Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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North Korean – Sahoejuŭ

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

사회주의 사회주의 락원, 우리 식 사회주의

Sahoejuŭ sahoejuŭi rakwŏn, uri sik sahoejuŭi

‘Socialist paradise’, ‘Socialism of our style/of Korean style’


Relates to socialism

In the North Korean lexicon the term ‘socialism’ (sahoejuŭi) refers not only to the political/economic system of the DPRK, but also to the concept of a stable and secure North Korean society. The idea of a happy North Korean community is believed to be embodied in the term ‘socialist paradise’. This Sahoejuŭ (socialism) requires protecting, and is a principle referent in North Korean security thinking. Some foreign observers doubt the applicability of the term ‘socialism’ to North Korea. R. Scalapino and Chong-sik Lee suggested long ago that “it is extremely doubtful that Karl Marx, were he resurrected, would view the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a state drawn from his inspiration or as a true socialist society by his definition.”[1] The concepts of racial purity, nationalism, self-reliance and the promotion of Confucian values set North Korean society apart from the classical Marxist model. Today’s DPRK, with its thriving black market economy, deviates even further from the text-book case of a socialist society. To soothe these ideological inconsistencies, North Korean policymakers invented the adjunct expression ‘Our style/or Korean style of socialism’, which seems to concede that North Korean socialism, being very special, is not a replica of the classic model of socialism.

Sahoejuŭ in North Korean discourse embraces all ‘good things’: things, which are to be defended in the case of a foreign attack. The term encompasses officially-endorsed moral values and traditions which often have nothing to do with socialist ideology or Marxism. For example, the column with the title “Socialist morality and our life” (sahoejuŭi todŏk kwa uri saenghwal) in the leading North Korean journal, Ch’ŏllima, covers such essentially non-socialist topics as polite talking on the phone, obedience to the law, proper ways of entertaining guests, and good relations between a mother and a daughter in law.[2]

‘Socialism’ is a referent not only with respect to North Korean national security but also to the security of all progressive humanity. DPRK, being the ‘last warrior’ of socialism is presented as a guarantor of this security.

 

Examples of the use of ‘socialism’ are:

지금 어머니조국은 시련을 겪는다남들이 다 못 지킨 사회주의를 지키기에

“Today our motherland is suffering mightily because she is saving socialism, which others could not save”.[3]

In this poem, the famine of 1998 in the DPRK is presented as a sacrificial pay of the heroic North Korean people for saving world socialism and thus world security.

참으로 위대한 장군님을 어버이로 높이 모시고 하나의 대 가정을 이루고 사는 우리 나라 사회주의 제도가 아니라면 상상도 할 수 없는 일이라고 생각합니다. 세상에 이처럼 고마운 제도가 어디에 또 있겠습니까?

“I cannot imagine how we could live without a socialist system, with its convention of the revered Marshal as a father and all of us living as one big family. Where in the whole world can you find a more benevolent system?”[4]

Reverence of the Leader and the idea of living as a big family are considered inseparable parts of the socialist system.

제국주의자들의 반동적 사상문화와 이색적인 생활풍조가 우리 내부에 절대로 침습하지 못하게 하며 옷차림과 머리단장, 례의 도덕과 식 생활 문화를 비롯한 사회 생활의 모든 분야에서 사회주의 생활 양식을 철저히 고수하여야 한다.[5]

“We should be strict in preventing reactionary ideology, the culture of the imperialists and alien life trends from entering our society; in all spheres of our social life we have to preserve our socialist way of life, such as our clothing, our hairstyle, our politeness and morality and our culinary culture.”[6]

In this example, national clothing, hairstyle and food are considered to be parts of the socialist way of life in the DPRK and it is insisted that they should be defended from the contamination of foreign things.

 

꽃피는 사회주의 락원[7] “The flowering socialist paradise”

This is a common idiom used in reference to the DPRK. Characteristically, in North Korean political jargon this expression is rarely applied to the realities of other socialist countries. Often the adjective “socialist” is omitted: but the idea continues to be conveyed when the DPRK is simply called a rakwŏn , or ‘paradise’. An example of this use: 세계의 피압박 인민들에게 있어서 조선은 락원으로 되고 있다.[8] “Korea is a paradise for the oppressed people of the world”.

 

제국주의와의 치렬한 대 결전에서 우리 식 사회주의를 굳건히 수호하고

In the feverish final battle with imperialism [we would] zealously protect the socialism of our style (of Korean style).[9]

In this example, socialism is considered to be a major bone of contention between “imperialism” and the DPRK. Characteristically, this is socialism “of our style”. The importance of this adjective is demonstrated in the following example:

 

오늘 우리 나라에서는 우리 식의 정치체제, 우리 식의 경제구조, 우리 식의 생활 방식이 전면적으로 승리 하고 있다.[10]

Today a political system of our style, an economic structure of our style and a way of life of our style rule supreme in our country.

The phrase ‘of our style’ frees the author from the necessity to explain why the political system, economic structure and way of life of the supposedly socialist DPRK have little to do with socialist postulates encountered elsewhere in the world. 

 

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[1] Robert Scalapino and Chong-sik Lee, Communism in Korea, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1972, 1296

[2] See, for example, the articles published in the column “Socialist Morality and Our Life” of the leading North Korean magazine Ch’ŏllima: “Chongyŏngi kanŭn saram” [Polite person], Ch’ŏllima, 2004, 11, 50; “Sŏngun sidae kongmin-ŭi ŭimu-rŭl tahaja”[Let us all fulfill duties of the citizens of the military first epoch], Ch’ŏllima, 2007,#8, 23; “Sonnim-ŭl majŭl ttae”[When guests come], Ch’ŏllima,2005, #2, 63.

[3] Han Chŏng-gyu, Chasikdŭr-ege chaju hanŭn mal. [The Words Which I Often Say to My Children], in Pit’nanŭn rojŏng, 130-132.

[4] “Han kajong” [One Family], Ch’ŏllima, 2004, 11, 49

[5] “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.

[6] “’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.

[7] Choyŏng taesajŏn [New Korean-English Dictionary], Pyongyang ŏegukŏ taehak yŏngŏ hakpu sajŏn p’yŏnch’an chiptan ŏeguk muntosŏ ch’ulp’ansa, 2002, p.708

[8] Choyŏng taesajŏn [New Korean-English Dictionary], Pyongyang ŏegukŏ taehak yŏngŏ hakpu sajŏn p’yŏnch’an chiptan ŏeguk muntosŏ ch’ulp’ansa, 2002, p.708

[9] “’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.

[10] “’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.

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