Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

The Cleanest Race
How North Koreans See Themselves - And Why It Matters
By: B. R. Myers
Major Topic: Politics
Minor Topic: Diplomacy

Text Crawl:

         The Colonial Era, 1910-1945

         Many people believe that Korea had a strong national sense before the Japanese invasion. The author, however, claims that it was only during the Japanese occupation that Koreans developed a sense of nationhood. It was the Japanese that instigated and developed the national consciousness of Koreans as a unique people within the Japanese Empire. Korean nationalists worked had to develop the national spirit and were encouraged by the Japanese up to a point. So long as Korea was considered a part of Greater Japan – those who disagreed on that point were the ones who were arrested or killed.

         Korean nationalists copied Japanese myths and Koreanized them. The Japanese had a divine bloodline so Korean nationalists promoted the story of Dangun so as to give Korea its own divine bloodline. Japan had sacred Mt. Fuji so Korean nationalists imbued Mt. Paektu with similar myths. The common illiterate people did not get these myths; for them the Japanese were just the latest rulers who taxed, abused and conscripted them. For the intelligentsia it is likely they supported the Japanese because they truly believed they were doing what was best for Korea and the Japanese Empire.


         The Soviet Occupation, 1945-1948

         When the Soviets and the Americans occupied Korea, both thought that the people hated the Japanese because people denounced them. The Soviets formed alliances with anyone who would and then as order returned ousted any non-communist allies. The Soviets chose Kim Il Sung to lead their half of Korea because there was no one else who qualified as a resistance fighter.

         No one in Korea had any training with Marxism or Leninism and so the Korean Workers Party did not lead cultural change like everywhere else in the communist world, rather it was lead by the pre-existing culture and the intellectuals of the Japanese colonial era. Unlike in the South, where collaborators were denounced, in the North former supporters of the Japanese were welcomed.

         The result was that the Workers Party continued with the nationalist myths the intellectuals had been nurturing minus the Japanese element. Included in the new propaganda was the demonization of the Japanese, the pre-communist Chinese and the Americans. Where Korean history had been relatively peaceful compared to that of other nations, Korean history now became a series of invasions and humiliations by evil foreigners. Koreans were presented as children in an evil world needing a good protector – the first protector was Russia. But she was quickly replaced by Kim Il Sung.

         The internal struggle in most communist countries at the time was class based. North Korea claimed that it was a classless society and that its struggle was for purity.


         War and Reconstruction, 1948-1966

         The official propaganda line in 1948 was that South Korea had gone from being a Japanese colony to being an American colony with the same leaders in control. The people of (north) Korea should be ready to liberate the whole country.

         When the Korean War ended it was portrayed to the North Korean people as a solely Korean struggle; China and Russia had nothing to do with the 'victory.' While to the outside world North Korea sounded internationalist so as to get international aid.


         From the Cultural Revolution to Kim Il Sung's Death, 1966 – 1994

         In 1966 a census divided the people into three class: the politically favored or core class; the average or wavering class and the hostile class. This division was enforced for the sake of security and heavily propagandizing all members of the core class.

         To prevent the influence of the Mao personality cult, the Worker's party copied several aspects of it such as developing Kim Il Sung's artistic ability, the new facts of his Arduous March and his single handed defeat of the Japanese.

         Kim's elevation to philosopher was carried out though the Juche philosophy or self-reliance philosophy. While this philosophy is dull and shallow it does serve four purposes: 1) it portrays Kim Il Sung as a great thinker; 2) it sounds like a good cover for political policies; 3) it muddies the judgments on actual policies; and 4) it hides the true race-based belief structure.

         Kim Il Sung increasingly became known as the parental leader, taking care of the people. This policy seems to have worked well as long as North Korea was the recipient of tons of foreign aid. It seems lucky for his legacy that he died in 1994 because the 1995-1997 famine seemed to confirm in the peoples minds that he had in fact been looking out for them.


         The Arduous March, 1994 – 1998

         In 1994, to the world, the nuclear crisis with North Korea seemed to have been solved. But for the North, their economic crisis was just beginning. The cut back in Soviet aid had decimated the economy. Kim Jong Il solved this problem by instigating a permanent war readiness policy called the Military First policy to defend the country form American attack. It was designed to distract the people from the famine by having Kim Jong Il concentrate on protecting the country. It was a brilliant policy because the party did not have to hide the economic problems nor fix them so long as they could blame America.


         The Sunshine Years, 1998 – 2008

         Kim Dae Jung met with Kim Jong Il in June 2000 and signed a declaration that the two Koreas would work together to unite. In North Korea it was presented as a brilliant stroke of genius on the part of Kim Jong Il.

         Interestingly during this time more and more information about the outside world entered North Korea. Now they do not deny that South Korea is rich, but they claim that it is due to the Military First policy. Further, it seems that the spread of markets in North Korea is not reducing the support for the government.


         The DPRK in Crisis, 2008 –

         North Korea seems to have expected the liberal pro-north side to win the election in November 2007; it seems they were surprised by Lee Myung Bak's victory. This gave them a propaganda problem: with more information coming into North Korea, how could they admit that the South does not want to deal with the North? Fortunately for them the U.S. Beef protest erupted and it was presented as the South having been tricked by their new president's deceitful hiding of his true intentions. Thus in their eyes, legitimizing the monicker: 'traitor'.

         The author hints that Kim Jong Il could not risk his public image by working with a traitor so he raised tensions until South Korea canceled most inter-Korean ventures.

         The future of the crisis will deal with succession issue.


Added on: 2010-06-15 23:13:03
Text Crawl by: James Jeff McLaren
© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren