In the spirit of Paul Harvey
, here's.... the rest of the story
In 1945, Kim Il Sung was one of thousands of Korean Communists training in asylum in Siberia. He had already established himself as a guerrilla hero among the Korean refugees, and reportedly commanded an international army under the auspices of the Soviet Red Army. At that time, the USSR had not yet joined the Pacific war, so Kim and his people were safe.
North Korea's official history says that Kim led his army into Pyongyang, victorious over the Japanese Empire. Soviet and American accounts, however, show that Kim followed Soviet generals back to Korea. The Korean communist movement was so factionalized at that time that Kim was the only suitable puppet state leader the Russians could find.
Juche did not exist yet. It did not exist until 1955, two years after the Korean War ended. Until then, it was Josef Stalin's picture being paraded up the street, not Kim Il Sung's. However, the early trappings of juche were falling into place as early as 1946, when Kim publicly asserted Koreans' racial superiority, telling his followers that they had merely been "made backwards" by the dirty Japanese.
The 1955 version, explained in one of Kim's many bloated rhetoric speeches, said:
- The people own history and the revolution
- The masses are organized and led by a single leader
Point 1 came straight from communist tradition. Point 2, however, is of questionable motives. Kim's argument was that Korea
had never seen democratic rule: it had gone straight from monarchy
to the Japanese police state. Indeed, democracy
did not exist in Korea until South Korea
's transition in the late 1980's, thirty years later. Kim was also designing his government from his own experiences as a freedom fighter in Manchuria, where he had strict control over his men and scored massive victories through discipline.
Around that time, North Korea was still occupied by Soviet and Chinese troops, and the two hegemons' conflict was beginning to show itself. Starting in 1957, the self-reliance aspect of juche halfassedly began to come into play, as Kim moved toward China and away from the USSR. In the 1960's, Kim was firmly in the Chinese camp, but Mao Zedong ended up trashing North Korea in 1967 and temporarily wrecking their relations.
Here is the 1977 version, in Kim's own metaphor:
Even through the tussles with China (which ended under Zhou Enlai
), real isolationism
never entered the equation until Kim Jong Il
took over domestic affairs in the eighties. In the 1970's, Kim was negotiating with American and South Korean intelligence to open up diplomatic channels, and was gladly accepting investment from Europe and Japan. In 1975
, North Korea joined the Non-Aligned Movement
The growing problem was that Kim had already decided to let his eldest son take over, and once the son started to come in, everything began changing. The suryong concept was Jong Il's creation in the 1980's, and Jong Il also began the practice of deifying the Great Leader, having Koreans "receive" him in the same language they would receive communion. As the Cold War wrapped up, isolationism became a stronger and stronger facet of juche, but Kim Il Sung never seemed to follow his son's hard line: on the day of his death, he was personally inspecting facilities for a North-South summit with Kim Young Sam.
So the bottom line is that boi_toi's description of juche only really applies to post-Cold War North Korea, and is probably causing Kim Il Sung to spin in his grave.
Park Han Shik, a Korean-American, has written some excellent books about juche's evolution: if you want to learn more about the philosophy, he's the one to turn to.