From New World Encyclopedia
The Tower of Juche Ideology statue in central Pyongyang.

The Juche Ideology (Juche Sasang 주체사상 in Korean; or Chuch'e; approximately, "joo-chey") is the official state ideology of North Korea and the political system based on it. Kim Jong-il has explained that the doctrine is a component part of Kimilsungism, after its founder and his father, Kim Il-sung. The core principle of the Juche ideology since the 1970s, has been that "man is the master of everything and decides everything." The official biography, Kim Il Sung, by Baik Bong, had previously described this as saying that the masters of the North Korean revolution are the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the Korean people, who must remake themselves, under its leadership. Juche literally means "main body" or "subject;" it has also been translated in North Korean sources as "independent stand" and the "spirit of self-reliance."

Juche theory is a type of Marxism ideology, but it is built upon the deification and mystification of Kim Il-sung (1912-1994). Its religious or pseudo-religious characteristics distinguish Juche ideology from all other forms of Marxism, including Marx-Leninism of the former Soviet Union, European Neo-Marxism, Maoism, and even Stalinism. Juche ideology characterizes Kim as the “eternal head of state,” a Messianic liberator of humankind, and describes North Korea as a chosen nation, and North Koreans as a chosen people who have a mission to liberate the world. While fear and terror are used to externally dominate the masses in a totalitarian state, Juche Ideology is a tool for the internal domination of their minds (known as hegemony).


Kim Il-sung advanced Juche as a slogan in a December 28, 1955, speech titled, "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work." The speech was a reaction to the policy of de-Stalinization (bureaucratic self-reform) in the Soviet Union. The Juche Idea itself gradually emerged as a systematic ideological doctrine under the political pressures of the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s. The word "Juche" also began to appear in untranslated form in English-language North Korean works from around 1965. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il 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 (army-first) policy into the Juche philosophy in 1996. In its theoretical composition, the Juche Idea is an amalgam of Neo-Confucianism, Soviet Stalinism, and Maoism.

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, economic self-sufficiency, 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 toward constructive action. The Juche outlook also requires absolute loyalty to the party and leader. In North Korea, these are the Workers' Party of Korea and Kim Jong-il.

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, 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, to ensure political independence from the Soviet Union and the Mao Zedong regime in China. The Chollima Movement, however, applied the same method of centralized state planning that began with the Soviet Five-Year Plan in 1928. The campaign also coincided with, and was partially based on, Mao's First Five-Year Plan and the Great Leap Forward. But North Korea was apparently able to avoid the catastrophes of the GLF.

One of the understated realities of the Juche Idea in practice is that its economic program of "self-reliance" has resulted in economic dependence. Throughout its history, North Korea has been an aid-dependent regime. The country was also the second largest recipient of international food aid in 2005. Notably, in the period after the Korean War, North Korea relied on economic assistance and loans from "fraternal" countries from 1953-1963, and also depended considerably on Soviet industrial aid from 1953-1976. The Soviet Union remained North Korea's greatest economic benefactor until its collapse in 1991. Thereafter, the North Korean economy went into a crisis, with consequent infrastructural failures leading to the mass famines of the mid-1990s. Juche has begun to make cautious pragmatic adaptations to capitalism since 1998.

Besides political economy, the North Korean government has promulgated the state ideology as a political alternative to traditional religion and advocates a strong nationalist propaganda basis. But while Juche is fundamentally opposed to Christianity and Buddhism, the two largest religions on the Korean peninsula, Juche theoreticians have incorporated religious ideas into the state ideology. According to government figures, Juche is the largest political religion in North Korea. The public practice of all other religions is overseen and subject to heavy surveillance by the state. In 1992, American evangelist Billy Graham was invited to North Korea, where he met with Kim Il-sung, spoke at Kim Il-sung University, and preached at Protestant and Catholic churches in Pyongyang. Another American evangelist, Rick Warren, was invited to preach in North Korea in 2006.

Relation to socialism, Stalinism, and Maoism

Like Stalin's "socialism in one country," the goal of revolution and construction under Juche is the establishment of socialism and communism within the national borders of North Korea; however, North Korean ideologists have argued that other countries 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, but distances itself from and even repudiates aspects of this political philosophy. The official position is that Juche is a completely new ideology created by Kim Il-sung, who does not depend on the Marxist classics.

In 1972, in response to the Sino-Soviet split, Juche replaced Marxism-Leninism in the revised North Korean constitution as the official state ideology. Commentators outside North Korea equate Juche with Stalinism and call North Korea a Stalinist country. Kim Il-sung's policy statements and speeches from the 1940s and 1950s, confirm that the North Korean government accepted Joseph Stalin's 1924 theory of "socialism in one country." But after Stalin's death, he was denounced as a criminal at the 1956 Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. As a result, North Korean state authorities ended overt adulation of the Soviet leader. The regime, however, refused to follow the example of Soviet political reform or to abandon its pre-1956 orthodox Stalinist economic program by joining the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). 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.

Although the influence of Mao Zedong is 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 five-year occupation of North Korea after the Korean War, as well as during the Sino-Soviet split when Kim Il-sung sided with Mao against the de-Stalinized Soviet Union. Kim attended middle school in Manchuria, he was conversant in Chinese, and he had been a guerrilla partisan in the Chinese Communist Party from about 1931-1941.

The North Korean government does make some reference to the pre-Stalin internationalists, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and Vladimir Lenin, as creditable leaders of the socialist movement in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, before the advent of Juche. But the writings of classical Marxism are generally forbidden for lay readers in North Korea. One of the premises of classical Marxist international socialism is that the workers of the world have no nation. Juche is tailored to the national peculiarities of North Korea, and to the task of creating socialism in a hostile environment.

Juche Ideology and its Pseudo-Religious Identity

Theorist of Juche Ideology: Hwang Jang-yeop

In 1976, North Korea presented “Kim Il-sung-ism” as the leading ideology of the state, and was soon integrated into Juche Ideology. Juche Ideology was developed by Hwang Jang-yeop, the leading theorist of North Korea who was greatly responsible for integrating “Kim Il-Sung-ism” into Juche ideology. Hwang studied in both Pyongyang and Tokyo, and received his Ph.D. at Moscow State University. After returning from Moscow, he became a professor at Kim Il-sung University, and then became its president in 1965. He was known as a close aid and the ghost writer of Kim Il-sung. In 1977, he delivered speeches on Juche Ideology in Japan. On his return to Pyongyang, together with his secretary he went to the Korean embassy in Peking and sought political asylum. Since then, he has been active in criticizing North Korean politics.

Deification of Kim Il-sung

The distinct characteristic of Juche ideology is its religious or pseudo-religious character, which is based upon the deification and mystification of the late Kim Il-sung. Without understanding the religious characteristics of this thought, one cannot understand why and how for three years after the death of Kim Il-sung, political rule was conducted based upon the instructions of the deceased leader without having an official election for a new leader, and diplomats were appointed and sent in the name of the deceased Kim Il-sung.

The deification of Kim Il-sung lies at the heart of Juche ideology, which results in practices characteristic of religion. His birthplace and sites where he conducted his activities are holy grounds that are destinations for North Koreans to make their pilgrimages. His portrait is hung on the wall of every household and people begin each day by reading his words. Reflection meetings are held on a regular basis, where people can repent their wrong doings and unfaithful thoughts and behaviors based upon Kim’s words as the sacred text. Based upon the deification of Kim, North Korea is characterized as the chosen nation, and North Koreans are educated as chosen people who have a mission to “liberate mankind.”

As a pseudo-religion, Juche ideology defines people’s value-system, gives meaning to their life and activities, and establishes norms for everyday life. It is immersed into every aspect of social and cultural life of North Koreans, and access to information outside of the country is strictly controlled.

The glorification of Kim is also reflected in the constitution. Every paragraph of the preface of the constitution begins with phrases of admiration for Kim, and builds the worship of Kim into the legal system. In other words, casting doubt on Kim Il-sung or having a critical view or a faithless attitude towards this ideology is subject to legal punishment.

Juche ideology creates a belief system where people can, at least on the surface, voluntarily choose to support its totalitarian rule. Those who are unwilling to accept the belief system are considered as “traitors,” and any attempt at deviating from this norm is legally punishable. Juche ideology is, in reality, forced upon its subjects with terror and fear. In this sense, North Korea’s political ideology is a prime example of totalitarianism.

Pseudo-religious totalitarianism

Juche ideology is distinguished from all other forms of Marxism, including the economic determinism of Soviet Union known as Marx-Leninism, Western Marxism of the Frankfurt School, Maoism, and even Stalinism. Totaritarian rule generally consists of external domination by fear and terror based upon legally justified violence and internal indoctrination through education. Because of Juche idealology’s pseudo-religious character, the extreme nature of this type of internal domination is probably closer to Nazism.

Political system based on the model of a human body

Juche Ideology explains the relationships between Kim, the communist party, and the people with the analogy of the human body. Kim is the head, the communist party is the body, and the people are its arms and legs. Just as human life is maintained by the functional unity of all parts of the human body in which the arms and legs move according to the direction given by the head and conducted through a body, Kim, the communist party, and the people are expected to work in oneness to maintain “political life.”

“Eternal” presence of Kim Il-sung

In the constitution of North Korea written in 1998, Kim Il-sung was described as the “eternal head of state.” According to the materialist philosophy of Marxism, there is no “eternal” entity such as God or beings that exist in the realm of a spiritual world. Accordingly, the Eternal Tower was built as a material symbol of the eternal presence of Kim. Kim was described as a “political parent” who was said to be present with people as long as they held this ideology. Furthermore, as Gregorian calendars date from the birth of Jesus, North Korea adopted its own calendar dating from the birth of Kim Il-sung.


Human rights monitoring organizations and political analysts in several parts of the world continually report that the actual situation in North Korea bears no resemblance to Juche theory. The country's economy has depended heavily on imports and foreign aid before and after the collapse of the Communist trading bloc. They also reveal that, contrary to the ideology, 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 has joined these criticisms since defecting to South Korea, although he maintains his belief in the Juche Idea as he understands it. Political scientist Han S. Park and theologian Thomas J. Belke liken Juche to a religious movement.[1]

Juche in other countries

During the Cold War, North Korea promoted Juche and the principle of "self-reliance" as a guide for other countries, particularly third world countries, to build socialism. Indonesian president Sukarno visited North Korea in 1964, and attempted to implement the North Korean economic program in his country, but it resulted in failure. Romanian president Nicolae Ceauşescu was impressed by the ideological mobilization and mass adulation in North Korea during his Asia visit in 1971. Ceausescuism and its policy of systematization appears to have had some roots in Juche. (Ironically, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, especially the execution of Ceauşescu, appears to have made a significant impact on the North Korean leadership, who quickly denounced Gorbachev's decision to no longer enforce the border restrictions in Eastern Europe.

Another possible application of Juche outside North Korea is in the case of the Pol Pot regime in Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia). North Korea and Kampuchea were close allies and Kim Il-sung had promised, in 1975, to send aid experts and technicians to help with agricultural and hydroelectric projects in the country. Pol Pot may have based his policy of ethnic and ideological purity in Kampuchea on the Juche doctrine. North Korea has no national minority policy. This stands in contrast to the existence of minority policies in the Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and China.

The North Korean government hosted its first international seminar on the Juche Idea in September 1977. Juche study groups exist in several countries around the world. The Korean Central News Agency and the Voice of Korea sometimes refer to statements by these groups. The International Institute of the Juche Idea in Japan and the Korean Friendship Association in Spain are two of the most prominent of these groups.

Juche calendar

The North Korean government and associated organizations use a variation of the Gregorian calendar with a Juche year based on April 15, 1912, C.E., the date of birth of Kim Il-sung, as year 1. There is no Juche year 0. 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 C.E. year, for example, "27 June 2005 Juche 94." But in North Korean publications, the Juche year is usually placed before the corresponding C.E. year, as in Juche 94 (2005). Calendar schemes based on political era are also found in the Japanese era name (Nengo) system and in the Minguo year numbering system used in the Republic of China (Taiwan), though these are not based on the birth of an individual as in the Gregorian and Juche calendars.


  1. Major Religions Ranked by Size, Juche. Retrieved October 10, 2006.

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