The Juche Tower in Pyongyang lit up at night © Eric Lafforgue, www.ericlafforgue.com
Juche (pronounced ju-chay), also known as Kimilsungism, is the sociopolitical philosophy developed by Kim Il Sung and expounded by Kim Jong Il, and which is infused into, and underpins, many if not all facets of the DPRK’s governing philosophy, society and culture. Juche is a Korean word of two syllables, ju meaning ‘master’ and che meaning ‘oneself’, so literally translated it means ‘Master of one’s self’. Although the term first became widely used in 1955, most DPRK histories trace its origin back to June 1930 when the young Kim Il Sung outlined a new path for the Korean revolution at a meeting of revolutionaries in Kalun.
Kim Il Sung’s father Kim Hyong Jik, when president of the Korean National Association, advocated the idea of Chiwon – ‘Aim High’ – to achieve Korean independence. This idea and the tenets of Marxism were important sources for Juche ideas, but to the standard Marxist emblem of the hammer and sickle Kim added the calligraphy brush, to include the intellectuals who he felt the Russians had sidelined at their peril.
Not that other intellectuals would influence Juche, so much that Juche would influence them and all else. As stipulated in Article 3 of the 1998 DPRK Constitution, Juche is the state’s governing philosophy, aimed at realising the ultimate communist state. Juche is celebrated by its followers for its ‘scientific’ answers to questions of man’s destiny and, as the plaques at the base of Pyongyang’s Juche Tower show, Juche has (small) followings worldwide. For all its international appeal, however, Juche is heavily Korea-centric.
Juche is a Korean word of two syllables, ju meaning ‘master’ and che meaning ‘oneself’, so literally translated it means ‘Master of one’s self’.
Briefly, Juche states that man is the master of everything, and decides everything. Man is distinguished from the other countless physical and organic entities surrounding him by possessing the three attributes of creativity, consciousness and Chajusong, the last meaning ‘independence’, or man’s innate will to live, to develop independently, and master his own destiny and world.
Chajusong involves man subordinating nature to his own ends, adapting the environment to suit him, as opposed to adapting to the environment as plants and animals do. And while animals may mould the environment for themselves, their endeavours are purely instinctive, whereas man has developed and learnt (eg: building shelters that have developed from mud huts to tower blocks) and is improved by his creativity. Man’s consciousness allows him to observe and understand the properties of his environment and manipulate it thus.
Chajusong and creativity are related as mastering the world involves recreating it, and consciousness realises that Chajusong requires creativity to achieve mastery, recognising Chajusong’s needs and directing man’s energies into moulding his surroundings accordingly. Therefore, all subjugation is to be resisted, and Juche strongly denounces dogmatism and flunkeyism. Man’s social and political life are critical because man can only move beyond his instincts and fully realise his consciousness, creativity and Chajusong through education and thought development.
Man needs the strong governance and guidance of a socialist state to fully realise those attributes needed to live in individual autonomy in the communist utopia, ie: to live in a world without states, one needs to be prepared by the state. Juche argues for that but in a Korea-specific way: man’s Chajusong, creativity and consciousness are what will enable him to live in the autonomous nirvana, but to bring those attributes out needs the strong DPRK state under the helm of the Kims.
Briefly, Juche states that man is the master of everything, and decides everything.
Juche affords no value to anything beyond its potential use or harm to man. Capitalism understands value and worth through monetary form, and greed prevents serious scientific advancements from benefiting society (consumer durables are in fact designed to break). This value system is also subjective and therefore unscientific and irrational and no way to run a society. Juche insists it must be in the interests of the individual to be engaged, but engagement comes through exciting and channelling his energies towards society’s ends. Machines and materials can never be valued over man, for they are useless without men and exist only to serve him and society.
A child, part of the Pioneer Corp North Korean children join to learn about learn the workings of collective life, paying respect to the Dear Leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, in Mansudae Art Studio © Eric Lafforgue, www.ericlafforgue.com
Marxism espouses that socio-historical progress comes from developments in the production of material wealth. Transformations in social history have come about through changes in the productive forces, production relations and production of material wealth.
Juche argues that history is the process of the masses enhancing their position and role to realise Chajusong. The masses struggle for Chajusong; when society’s structure denies or constrains Chajusong, then society is changed. In international diplomacy, Juche demands each nation stand its own ground and defend its collective Chajusong against outside meddling. Hence the DPRK’s steadfast independence and neutrality during the Sino–Soviet split, its refusal to join COMECON (the Soviet bloc economic union) and its resistance to pressure from the US. Further, a nation’s true Chajusong can only be achieved through economic self-sufficiency, for any reliance on others shifts power into their hands.
And to prevent the wrong class from controlling and abusing the power of the state, the masses must seize control of the state and its economic means of production. Society’s structure is underpinned by its forms of economic production, so seizing them is the first means to change society into more advanced states as the masses need. History is a series of struggles, from primitive society through feudalism to industrialisation, involving the struggle to subdue nature, wherein the creative processes are fostered, practised and developed.
To realise Chajusong the masses must be brought up to be the masters of society, and be free of all exploitation and oppression. But old ideas die hard and imperialists continue to infiltrate and spread reactionary ideas, so even the liberated need ideological remoulding to wipe out old ideas and retool them with progressive ideas. People need to be remoulded like nature.
History is a series of struggles, from primitive society through feudalism to industrialisation, involving the struggle to subdue nature, wherein the creative processes are fostered, practised and developed.
In 1975 the line of the Three Revolutions was put forward – the ideological revolution, technical revolution and cultural revolution. Basically the ideological revolution was to be complemented by the technical revolution to free people from the shackles of outdated technology and liberate people from backbreaking work. The cultural revolution would bring everyone up to the standard of an intellectual. Progressive ideas mean a high level of scientific and technical knowledge, with a strong physique. Thought determines men’s worth and quality. Knowledge doesn’t mean respectability, because much knowledge and bad ideology is disastrous. Only sound ideology, via good ideological remoulding, can direct knowledge to society’s benefit.
Juche serves the masses, so the masses must learn Juche and accept the organisation required to imbue them with the philosophy of revolutionary struggle, the struggle to defend their Chajusong, their life and soul. For revolutionary tasks to succeed, political work must educate and rouse people into action, and the fostering of their zeal must be prioritised over all other work. The political persuasion and education of people must be tailored to their backgrounds, trades, etc. One persuader per ten workers is a good ratio for instilling revolutionary fervour. Above all, harnessing this zeal requires good leadership from the Party and its leader. The leader is the brain to the body of the masses and is the supreme representative and embodiment of their interests; his acts represent their will. He leads them to victory and so devotion to the leader is the highest expression of revolutionary zeal.
With many thanks to Dermot Boyd-Hudson for his help here. The above is sourced from The Immortal Juche Idea by Kim Chang Ha, Pyongyang Foreign Languages Publishing House, Pyongyang Korea, 1984. For further information look up the Juche Idea Study Group of England, or the Association for the Study of Songun Politics UK (www.uk-songun.com/index.php) or the International Institute of the Juche Idea (http://juche.v.wol.ne.jp/en.htm).