[imText1]The North Korean political system has evolved over the last 6 decades. During the period between 1945 through the late 1960s, North Korea emulated the Soviet model of military socialism. From the late 1960s to early 1990s, socialist control of North Korea was consolidated in an absolute leader’s hands. From the 1990s until now it is a Mafia style military dictatorship ruled by a solitary boss.
The North Korean system from 1945 to 1967
North Korea was founded by those who acknowledged Stalin as leader of the international communist movement and tried to follow his direction while incorporating the teachings of both Marx and Lenin. Therefore there were not any obvious differences from traditional socialism.
During that period, they called Kim Il Sung “Supreme-Leader (‘Suryeong’ in Korean)”, a designation that was not extraordinary given the atmosphere in other contemporary socialist states. Kim Il Sung was no stronger than other leaders of socialist countries. Moreover, he split power with the North Korean Workers’ Party, with whom he was often at odds.
The Workers’ Party was powerful enough to strip Kim Il Sung of his authority if he failed to adhere to any decision made by the party. North Korean socialism was somewhat functional while the balance of power was relatively equal.
The North Korean system between 1967 and the early 1990s
North Korea’s system changed rapidly when Park Keum Choel was purged as the second leader in 1967 at the hands of Kim Il Sung. Park Keum Choel had achieved a power advantage after building a ruling coalition that included Lee Hyo Soon, secretary of a propaganda department tasked with influencing South Korea. When Lee Hyo Soon was also purged from the central government, Kim Il Sung’s strength grew.
Within the communist bloc there was no country that intervened in the internal affair of North Korea. The USSR had no interest in North Korean domestic affairs because North Korea had sided with China in the ideological struggle between the USSR and China. China was also in the midst of great national chaos due to its Cultural Revolution.
Park Keum Choel insisted that economic reconstruction should be addressed first rather than strengthening military power, and came into conflict with military authorities. In 1969 Kim Il Sung used these international and domestic conditions to establish a dictatorship that extensively purged military authority and allowed him to found an absolute one-person leadership system.
Stalinism and Nationalism Combine in Kim Il Sung’s Juche Ideology
North Korea’s system at the time was essentially the same as Stalin’s and was based on four primary premises:
A) The establishment of an absolute dictatorship, B) The operation of secret police and political prison camps, C) The combination of communist ideology and terrorism, and D) The creation of a leadership cult.
However, there were some differences. Stalin tried to adhere to Marxist-Leninism theory and used it as a main pillar of control. When Kim Il Sung witnessed the transfers of East European rulers by the USSR, he thought his power could become unstable and susceptible to Soviet and Chinese influence if he strictly followed Marx-Leninism. Therefore he ordered Hwang Jang Yop to create the ideological system that combined Marx-Leninism and Nationalism, known as “Juche Ideology” and based on “Subjectivity.”
Though the Juche Ideology created by Hwang was essentially different from Kim Il Sung’s proposal, it nevertheless was spread to the schools and work places to educate people. North Korea’s high authorities and elites couldn’t understand the Juche Ideology because it represented more philosophical ideology than concrete political or economic theory. Neither did Kim Il Sung understand the rough Marxist-Leninist-Nationalist mixture that was Juche Ideology. He failed to perceive the philosophical conflicts being spread throughout the country because he had no interest in philosophy.