The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is called a ”communist” nation by the capitalist media. Although Stalinist in their propaganda, they are more a militaristic monarchy then classic stalinism. A typical people’s republic based on marxism-leninism ( stalinism ) is ruled by a communist party. This party has the absolute monopoly on state power. They provide the ruling caste of bureaucrats, who enjoy a privileged lifestyle. Workers under stalinism have no political freedoms, they are not allowed to form their own trade unions and political organisations. This is why revolutionary socialists always stood in opposition to the former people’s republics around the world!
North Korea or DPRK is a strange nation. Called socialist and communist by the media of the capitalists, the DPRK is in fact not even remote close to a genuine socialist nation. Since December 2011, North Korea is ruled by Kim Jong Un. This 31 year old fat guy is the youngest son of the late Kim Jong Il, who ruled the nation from 1994 until 2011!
Kim Jong Il was the oldest son of Kim Il Sung, the founding father and eternal president. It was Kim Il Sung who was installed by the Soviets in 1945, to lead the north of Korea after its liberation from the Japanese. Korea was divided between a south under American administration and a north under Soviet administration. In the south, the Americans installed Syngman Rhee as their strong man, while the Soviets installed Kim Il Sung as theirs!
Syngman Rhee was an old anticommunist, 70 years old and had lived in the USA. The Korean Provisional Government in exile had bad memories of Syngman Rhee, who was once leader of the Korean community in America. However by 1925, the Provisional Government removed him as leader after it turned out he was corrupt. Yet his opposition to communism and his loyalty towards the USA, made him a perfect candidate to lead the anticommunist south!
With American support, Syngman Rhee was ”elected” president of the Republic of Korea. Leftist parties boycotted the elections, who were not fair and free. Still the first government of South Korea was formed and started a massive campaign to destroy socialists, communists, trade unionists and all who rejected the totalitarian anticommunist dogma of Syngman Rhee. By the end of 1948, more then 30.000 Koreans were jailed for their political views!
In the north, Kim Il Sung did the same. All who opposed the monopoly of the Workers Party of Korea were arrested. Although Kim Il Sung was powerful, he was not yet absolute dictator. He still needed support from the WPK to carry out his politics. In 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was founded. A classic Stalinist state with the WPK as the only allowed party. Kim Il Sung became prime minister and started to call himself ”Great Leader”!
Between 1948 and 1950, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea fought several border conflicts. Both states rejected each other and both tried to start a civil war. Kim Il Sung was armed with the latest Soviet weapons, many newly build T-34 tanks were giving to the north. South Korea was not good armed. The USA did not provide them with the latest weapons. Syngman Rhee was giving second-hand weapons. By compare the Korean People’s Army was armed with 250.000 soldiers, while the army of South Korea numbered 90.000 troops!
Kim Il Sung began the Korean civil war in June 1950. The army of the ROK was unable to stop the modern tanks of the DPRK. In panic, the government of South Korea ordered the execution of all political prisoners. 150.000 were executed, most were killed in the Bodo League concentration-camps. Still the army of the DPRK took control of Seoul and Syngman Rhee was forced to flee to the south of his nation. It seemed that Korea would be united under the banner of Kim Il Sung!
However the USA refused to allow this. With support from the United Nations, the Americans intervened and came to rescue the totalitarian dictatorship. UN forces under American leadership attacked the Korean People’s Army and were able to defeat it. Most Soviet made tanks used by the North Koreans were unable to fight against the newly American tanks.
American president Henry Truman compared the invasion to the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. Truman would later say; ”Communism was acting in Korea, just as Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese had ten, fifteen, and twenty years earlier. I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, Communist leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to our own shores. If the Communists were permitted to force their way into the Republic of Korea without opposition from the free world, no small nation would have the courage to resist threat and aggression by stronger Communist neighbors”
The USA was under the Red Scare in 1950. People were raised to fear leftism and to denounce all Americans as traitors, who stood up for democratic rights. Progressive Americans were bullied, intimidated and many lost their jobs. To be a leftist in the USA during the 1950’s, was very bad. As leftism was equaled with stalinism by the capitalist media and the administration of Henry Truman!
With support from the United Nations, Synyman Rhee remained in power. In 1953 a cease fire was signed, but the Korean civil war never ended formal. Now almost 61 years later, both Korean nations are still facing each other. The DPRK is led by Kim Jong Un, while the ROK is under control of Park Geun-hye, daughter of former military dictator; Park Chung-hee, murdered by his own KCIA in 1979!
Time has changed many things. North Korea is no longer the people’s republic it was in 1948 and South Korea is no longer the dogmatic anticommunist autocracy. Both nations are not genuine democratic and free, although most people are raised to think that South Korea is truly free. North Korea went from bad to worse. In 1972 the state dogma was changed radically. Marxism was abandoned in favor of Juche, the personal ideology of Kim Il Sung, who made himself president of the DPRK!
Juche is a nationalist ideology build around Kim Il Sung. He said: ”To make revolution in Korea we must know Korean history and geography as well as the customs of the Korean people. Only then is it possible to educate our people in a way that suits them and to inspire in them an ardent love for their native place and their motherland”
Here we see a clear departure from Marxism which is internationalist and anti-nationalist. However because of Stalinist degeneration inside the USSR, nationalism became a guiding force in all people’s republics, from East Germany to North Korea. Each Stalinist government glorified its own history and culture. This is totally alien to genuine Marxists, who reject the worshiping of culture and people as supreme.
Yet in North Korea the development of Juche led to a massive increase in ethnic nationalism. Kim Il Sung supported this nationalism as he claimed that South Korea was under American occupation. He based this on the fact the American troops remain stationed in South Korea. Many leftists in the south were also drawn to this Stalinist nationalism, because of the autocratic South Korean government. The right-wing regime in Seoul was deeply intolerant and loved to jail and torture suspected communists!
South Korea became a military dictatorship in 1960. After popular protests against the autocrat Syngman Rhee, the military took over as the American CIA flew the old dictator out of South Korea. Park Chung-hee was installed as military dictator in 1962. Under his regime the Republic of Korea started to rebuild itself. The corruption under Syngman Rhee left the nation weak. Park started to talk to Japan again, this angered many because Japan was seen as the colonial oppressor. During the Vietnam-War, South Korea supported the Republic of Vietnam ( South Vietnam ) against the Viet-Cong, who were supported by North Vietnam and North Korea!
More then 300.000 Korean troops fought in Vietnam. They were hated by the Vietnamese for their brutality. Unlike the more moderate American soldiers, the South Koreans fought with great cruelty against the Vietnamese. In South Korea in the 1960’s, children were raised with deep hatred of anything that was leftist. Communism was seem as the biggest danger in the world, children were told every day to hate communists!
This dogmatic hatred of leftism is the reason why there is little support for progressives and socialists in the south. Even today under a limited bourgeois democracy, all major parties are pro-capitalist, anti-communist and pro-USA. Like in America itself, the South Korean political climate is very hostile to leftist ideals. Even progressives are often called communists, which is a social stigma. To be a open communist can lead to social isolation and jail time as communism is still banned by law!
In the north, Kim Il Sung trained his son Kim Jong Il to succeed him. By 1980 during the last congress of the Workers Party of Korea, Kim Jong Il became leader of the party. Jong Il was very good at producing propaganda movies, he loved the cinema. It is said he owned more then 120 western made movies, movies that are banned for ordinary North Koreans!
Soon Kim Jong Il got his own cult of personality. He was called ”Dear Leader” a title his father got in 1948. Jong Il was made leader of the WPK propaganda department in 1967 and used his love for cinema to strengthen his fathers cult. Thanks to his son, Kim Il Sung was portrayed as a superior human. The president was called many names; from ”Dear Leader” to ”Heavenly Leader” and ”Great Chairman”.
Stalinism in the DPRK grew more radical as the nation closed itself completely. Kim Il Sung wanted North Korea to be free from foreign dominance. Thank to cheap Soviet oil, the means of production in the DPRK were able to keep the nation running. But because stalinism is a centralized top-down system, most means of production were never replaced by new ones. Infrastructures in North Korea is very outdated with factories running on technology 40 to 30 years old. The fuel shortage in the 1990’s, resulted in a economic shutdown!
South Koreans showed more initiatives for changes. By 1987, workers and students rebelled against the military, forcing them to introduce democratic freedoms. Still South Korea would remain in the hands of powerful capitalist enterprises and families, who’s wealth and power is fueled by their political puppets. Although South Koreans are more free then North Koreans, their freedom of speech is also limited. Many leftist South Koreans are still facing jail time for opposing the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system in South Korea!
The old anticommunists still call for the execution of all leftists, from socialists to communists. A problem of the Korean left has always been its support for the DPRK. Many young leftists were mislead into believing that North Korea was a socialist alternative to the ruling military dictatorship. In their idealism, many worshiped the DPRK and Kim Il Sung. Because in South Korea, you were arrested, jailed and tortured for opposing the ruling military. This military was fully supported by the USA, Western Europe and the anticommunist world!
In 1991, the USSR collapsed. North Korea no longer got cheap oil to run its means of production. The outdated machines required a lot of fuel, which was no longer provided forcing Kim Il Sung to choose two paths: Remain loyal to Juche or to open up to the world. He choose to remain loyal to his isolationist ideal, a choice that would led to famine and massive deaths!
Three years after the collapse of the Soviet-Union, the economy of the DPRK collapsed. Fuel shortages, floods, economic mismanagement and the top-down centralized system led to a famine. While Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were able to feed themselves, more then 1 million Koreans died. The bureaucratic state planners were not able to prevent the disaster, because the system did not allow flexibility. The dogmatic refusal of the government to decentralize economic power, led to this famine. North Korea had to call for foreign aid, which stood in opposition to their Juche ideology!
The old Kim Il Sung would not live to see the end of the famine, he died in 1994 at age 82. Kim Jong Il replaced his father as Great Leader in 1997. Still the death president remains Eternal President and no leader of the DPRK is allowed to succeed Kim Il Sung. Even Kim Jong Il never became president.
Jong Il introduced Songun or Military First policy. This prioritizing the Korean People’s Army in the affairs of state and allocation of resources. North Korea became a military dictatorship as the WPK was more or less replaced by the Korean People’s Army. The Central Military Commission was now the most powerful ruling body, not the WPK politburo!
Under Kim Jong Il, the DPRK became a militaristic, nationalist and deeply chauvinist state. The cult of Kim Il Sung was expended with thousands of portraits, songs and memorials build. Even during the period of the famine, Kim Jong Il ordered the construction of 3.200 obelisks with propaganda texts of his death father!
Since the 1990’s, everything in North Korea is centered around Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Although no statues were build of the living Kim, he was portrayed as a genius in everything. From the internet to sports, Kim Jong Il was said to be a master. Army soldiers were told their ”Great General” had super powers and since there is no free media, they believe this to be true!
Kim Jong Il died in December 2011. During his life he made some very limited market reforms, but kept almost all economic power in the hands of the state. Some in the western world had hoped that Kim Jong Il would be more open then his father. However it turned out that Kim was not a reformer, it seemed unlikely because he had to work with the powerful military. Win out the support from the Korean People’s Army, the Kim Dynasty is nothing!
Now the DPRK is ruled by Kim Jong Un who has made some changes. For once he is flying, something his father and grandfather never did. Jong Un has also giving speeches another thing his father Kim Jong Il never did. Still the new leader of the DPRK does not seem to care about his people. 8 million Koreans are suffering from hunger as most means of productions in North Korea are still outdated. The nation is unable to feed its people, only UN support is preventing another famine!
Revolutionary socialists call for the removal of Kim Jong Un and the whole military regime. At the same time we call for a massive workers party to be build to fight for democratic socialism in both North and South Korea. Capitalism is no alternative for North Korea, only genuine socialism is the way forward!