Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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North Korean – Sulyŏng (nim)

May 26th, 2011 · No Comments · Korean (North), Leader

수령(님) (김 일성 동지), (경애하는) 장군님 (김 정일 동지)

Sulyŏng (nim) (Kim Il-Sŏng tongji), (kyŏng-aehan’ŭm) jang-kunnim (Kim Jyŏng-Il tongji)

‘The (Great) Leader’ (Comrade Kim Il Sung), ‘The (Dear) Marshal/The General’ (Comrade Kim Jong Il)’

(위대한 Kim Jong Il)

Relates to Leader

Both North Korean leaders, father and son, are seen to personally guarantee the North Korean national security and stability. They are said to be endowed with numerous superhuman virtues which presumably let the North Koreans lead a carefree life (purŏm ŏpsi, ‘envying nobody in the world’, as the popular North Korean slogan maintains). Even the death of the first leader did not put an end to this capacity: Kim Il Sung’s spiritual supervision over the lucky country has continued, while the actual leadership has been handed over to his designated heir, Kim Jong Il. In the international dimension of North Korean discourse, both Kims are also understood to be guarantors of security for Koreans worldwide.

During the course of North Korean history the titles given to both leaders changed. After Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, however, he has customarily been referred to as “The Great Leader”, while new titles are still being invented to describe his son Kim Jong Il. Among many other recent titles there are ‘the leading star of the 21st century’, ‘the bright sun of the 21st century’, ‘the world leader of the 21st century’, and ‘the bright sun of juch’e (self-reliance) ideas’.


수령님은 영원히 우리와 함께 계시네.[1]

‘The Leader will always be with us.’

장군님만 계시면 우린 잘 살수 있소.[2]

‘Only by having the Marshal with us we can live happily’

우리는 정말 수령 복이 있습니다.[3]

‘We are very blessed with leaders.’

지난해 정치와 군사, 경제와 문화, 외교를 비롯한 모든 분야에서 이룩된 자랑 찬 승리와 성과는 위대한 김정일 동지의 탁월한 전략전술과 강철의 의지, 정력적인 령도의 빛나는 결실이다. [4]

The triumphant victories and achievements which have been made during the last year in the spheres of political and military affairs, in economy and culture, in international relations are all the brilliant results of the extraordinary strategic talent, iron will and energetic leadership of Great Comrade Kim Jong Il.

장군님께서 남녘겨레 만이 아니라 해외동포들에 대해서도 얼마나 마음 쓰는지 저희들도 다는 모릅니다. 우리 겨레가 통일된 강산에서 화목하게 살아갈 그날을 위해 온갖 심혈을 다 기울이시니까요 .[5]

You [Koreans overseas] do not even know how much the Leader cares not only for South Koreans, but the Koreans living overseas as well. He pours out all his heart and soul, working towards a day when all Koreans will live happily on the land of unified Korea.

This last example conveys well the way the Great Leader is portrayed as offering protection not only for the citizens of the North but for Koreans all over the world. The North Korean official ideology maintains that the security of Koreans overseas is closely connected with the spreading of juch’e (self-reliance) ideas (discussed separately). It is presumed that an inevitable spreading of juch’e ideas all over the world must eventually solve the problems of Koreans worldwide.

In practice the announced protection of the Great Leader has no impact on the lives of Koreans abroad. The only overseas Koreans that come close to enjoying any protection by the DPRK are the members of Ch’ongryŏn, a pro-North Korean organization of Koreans living in Japan.[6] From time to time the official North Korean press publishes protests against the oppression of Chongryŏn’s members by the Japanese government, but these protests, in fact, remain largely on paper; the DPRK does not interfere on behalf of Chongryŏn’s “brethren”.




[1] Choyŏng taesajŏn [New Korean-English Dictionary], Pyongyang ŏegukŏ taehak yŏngŏ hakpu sajŏn p’yŏnch’an chiptan ŏeguk muntosŏ ch’ulp’ansa, 2002, p. 1465

[2] Ryu Hui-nam, «Han kajŏnge iyagi» [Story about One Family], Chosŏn munhak, 2004, 5, 32

[3] Choyŏng taesajŏn [New Korean-English Dictionary], Pyongyang ŏegukŏ taehak yŏngŏ hakpu sajŏn p’yŏnch’an chiptan ŏeguk muntosŏ ch’ulp’ansa, 2002, p. 1465

[4] “Konghwakuk ch’angkŏn 60tolŭl majŭn olhaerŭl chokuk ch’ŏngsae arosaegyŏjil yŏksajŏk chŏnghwanŭi haero pinnaeija” [Let Us Celebrate This Year of the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of the DPRK as a Pivotal Historical Year which will be Inscribed in the History of Our Country”]. Rodong Sinmun, 2008, the 1st of January, 1.

[5] Sŏk Yu-kyun, “Ryutarŭn p’ungkyŏnghwa”[Different Landscape],Chosŏn munhak, 2005,#5,52

[6] For a discussion of Ch’ŏngryŏn’s activities, see: Sonia Ryang, North Koreans in Japan: Language, Ideology, and Identity, Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.



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