Tag Archives: Kim Jung Il

The Decline of Kim Jung Il

As I mentioned on the Open Thread, I recently read On Some Problems of Education in the Juche Ideology by Kimg Jung Il (PDF version). Some Problems was written by Kim, the dictator of North Korea, while his dad was still dictator on July 15, 1986. Some problems is roughly divided intwo two sections. The first of which, which emphasizes the central place of Man and the cultural superorganism that creates him, is surprisingly contemporary Marxism of the sort you would see on college campuses. The second part, however, has the meat of “Juche Ideology,” which was intended to be the guiding philosophy of North Korea. Juche focuses on three major actors


  • The People, who has sovereignty over a country
  • The Party, who guide the people
  • The Leader, who guides the party


On the face of it, Juche’s People / Party / Leader view of the world is similar to the People’s Republic of China, with its emphasis on the Peopls’s Republic, the Communist Party, and Mao Zedong Thought. Indeed, Juche reads like a copycat of the cultural revolution — a plan to repeat what went “right” while avoiding what went wrong. Of course, the difference is that “Mao Zedong Thought” is really just a euphamism for the collective wisdom of the Party, while “the Leader” is a cult-like object of devotion through North Korea.

Ironically, given North Korea’s plan for a People’s Party’s Leader’s country, it didn’t turn out that way.

Kim Jung Il abandoned his original formulation, pushing an “Army First” policy that emphasizes the Korean People’s Army over the Korean Worker’s Party. Then the North Korean economy was destroyed, and the command-and-control system that guided people’s lived devolved into corruption, thievery, and brutality.

Kim Jung Il may or may not be dead. He may or may not have had a stroke, heart attack, or major surgey.

But his Juche idea is buried twice over: The Army Replaced the Party, corruption replaced rule, and the continuing growth of North Korea’s Core neighbors (China, South Korea, and Japan) rendered North Korea’s former economic wealth irrelevent.  Hope of the worker’s paradise that Kim’s dad tried to build was lost long ago.  Even Kim Jung Il’s simpler and more achievable goal of Juche is now out of reach.

Our focus must be on trying to “engage” (in the sense of subverting) the North Korean government, or whatever is left of it. The more corrupt, backchannel, guangxi connections between Pyongyang and Chinese and South Korean businessmen, the more we can first move North Korea from the most eratic country in the world to a worse-than-usual loser Gap state, like Burma. From there, we encourage whatever development we see, trying to lock the now bankrupt (in nearly every possible sense) North Korean state in to the broader world of the Asian New Core.