What remains when socialism is removed from North Korea?

North Korea’s Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League convened its 9th Congress from August 27-28. North Korean young people are required to join the league, reported to have approximately five million members, from the age of 14 until the age of 30. The organization’s last Congress was held 23 years ago, in 1993. 

For this milestone event, the North Korean authorities have changed the name of the league from “Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League,” to “Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League.” In short, ‘socialism’ was removed and replaced with ‘Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.’ 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended the Congress personally. “The youth league should safeguard and add brilliance to the great leaders’ idea of and leadership exploits in the youth movement, and establish the Party’s unified leadership system within itself thoroughly, holding aloft the banner of modeling itself on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism. It should ensure that all its officials and other young people devote loyalty of the highest degree to upholding Comrades and Kim Il Sung as eternal leaders,”  Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted him as saying.

Kim Jong Il eliminates ‘communism,’ Kim Jong Un eliminates ‘socialism’

The word “communism” was removed from the North Korean constitution in 2009 revisions and from to the Workers’ Party regulations in 2010 revisions. When family reunions were held in 2009 during the fall holiday of Chuseok, South Korean reporters were given access to the North’s Kumgang Mountain resort. Once there, reporters inquired about the deletion of the word “communism” from the North Korean constitution.  

“Chairman Kim Jong Il said, ‘Communism is not being grasped. I’ll need to properly try socialism,’” the North Korean representative in dialogue with the reporter responded.  The journalist then asked what was meant by “communism is not being grasped.” 

The North Korean explained the statement by saying, “Communism describes a society wherein there is no demarcation between the exploited class and the exploiting class. As long as America is still around, it will be very difficult for that to come to fruition.” In other words, the prospect of achieving a classless society – the ideal communist society – was viewed as unrealistic. The solution was to turn to socialism instead. 

However, between then and now, North Korea has also deleted “socialism” from its lexicon. What’s more, the phrase chosen to replace the deleted word is “Kimilsungungism- Kimjongilism.” Kim Jong Il removed ‘communism’ and Kim Jong Un removed ‘socialism.’ In their place, the regime has highlighted the cult of leadership through the formalization of “Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist ideology.” 

North Korea dispatches even the most transparent pretensions to socialism

Right now, there isn’t a single serious analyst who believes North Korea is a proper socialist country. However, until now, North Korea has pursued socialism as an ideological value. That is beginning to change. The revision of the Youth League’s title is evidence of that.    

It is not yet clear or apparent whether North Korea will proceed to delete all references to socialism in the constitution and Party regulations. However, it is highly likely that the country’s measures and policies in the future will continue to emphasize the Kim family leadership in a way that is truly worthy of the name “Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.” 
*Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.
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