientation or traditional dominance...


Despite the nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 of Juche, North Korean ideologists have argued that other countries can and should learn from Juche and adapt its principles to their national conditions. The North Korean government admits that Juche addresses questions previously considered in classical Marxism
Classical Marxism
Classical Marxism refers to the social theory expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as contrasted with later developments in Marxism.-Karl Marx:...

 and its subsequent developments in Soviet Marxism-Leninism, but now distances itself from and even repudiates aspects of these political philosophies. The official position as maintained in Kim Jong-il’s “The Juche Philosophy Is an Original Revolutionary Philosophy” (1996) is that Juche is a completely new ideology created by Kim Il-sung, who does not depend on the Marxist classics. As a result, the North Korean Constitution has no mention of Marxism-Leninism, but rather occupies its entire preamble with statements about Kim Il-sung.

While advocating that Juche is tailored to the national peculiarities of North Korea, as opposed to conforming to the premises of classical Marxist international socialism (i.e., the workers of the world have no nation and workers of the world, unite), the North Korean government does make some reference to the classical internationalists Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and Frederick Engels, their follower Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

, and his successor Joseph Stalin as creditable leaders of the socialist movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries before the advent of Juche in 1955. By contrast, Maoism is rarely mentioned, and Deng Xiaoping's ideology for economic reform is basically suppressed in its entirety by the Kim Jong-Il regime. In addition, the writings of classical Marxism are generally forbidden for lay readers
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

 in North Korea. All references to communism have been removed from the 2009 constitution.

Effects on the economy

Economic basis of North Korea was “build a rich and strong state that can guarantee our nation’s chajusong.” Kim Il-sung guaranteed the chajusong of North Korea’s national economy claiming that North Korea must use their own domestic resources and their own strength to be independent of external sources from other countries. Even though the Juche Idea was not the ultimate cause of North Koreans’ famine and unstable economy, the idea had drastically reformed the country’s economic system. Since North Koreans with Juche idea of chaju (Independence in politics) and the charip (self-sustenance in the economy) principles, which are the two of the three fundamental principles that Kim Il-sung outlined in 1965, they isolated themselves from rest of the world and hardly opened up for diplomatic relationships with other countries until the pressure that came with the collapse of the Soviet bloc. The charip idea of self-contained economy was unlike other countries that withdrew themselves from the economy of the world. For example, "Albania in the socialist world and Burma in the capitalist world, two countries that "withdrew" to no apparent purpose as their economies idled along or got worse, North Korea never idled but always raced.".

The North Koreans withdrew for a purpose of development of their economy and country. By being able to sustain their own economy, they would be independent of other countries and would be self-reliable. However, they had to rely on USSR and China to sustain their livelihood. In 1986, Kim Il-sung set the goal of ten million tons of grain production. Yet the plan failed and they produced only four million tons of grain and the North Korea had to rely on foreign aid to provide them with two million tons of grain. The six million tons of grain they managed to get a hold of was the bare minimum of to feed their population. The economic crisis continued to be visible even in the 1990s. "Most of the blame was attributed not to North Korea's ponderous socialist system but to "the collapse of socialist countries and the socialist market of the world," which "shattered" many of P'yongyang's trade partners and agreements.". The fall of the socialist market and trade partner lead North Korea into a crisis that was not simply manageable with their current system. As result, paradoxical to the Juche philosophy of autarky, North Korea established the Najin-Sonbong free economic and tradezone during the mid-1990s.

Investors from firms in Hong Kong, Japan, France, South Korea, and the United States are some of the countries that opened manufacturing facilities in the DPRK. The Shell Oil Corporation (in 1995) is one example of the big firms that invested in this open trade area. Near the parallel, North Korea also opened the city of Kaesong for exports until 2010 when South Korea issued a economic sanction after the sunk South Korean warship incident.

The third principle of the Juche idea, chawi (self-defense in national defense), caused North Korea to spend much of its capitals for military purpose, thus decreasing the amount of capital that can be used for developing economy (it is estimated that 25 percent of the annual budget goes to the military). Kim Jong Il has explicitly expressed his "army first" policies since the mid-1990s.

Although in 1949 common objects such as a pen or a watch was rare in North Korea, by the mid 1960s North Korea's economy grew faster than the South. In 1957-1961, the five year plan placed reconstructing and developing the major industries destroyed by the war on the top of the priority list and placed consumer goods at the bottom of the priorities. This bias toward rebuilding major industries, "combined with unprecedentedly large amounts of aid from the Soviet bloc, pushed the economy forward at world-beating growth rates in the 1950s and 1960s".

Social class

Unlike the Choson dynasty where there was a huge gap between the upper and lower classes, North Korea had adopted a unified social mass, also known as the gathered-together "people". Instead of a strict social hierarchy or a class divided society, North Korea had divided the union into three classes-peasant, worker, and the samuwon where each sect is just as important as the other. The samuwon class consisted of clerks, small traders, bureaucrats, professors and writers. This was a unique class that was created in order to increase the education and literature of North Korea. Normally Communist nations would value only the farmers or laborers, thus in the USSR intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

was not an independent class of its own, but an insertion between the classes proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

 and bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

. Language reforms followed revolutions more than once, such as the simplification of Chinese characters under Mao (a consequence of the divergent orthographic choices of Taiwan
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 and the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

), or the simplification of Russian language after the 1917 revolution in Russia and consequent struggle against illiteracy, known in Soviet Russia as Likbez
Likbez was a campaign of eradication of illiteracy in Soviet Russia and Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. The term was also used for various schools and courses established during the campaign...

(Likvidaciya Bezgramotnosti, liquidation of illiteracy).

The emphasis on literacy and education stems from the understanding, explained by Lenin, that illiterate workers or peasants can't become subjects of political struggle. It was necessary, as well, to create a class of highly skilled workers, which was impossible without a pool of literate workers to draw from. North Korea, too, believed that promoting the education of the populace was as important as economic growth. These three ideas are cherished, and are symbolized through the symbol or statue of a writing brush across the hammer and sickle. North Korea also adopted a Soviet-style socialism approach. They believed in the rapid industrialization through labor and believed in subjecting nature to human will. By restructuring the social class into a mass of people who are theoretically all equal, the North Korean government claimed it would be able to attain self-reliance or Juche in the upcoming years. This is questionable, as the country suffers massive food shortages annually and is heavily dependent on foreign aid.


Human rights monitoring organizations and political analysts such as Brian Reynolds Myers
Brian Reynolds Myers
Brian Reynolds Myers is an American associate professor of international studies at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea, a contributing editor for the Atlantic, and an opinion columnist for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal...

 continually report that the actual situation in North Korea bears no resemblance to Juche theory. Myers in fact goes so far as to propose Juche is nothing but a sham developed to establish Kim Il-sung as a political thinker alongside Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

. The country's economy has depended heavily on imports and foreign aid before and after the collapse of the Communist trading bloc. They also claim that the opinions of the people have no actual weight in decision-making, which is under Kim Jong-il's autocratic control. Leading Juche theorist Hwang Jang-yop
Hwang Jang-yop
Hwang Jang-yop was a major politician in North Korea who defected to South Korea in 1997, making him to date the highest-ranking defector from the isolated state. He was largely responsible for crafting the Juche Idea, North Korea's official state ideology.-Early life and career:Hwang was born in...

 joined these criticisms after defecting
North Korean defectors
A number of individuals have defected from North Korea. Since the division of Korea after World War II and the end of the Korean War , many people have defected from North Korea, mainly for political, ideological, religious and economic reasons...

 to South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

, although he maintained his belief in the Juche Idea as he understood it. Political scientist Han S. Park in his book Juche: The Politics of Unconventional Wisdom (2002) and theologian Thomas J. Belke in Juche: A Christian Study of North Korea's State Religion (1999) liken Juche to a religious movement
Political religion
The theory of political religion concerns governmental ideologies whose cultural and spiritual aspect is so strong that it takes an overwhelming hold of peoples lives that can be only considered as religious...


In the People's Republic of China and Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, countries that have both moved away from personality-dominated autocratic institutions of state, Juche is characterized as a ridiculous idea by various internet communities, and has become the subject of satire by influential Chinese novelty film director Hu Ge
Hu Ge (director)
Hu Ge is an amateur director in the People's Republic of China who rose to fame through social satire and the Internet. His works, which are videos which can be downloaded from video-sharing sites such as YouTube, and freely distributed by his permission, are viewed by millions...

. Juche is seen by some as a post-Maoist extreme that propels the Korean dictator to a god-like status, while others see it as a Maoist emulation. Because of the nature of Juche ideology and its incorporation of Korean nationalism, it has been reported that North Korea continues to ignore the contributions of China's People's Liberation Army in the Korean War.

Outside North Korea

During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, North Korea promoted Juche and the principle of "self-reliance" as a guide for other countries, particularly third world
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

 countries, to develop their economies. Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n president Sukarno
Sukarno, born Kusno Sosrodihardjo was the first President of Indonesia.Sukarno was the leader of his country's struggle for independence from the Netherlands and was Indonesia's first President from 1945 to 1967...

 visited North Korea in 1964 and attempted to implement the North Korean economic program in his country, but it resulted in a military coup. Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

n president Nicolae Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader...

 was impressed by ideological mobilization and mass adulation in North Korea during his Asia visit in 1971, and began his systematization
Systematization (Romania)
Urban planning in communist countries was subject to the ideological constraints of the system. Except for the Soviet Union where the communist regime started in 1917, in Eastern Europe communist governments took power after World War II....

 campaign shortly afterward with those features.

The North Korean government hosted its first international seminar on the Juche Idea in September 1977. Juche study groups might exist in several countries around the world. The Korean Central News Agency
Korean Central News Agency
The Korean Central News Agency is the state news agency of North Korea and has existed since December 5, 1946. KCNA is headquartered in the capital city of Pyongyang...

 and the Voice of Korea
Voice of Korea
Voice of Korea is the international broadcasting service of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It broadcasts primarily information in Korean, Chinese, Spanish, German, English, French, Russian, Japanese, and Arabic...

 sometimes refer to statements by these groups. However, since Juche study groups are seldom mentioned in reports other than those state-run agencies (KCNA and Voice of Korea), most Juche study groups are likely fabrications of North Korean propaganda. According to the North Korean-run website www.korea-dpr.com, two of the most prominent of these groups are International Institute of the Juche Idea in Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 and the Korean Friendship Association
Korean Friendship Association
The Korean Friendship Association , headed by Spanish citizen Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les y Pérez, is an organization working with the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea , as well as an organ of promotion/public relations for the...

, an international organisation presided over by Spanish national Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les y Pérez
Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les y Perez
Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez is a communist and the president of the Korean Friendship Association and has been an advocate of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea since 1990...

. Similarly, a small stalinist-inclined organisation called Partei der Arbeit Deutschlands (PdAD, 'Labour Party of Germany') may have emerged in Germany. The party collaborated closely with Gesellschaft zum Studium und Verbreitung der Dschutsche-Ideologie in Deutschland ('Society of Studying and Disseminating the Juche Ideology in Germany'). Both were led by Michael Koth, who later moved towards neo-Nazi positions. The modern Communist Party of Germany
Communist Party of Germany (1990)
Communist Party of Germany is a minor political party in Germany, one of several who claim the KPD name. It was founded in Berlin in 1990.The party chairman was Werner Schleese. He resigned in April 2006...

 has Juche influences. Kim Jong-il has emphasized that other countries should not apply Juche formulaically, but should use methods suitable to the situation, consistent with criticisms that Juche ideology is flawed.

A French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 Juche Communist party was formed in May 2009, according to a blog created for that purpose.

In January 2011, the Juche Movement Victoria was formed in the Australian state of Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

. This incarnation of the ideology is unique in that it is very specific in its form.
The movement blends a Marxist-Leninist Socialist structure with that of Environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

, Westminster-style Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 and Economic Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...



The North Korean government and associated organizations use a variation of the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

 with a Juche year based on April 15, 1912 CE (AD)
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, the date of birth of Kim Il-sung, as year 1. The calendar was introduced in 1997. Months are unchanged from those in the standard Gregorian calendar. In many instances, the Juche year is given after the CE year, for example, 27 June 2007 Juche 96. But in North Korean publications, the Juche year is usually placed before the corresponding CE year, as in Juche 96 (2007). Calendar schemes based on political era are also found in the Japanese era name
Japanese era name
The Japanese era calendar scheme is a common calendar scheme used in Japan, which identifies a year by the combination of the and the year number within the era...

 (Nengo) system and in the Minguo calendar
Minguo calendar
The Republic of China calendar is the method of numbering years currently used in the Republic of China . It was used in mainland China from 1912 until the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949....

 used in the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 (Taiwan), though these are not based on the birth of an individual as in the Gregorian and Juche calendars. Incidentally, the year numbers of the Juche calendar, Minguo calendar, and Japan's Taishō period
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

 correspond to each other even though they were not meant to be related.

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, according to which for dates occurring before 1912 the Gregorian calendar year is used exclusively, so that there is no "negative" Juche year, or "Before Juche" concept. For example, 1682 is rendered as "1682", while 2011 is rendered as "Juche 100, 2011" or as "Juche 100 (2011)." Critics of Juche charge that the "Juche dating system", as it is based on a person's birth date rather than a political era, reflects a dynastic tradition where era names are specified for ruling Emperors of Japan and China, as well as the Korean sovereigns.

See also

  • Political religion
    Political religion
    The theory of political religion concerns governmental ideologies whose cultural and spiritual aspect is so strong that it takes an overwhelming hold of peoples lives that can be only considered as religious...

  • List of Korea-related topics
  • Arirang Festival
    Arirang Festival
    The Grand Mass Gymnastics and Artistic Performance Arirang are held in the Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea...

  • Juche Tower
    Juche Tower
    The Juche Tower is a monument in Pyongyang, North Korea. The tower is named after the principle of Juche, developed by Kim Il Sung as a blend of autarky, self-reliance, nationalism, isolationism, Korean traditionalism, and Marxism-Leninism.Completed in 1982, it is sited on the eastern bank of the...

External links

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