New book investigates North Korea’s ideology of “self-reliance”

There are few studies in academia that explain the history, structure, and achievements of North Korea's idea of "self-reliance"

Where does North Korea’s durability come from? Despite its isolation resulting from sanctions and the closure of its borders due to COVID-19, the country insists on the scientific development and modernization of its production sector as well as showing off its advanced missile technology.

Lim Eul Chul, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, offers the analysis that the ability of North Korea to withstand isolation and modernize its national defense industry is rooted in the North Korean-style of scientific and technological development known as “self-reliance.” 

In his recent book, “Self-reliance in the Kim Jong Un Era: Succession and Change,” Lim points out that, “The aim of nearly all Kim Jong Un-style ‘self-reliant spirit or strategy’ boils down to scientific and technological development. Right now, North Korea’s self-reliance is simply another expression of scientific and technological development.”

In fact, the term “self-reliance” has been a political rallying cry in North Korea for a long time. However, there are few studies in academia that explain the history, structure, and achievements of “self-reliance.”

The book comprehensively examines the Kim Jong Un regime’s economic policies over the past 10 years, with a focus on the realities of self-reliance, factors that have contributed to changes in self-reliance, the achievements and constraints of the ideology, along with the author’s observations on the progress of its development. 

In particular, the author considers in detail the Kim Jong Un-style “self-reliance” strategy that depends a great deal on state-of-the-art science and technology, while also comparing the current Kim regime with the previous Kim Jong Il regime.

The author explains that both the country’s progress in advanced strategic and tactical weapons, which the regime promotes at home and abroad, as well as its economic self-sustainability through localization and recycling, are products of “self-reliance that is dependent on scientific and technological development.”

Lim has long been involved in North Korea-related research through a variety of experiences in academia, the Ministry of Unification and the Blue House, South Korean media, and government-owned companies.

This experience lends further strength to his analysis, which delves into the practical meaning of “self-reliance” by referencing various North Korean publications, including Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s “Economic Research” magazine, and the Choson Sinbo.

This book is recommended for those who are looking for a sweeping understanding of a changed North Korea and want to understand “North Korea as it is.”

Translated by Jason Mallet

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to