What Does the Real North Korea Look Like


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), founded by Kim Il Sung, claimed to be a Communist country, holding the idea that people are the leaders of the country. However, the ambitious North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, taking advantage of the North Korean people’s fury after the anti-Japanese war, distorted the idea of Communism by overwhelmly emphasizing the importance of centralizing power. Through the following analysis we would see how Kim governs people as an emperor while using the name of Communism.

In the Early 19th century, Marx and Engels had founded the theory of Communism. The theory is then widespread across the world. Everyone knows Communism and most of western world country rejects the idea of Communism. But what is Communism? According to the 1986 Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (White 2):

A classless social system with one form of public ownership of the means of production and full social equality of members; under it all-around development of people will be accompanied by the growth of the productive forces through continuous progress in science and technology; all the springs of cooperative wealth will flow more abundantly and the great principle ’From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ will be implemented. Communism is a highly organized society of free, socially conscious working people in which public self-government will be established, a society in which labor for the good of society will become the prime vital requirement of everyone, a necessity recognized by one and all, and in which the ability of each person will be employed to the greatest benefit of the people (White 3)

The object of Communism is to create a world of peace and harmony.The object itself is exactly what people in the warring time looking forward to. This is why many countries follow the idea of Communism in the 1900s. The Bolsheviks started to apply Communism in order to take over the Russian Tsar in 1917. They believed in the idea of shared ownership. They also believed in the idea of “Had no country”(1); in order words, the common interest of the people is more important than the national loyalties (1). Those beliefs impressed countries like Armenia and Georgia. The new born Russia then allied with those countries from Eastern Europe and Asia. Finally, the ally became the Soviet Union. That was the blooming era of Communism.

The Soviet Union, undoubtedly, was the overlord of the eastern world around 1900s. As a result, more and more countries started to learn the idea of Communism since the Soviet Union apply Communism to govern the country. North Korea at the time was almost ruined by the Japanese invade (Rudolph 122). Therefore, a lot of patriots of North Korea went outside of the country and study advanced knowledge. Kim Il Sung was one of the North Koreans studying abroad. Unlike others, he was a great hero in anti-Japanese war. However, he was not a really heroic figure. What made him come back to North Korea with a great reputation was because most of his victories were publicized while other patriots’ achievements are mostly hidden and could not be revealed since they were doing underground revolution. (Song 566). Portrayed by the local news source, Kim Il Sung was seen as the “lodestar of national liberation”. If Kim Il Sung started his way to become the national leader of North Korea, he would succeed after a few years of hard work. However, the Soviet Union needed North Korea to become part of its ally as soon as possible since it was at the era during the Cold War. Therefore, “Moscow helped prop up the erstwhile guerrilla fighter Kim Il Sung.” (I. Kim 24). Kim Il Sung become the leader of North Korea.

With the power given by the Soviet Union, Kim Il Sung was able to govern the country directly. At the same time, the North Koreans really saw the Soviet Union as their “Masaya”. Indeed that is what the Soviet Union wanted. The Soviet Union’s help is appreciable; however, it made North Korea so dependent. In order to make the country autocracy under Kim’s government instead of a Soviet-governed country, Kim Il Sung magnified those disadvantages brought by Soviet Union. Finally Kim stated that North Korea should be independent. He then stopped receiving help from Soviet Union and took over the country (G. Kim 24). In order to generate power quickly, Kim came up the idea of ruling people by planting a faith in their mind. Therefore, he chose to use the name of Communism to become the real leader quickly.

Communism calls upon people to rebel and to make revolution. It would be helpful if Kim Il Sung spreaded the idea during the Anti-Japanese War to boost North Korean’s braveness since the North Korean people were sacred by the Japanese colonialism. However, after Japan was defeated in the World War II, it is no longer a threat to North Korea. At the same time he decided to invade North Korea since he still had the advanced technology brought by the Soviet Union. Part of the reason of starting war is to spread the idea of Communism. Eventually, the Korean War broke out on 25 June 1950. Although Kim Il Sung thought it would be an easy win, the U.S. helped South Korea to resist the invasion. On July 27, 1953, the war ended with the Korean Armistice Agreement. After the war, the Americans left troops in South Korea warning North Korea not to invade again. However, the Chinese, supporters of North Korea did not do the same thing (Hong, par. 24). As a result, the American troops became an ideal “evil” figure for Kim Il Sung. He portrayed the troops as a great threat to North Korea at that time. He saw America as the evil imperialists, which was quite similar to the Japanese colonialism and sometime interchangeable, as their imaginary enemy. Scared by the Japanese army, the North Korean people soon believe in Kim’s words. This policy has the same effect as Hitler setting the Jews as Germany’s biggest enemy. Kim Il Sung lied to his people that the Americans’ goal of protecting South Korea was a lie and they would invade North Korea someday. Therefore, North Koreans were afraid and converted to Communism since the idea of Communism is to rebel against imperialism, in this case the “extremely vicious” America became the imaginary enemy and the word of evilness in North Korea.

Therefore, people tend to believe they needed power to protect their own country from being invaded by America the imaginary enemy. As a result, Kim Il Sung had enough excuses to apply the Military Priority policy in North Korea, which will be expanded later. Besides that he controlled the media by amplifying the potential threat (Cornell 106). At that time, half of the media articles talked about the threat from America.

Communism holds the idea of centralizing power to grant great force for revolution. However, no such revolution happened in North Korea. As a result, only power was generated and centralized by Kim Il Sung, which explains how he distorted the idea of Communism and overwhelm centralized power. Eventually, after the Korean War, the erstwhile guerrilla fighter Kim II-Sung emerged as the absolute leader while his peers thought he didn’t fit the position. Ironically, today the portly generalissimo has statues all across the country (Cain, par.9). Indeed Kim Il Sung never fits the position but he knows how to govern the people easily.

How did Kim come up with such a “brilliant” idea on how to rule the North Korean people taking advantage of the idea of Communism? Remember that he fled away to Russia and China during the Anti-Japanese War. Kim Il Sung took education in Russia and studied Lenin’s Marxism. However, what he had learned in Russia was already somehow different from the original Marxism. The idea he studied only fit to Russia which needed soldiers and educated people for Bolsheviks during the revolution. Leninism, Lenin’s own interpretation of Marxism, focuses on the war period (Cornell 129). As a result, Lenin centralized all his usable powers. He improved the military first, prior than others. Those studies greatly influenced Kim Il Sung. But Kim, unaware of the difference, applied this to his own country. At the first time he took over the country he wanted to apply the new knowledge in order to save the country (130). Influenced by the collectivism in Communism, Kim actually believed the country should be ruled by someone with really great influence.

Kim was also greatly influenced by Mao, by China’s government at that time. Like Lenin’s Marxism, the study of Mao also misled Kim from the real Communism. Studying China’ Marxism include not only Communism but those extreme ideas of dictatorship later on caused the “Great Leap Forward” and Cultural Revolution. In those cases, Mao was like the supreme god. Obviously Kim liked this idea of being a dicatator and he made North Korean like this. This explains why North Korea had so many unexplainable weird policies (will explain later on) as if Kim was the god. Studying Mao’s idea also granted great economical influence on Kim’s decision. Kim believed that he should blindly enlarge the creation of irons and other technologies most North Korean didn’t know how to operate (Cornell 130-134). Therefore he could have a stronger army. Those policies were aborted after a few years when Kim realized those are not possible to achieve. However, the abuse of the natural resources was still a great destruction to a country like this, reforming after the war.

The wrong policies applied to the country caused around twenty percent more people in North Korea starving (Bossuet 4). Therefore some people started to question Kim and disbelieved his idea. As a result, Kim started to clean up those against him. He was just like a tyrant but with the leader figure in people’s head. He oppresses other officers, he killed or exiled most of the comrades used to fight with him in the Anti-Japanese War. In his prolonged trip, from June 1 to July 19 in 1953, to other Communist countries, another party led by Ch’oe Yong-gon in North Korea took over North Korea by indicating that Kim may not return and DPRK should have a new leader (Lankov 76). However, since the Military Priority policy, which made a lot of henchmen of Kim to serve as a general in the army, was ordered by Kim, he ended the rebellion with execution of those rebelling leaders. Although those who knew the truth understood that Ch’oe Yong-gon was standing for the North Korean people compared to Kim who only wanted to fulfill his own property, Kim used his supreme power wipe out the last potential rebelling power in the country (Lankov 79). His abuseed of power and injustice actions were the ironclad proof for Kim as a fatuous tyrant who only thinks of his own profit. His cleanup of the country finally ended up with a country having a useless leader and extremely bureaucratic bloc. What Kim did also benefits Kim’s later generation and made them have no enemies. Therefore, when he left the power to the his son, he would not need to worry about opposition. (Barry, par. 13)As Kim himself said to a reporter asking question about Kim Jong Il, “Don’t you know [Kim Jong Il] has a bureaucratic bloc behind him, they all rise or fall with him — these people really know how to do this” (Cumings par.3). Apparently, all the opposing voices were suppressed by Kim Il Sung. Therefore the rest of the government, “a bureaucratic bloc”, is definitely on Kim Jong Il’s side.

That was Kim Il Sung’s experience to gain power. After he confirmed no one would threaten his plan of his “North Korea Dynasty,” he continued to exploit the North Korean people. Following the doctrine of Communism about human rights, Kim told the people that the “our society’s democratic characteristics lie in the fact that everyone practices a completely equal political right, enjoys sound and stable material and cultural life, lead others based on like-minded love and faith, and strive for common interests and collective betterment” (Kim Il Sung 1991–1992/1996, 51–52) (Song 568). He promised many attractive conditions that made the North Korean people royal to him (just like what candidates do before the election). However, Kim really just wanted to benefit himself. His words eventually became empty promises. Therefore, he tried to turn people’s attention to other things when he found it is impossible to achieve his promises. He started to employ the naming and blaming strategy.

Similar to what Kim applied to the US troops after the Korea War, the naming and blaming strategy used by the DPRK accused about the US interest in international human rights treaties and institutions. Those institutions and treaties, as DPRK describes, serves only a few capitalist countries and isolate socialist countries like DPRK. This time, he found another excuse from the doctrine of Communism. In order to achieve a better future of the country, he needed to centralize the power.

Source: Anti-US posters by North Korean artists (Song 567)

He introduced collectivism, which means”one for all, all for one”. And it is stated in Article 49 of the 1972 Socialist Constitution (also as Article 63 of the amended constitutions in 1992 and 1998) (Song 573). In the time of war, Marx’s idea believes that the collective nature of people should be emphasized. The Juche ideology is idea is quite similar to this. Although the ideology is derived from the Communism, it is only the starting point of Marxism-Leninism (Cornell 42). That explains why the North Korea government states that they apply the Communism but deny the right of the individual at the same time. What exactly is the Juche ideology? As one of the most important policy in North Korea, it includes:

Abiding by the Constitution and socialist principles (Article 67);

Respect for collective spirit, sacrifice for the interests of the People, the Fatherland and revolution (Article 68);

Labour as the divine duty (Article 69);

The preservation of public assets (Article 70);

A revolutionary spirit and protection of national secrets (Article 71);

And defense of the Fatherland and duty to do military service/punishment for treason against the Fatherland and the People (Article 72). (qtd. In Song 582)

Kim Il Sung created the ideology did not mean to improve the country and organized North Korea in a right way. Indeed, he just wanted to show off his talent on politics in order to conceive the people to believe in him. The Korean people were told they believe in a policy derived from Communism, but there is nothing but that benefit Kim Il Sung himself. (David-West 53)

Apart from what he did on his own country, he tried to make alliance by using this idea. In his words, the Juche ideology means a country rely on its own resources. He spreaded the words to other developing countries. Kim believed that the juche idea should be spread by following the concept of rigid adherence. Therefore, one will believe in that because others all believes in the same idea. Obviously, this is not possible since the modern-day international alliance mainly means trading. Besides, other countries could not apply this policy since they are not countries like North Korea that is able to make it self-sufficient since it possesses plenty of mineral resources. Therefore Kim’s bad reputation was established at that time (Cornell 53). This greatly exacerbates the poor condition in North Korea after the wars. However, this is not all the destruction brought by the Juche ideology. The most terrific result was how the Juche ideology affected on the education system, which finally made North Korea unable to compete with other countries.

Following the collective idea stated by Kim Il Sung, the North Korea government told teachers to teach the students to be selfless communists. Kim II Sung himself said that “the most important part of communist education is to teach our children the spirit of love of the People, friends, affiliated organizations and communities” (Bossuet 3). His object was all the Nort Korean would have common interests and helped another in fraternal relation and following the “one for all, all for one”. Therefore, it created a sense of feudal system where Kim Il Sung is the emperor and the supreme god.

Besides, the collectivism, the North Korean education system had extreme negative influence. Kim Il Sung designed a class-conscious anti-capitalist education. He suggested that people should detest the entire capitalist class instead of the individuals. So he constantly repeated the contrasting conditions of capitalist countries like America and socialist countries like North Korea. He argued that Socialism was the only way to make North Korea wealthy. “In the second battle they killed 70 more bastards than they had in the first battle. How many bastards did they kill in the second battle? How many bastards did they kill altogether?” (Cain, para. 5) This is a question from a North Korean textbook. Children are educated with strong hatred. It is not hard to imagine how they will behave after they grow up. As we all know, it is really hard to change a habit that one is used to when he/she was a child. As a result, the education system not only teaches the students how to become a useful part of society, but the compulsory education, at the same time, also teaches one how to serve Kim well and hate America, the capitalist country.

As a result of those extremely bad conditions, we could imagine how bad the North Korean’s lives are. However, they still believe that they have the best condition in the world. They are so isolated. Due to their strange education, they are unable to accept the truth. When a reporter from America wanted to talk with a family, he had to go with under a North Korean translator, also a spectator. Besides that, there are barriers when foreigners want to talk with local families. The official translator will not provide a really accurate translation for sure (because of the Kim’s policy). Bossuet visited two families but they refused his visit with the same apologize.

The North Koreans believe they have democracy; however, they are ruled by a monarchist family. They think they have the best conditions in the world; however, others view them as the people suffer the most. They think they follow divine Communism; however, they are following the Juche ideology created by Kim Il Sung. Ruled by the family of Kim Il Sung, believing the distorting idea of Communism, this is what the real North Korea looks like.







Works Cited

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