Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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North Korean – Juch’e

May 26th, 2011 · No Comments · Korean (North), Self-determination



‘self-reliance, self-determination’

Relates to self-determination

Juch’e, or chuch’e, refers to the self-reliance of Korea upon its own resources, and also its total independence/self-determination in politics, economics and defence. The concept first emerged in 1955, and indicated an open proclamation of the independence of the country from Soviet and Chinese political and cultural influence. Today the idea of juch’e postulates that Korea has to follow its own special way “no matter what happens outside the country”.  The latter alludes to, above all, the collapse of the socialist system elsewhere in the world and also international pressure on the DPRK. Maintaining juch’e is critical in the North Korean perception of security and independence.

The juch’e ideology has many inner contradictions. First, the idea of self-reliance contradicts basic postulates of socialism, such as internationalism and proletarian solidarity. It is also the case that in economic terms juch’e has never been fully realised. Despite all the talk of a “self-sustained economy”, the DPRK’s economy could never function without immense foreign support. The official North Korean discourse has failed to explain why the ideology of juch’e —which by definition ‘brings eternal prosperity’ to the lucky North Koreans—could not protect the country against mass starvation in the 1990s after the USSR and China had withdrawn their regular economic help. Another contradiction is that stubborn self-sufficiency is not compatible with today’s reality of mass involvement of the North Korean population in illegal trade with China.

Though juch’e is officially proclaimed to be the “beam for humanity”, North Korean discourse makes it quite clear that juch’e is unique to Korea—an ideology that is also a way of life and critical to national identity, and which cannot be replicated by non-Korean countries. In this respect, the concept is close to the above-cited ‘socialism of our style’—that is, the style which nobody can imitate. It should be noted also that juch’e is considered essential for security and happiness of South Koreans and Koreans living overseas. According to the official North Korean version, in South Korea juch’e is under constant attack by ‘reactionary forces’.


우리 공화국은 주체사상을 구현한 위대한 인민의 나라, 가장 존엄 높은 불패의 사회주의강국이며 우리 인민의 영원한 삶과 행복의 요람이다.[1]

“Our republic is the country of great people who invented the idea of juch’e; it is powerful, highly respected and an unconquerable socialist state, the cradle of eternal life and happiness of our people.”


주체의 길은 영원한 승리와 번영의 길이다. 우리는 세상이 어떻게 변하고 남들이 어떻게 하든 앞으로도 제정신을 가지고 우리식대로 혁명과 건설을 전진시켜나가야 한다.[2]

“The way of juch’e is the way of eternal victory and prosperity. No matter what changes happen in the world, no matter what other [nations] are doing, we must have our own spirit and develop our revolution and construction in our own way.”


남조선에서 시대의 요구와 민족의 지향에 배치되게 주체성이 여지없이 유린막살 되고 있으며 고유한 민족성과 전통이 짓밟히고 있다.[3]

“In South Korea, the demands of our epoch and national goals are ignored; juch’e is mercilessly violated and authentic national spirit and traditions are being trampled down.”


주체, 자주, 자립, 자위, 이것은 주체사상이 밝혀 주는 혁명의 지도 원칙이다.[4]

“Self-determination in ideology, independence, self-support in economy and self-defence in national defence are basic principles of revolution embodied by juch’e ideas.”

(Note here the way in which ‘independence’, ‘self-support’, and ‘self-defence’ are clustered together around the idea of juch’e.)



[1] “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.


[2] “’Uri sik taero saranagaja!’, I kuho-rŭl tŏuk ch’ŏljŏi kuhyŏnhaja”[Let us consistently realise the slogan “Let us survive our way”], Nodong sinmun, 2008, 05.07, 1.


[3] Sim Ch’ŏl-yŏng, “Chuch’esŏng, minjoksŏngŭl sallyŏnaganŭn kŏsŭn hyŏnsilŭi chŏlbakhan yogu”[ Saving the spirit of juch’e and national entity is a pressing demand of our reality]. Nodong sinmun, 2008, 15th of May, 5.

[4] Choyŏng taesajŏn [New Korean-English Dictionary], Pyongyang ŏegukŏ taehak yŏngŏ hakpu sajŏn p’yŏnch’an chiptan ŏeguk muntosŏ ch’ulp’ansa, 2002, p.1636


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