The Value of Pro Forma Ideology: Kim Jong-un as Songun Exponent

By | December 08, 2013 | No Comments

The Juche Tower is not the only real-world manifestation of state ideology. | Image: Will De Freitas

The Juche Tower is not the only real-world manifestation of state ideology. | Image: Will De Freitas

Debating the nature and extent, even the existence, of the relationship between ideology and lived reality in North Korea reveals three types of Koreanist. There are those who think ideology is important, those who do not, and those who feel uncomfortable in the netherworld of ideological assimilation, and so refuse to be drawn.

The “ideology has little impact on daily life” camp is represented, among others, by Brian Myers of Dongseo University. Myers sees in North Korea the successor to 1930s fascist Japan, and in his scholarly work, Juche and Songun are depicted as “smokescreens” intended to conceal the real ideational impetus for elite decision-making: a paranoid, ultra-nationalist worldview. Therefore, North Korea’s ideologies (i) have no discernible bearing on policy; and (ii) exist to be praised aloud rather than studied. On the manifestation of ideology in the lives of everyday people, Myers is unequivocal: it doesn’t have a substantive influence. In his “Ideology as Smokescreen: North Korea’s Juche Thought” Myers recounts an interview he had with former Workers’ Party members:

The Yangs … are former Party members who recently defected to the South with their two boys…. I asked [the mother] to explain Kim II Sung’s ideology of Juche for me in her own words. “The main thing is, man is the master of his destiny,” she said briskly “And?” I asked. Silence. “Well,” I said, “if people are the masters of their destiny, why do they need a leader?” The younger boy came to his mother’s aid: “It was something about flowers needing the sun to grow.” Everyone frowned at my pen scratching away; they were letting the Parent Leader down. “It wasn’t so much what Kim Il Sung said” the father blurted out at last.

The working assumption of this AKS-funded project is that ideology in North Korea is not merely a smokescreen; in other words, that Myers is incorrect. However, his perspective remains useful. First, because it defines one end of the analytical spectrum, and second, because one area in which Myers is streets ahead of the competition is in his rigorous exploration of the causal link between ideology and policy, and ideology and lived reality. His work is methodologically sound irrespective of its conclusions, which one may choose to question.

There’s more. One writer found a bone worth picking with another prominent Koreanist, Charles Armstrong, over the utility of the Juche ideology (or “idea”) as described in his latest manuscript, Tyranny of the Weak. In a roundtable review, the writer remarked:

Terry Eagleton, in Ideology: An Introductionlists 16 definitions of ideology “more or less at random”—an indication of its illusive meaning. They range from “the process of production of meanings, signs and values in social life” and “ideas which help to legitimate a dominant political power” to “the indispensable medium in which individuals live out their relations to a social structure.” That ideology has no well-established and accepted meaning makes it even more important that the author seeks a precise definition. Failure to do so undermines its use as a casual factor.

Juche could possibly fit any of the definitions of ideology cited above, but in Tyranny Armstrong uses it as a catch-all for explaining everything that falls under a “Korea-centered view of the world, as espoused by Kim Il-sung in his “’Juche’ speech” of December 1955 (p. 90). According to Armstrong, “the [Juche] speech became the touchstone of North Korea’s self-reliance policy in all areas of life, including economic development, diplomacy, military affairs, and cultural production” (p. 90, emphasis added). Thus, it appears, Armstrong sees Juche as a sort of blueprint for the North Korean state, economy, and society (see, esp., Ch. 3). This certainly makes Juche easy to use, but renders it questionable as an independent variable—“self-reliance,” as it is often translated, has about as much explanatory value as American exceptionalism. Giovanni Sartori, has lamented ideology’s loss of “heuristic validity” due to overuse. “Ideology [is]… a concept deprived of all heuristic validity, let alone testability, by having been stretched to a point of meaninglessness.” In other words, a catch-all ideology carries the methodological danger of explaining everything in general but nothing in particular.

In other words, using ideology as a catch-all undermines its heuristic value. It is exceedingly easy to simply say ideology matters–after all, why wouldn’t it? Ideas matter, don’t they? But it is far more difficult to draw causal inference from intangible things, and attempts to do so often result in verbose, unwieldy explanations of questionable value. Take, for example, this article by James Burt on interpreting Juche using Anthony Giddens’ understanding of the “selectorate:”

Considering these constraints upon autonomy, are North Korea’s selectorate able to reform the meaning of Juche? Despite enabling the selectorate’s domination within society, no North Korean agent—from Kim Jong-un down—is immune from the cognitive pushes and structural pulls of their social—and in this case, ideological—environment. Even those who are frequently exposed to competing narratives and philosophies—such as Jang Seong-taek, Kim Yong- nam, or Choe Thae-bok—cannot retreat fully from their knowledge, their identities and their learned ideological bounds. Theories of cognitive consistency demonstrate that agents will, more often than not, discount dissonant information that runs contrary to their beliefs. This intrinsic human preference for consistency not only buttresses belief, it also results in the hardening of belief. As such, no amount of foreign travel, material goods, access to media, or inflowing capital is likely to induce a mass ideological-rethinking within North Korea’s selectorate.

One may agree with Burt (and thus Giddens), because, theoretically, his arguments make a great deal of sense. But the true challenge lies in explaining how and why “… no North Korean agent… is immune from the cognitive pushes and structural pulls of their social–and in this case, ideological–environment,” and this article fall short of doing so. This failure represents the biggest shortcoming of those who blithely assert that “ideology has an impact on daily life.”

Fortunately, a fresh generation of Koreanists are now paving the way towards a more fruitful understanding of how, rather than if, ideology matters. In her new book, Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution: 1945-1950, Suzy Kim explores precisely this: how the North Korean revolution transformed the everyday lives of ordinary North Koreans. Using the official documents, diaries, and autobiographies of ordinary people held in Record Group 242 at the National Archives II, Kim explores the many ways in which revolution altered people’s understanding of “life” (생활; 生活). Early on, she writes:

During the North Korean Revolution, everyday life became at once the primary site of political struggle and the single most important arena for experiencing the revolution in progress. Publications were peppered with expressions that emphasized a particular aspect of everyday life, from more recognizable terms such as family life (kajong saenghwal) and social life (sahoejok saenghwal) to less familiar ones such as party life (tang saengh-wal ), organizational life (chojik saenghwal ), collective life (tanch’e saenghwal ), ideological life (sasang saenghwal ), scientific life (kwahakchok saenghwal ), life reform (saenghwal kaeson), and life skill (saenghwal kisul ). Life after liberation was variously described as a new life (sinsaenghwal ), a happy life (haengbokhan saenghwal),and ultimately a total“revolution in life”(saenghwal hyongmyong). Composed of two Chinese characters for life and living, saenghwal (生活) denotes life in the act of living.Thus, the repeated references to saenghwal in these phrases refer more accurately to a way of living, a lifestyle for everyday life. (pp. 14-15)

By explicating how life was redefined by the revolution, Kim “challenges the strict separation of state and society, examining the degree to which state-society relations are actually fluid and interdependent.” (p. 12) Most importantly, she shows how ideology can and does affect life. For Kim, Juche was representative of socialist modernity and, as such, the basis of the revolution (on p. 69, she writes: “Juche was… a defining feature of North Korean socialist modernity.”). But, whereas Kim situates life (and policy–there is no small attention paid to transformative policies of the revolution) during the post-WWII North Korean revolution, we are situating it in the here and now. We haven’t the same wealth of resources available (autobiographies, official state documents), but we do have resources (and sources) that illuminate how ideology manifests itself in policy and lived reality today.

Below, we continue annotating Kim Jong-un’s “Day of Songun” statement (see part I). The original Korean text is followed by the official North Korean translation into English (separated by two “common slashes”), and these are followed by Sino-NK commentary where appropriate (in the quoted text).


(27) 사상과 리념은 정치를 통하여 실현되며 정치는 인민대중의 운명, 나라와 민족의 흥망성쇠를 좌우하는 결정적요인입니다. // Ideas and ideals are translated into practice by politics, which is a factor that decides the destiny of the masses and the rise and fall of a country and nation.

It is evident in this paragraph why scholars such as Armstrong point to North Korea as one in which politics, ring-fenced by the correct mode of thinking and ideological acquiescence, are predominant.

(28) 위대한 김정일동지께서는 력사상 처음으로 인민대중의 자주적요구와 리익을 전면적으로 실현하기 위한 사회주의정치는 바로 군사를 중시하고 앞세우는 선군정치로 되여야 한다는것을 천명하시고 선군정치를 사회주의기본정치방식으로 정립하시였습니다. // The great General elucidated for the first time in history that socialist politics for fully realizing the independent demands and interests of the masses should be Songun politics that gives importance and precedence to military affairs, and formulated Songun politics as the basic mode of socialist politics.

(29) 위대한 장군님께서 가르치신바와 같이 선군정치는 군사를 제일국사로 내세우고 인민군대를 핵심으로,주력으로 하여 조국과 혁명,사회주의를 보위하고 전반적사회주의건설을 힘있게 다그쳐나가는 사회주의정치방식입니다. 선군정치는 선군사상의 원리와 원칙들을 전면적으로 구현한 자주적인 정치방식입니다. // As he [Kim Jong-il] said, Songun politics is a mode of socialist politics that raises military affairs as the most important of all state affairs and defends the country, revolution and socialism and accelerates the overall socialist construction with the KPA as the core, as the main force. It is a mode of independent politics that fully embodies the fundamentals and principles of the Songun idea.

Herein it is clear the way in which Songun is used to co-opt (and reflect) Juche as the official ideology of state and, as such, further entrench a highly militarized approach to The Political. Songun is said to defend three things: (i) autonomy, (ii) the revolution, and (iii) our-style (i.e. Juche, autonomous) socialism. Ergo, this is also what the People’s Army is duty-bound to protect.

(30) 선군정치가 사회주의기본정치방식으로 확립됨으로써 인류정치사와 사회주의정치사에서 근본적인 변혁을 가져오게 되였으며 사회주의리념과 원칙을 빛나게 실현할수 있는 만능의 보검이 마련되게 되였습니다. // Formulation of Songun politics as the basic mode of socialist politics has brought about a fundamental change in the history of mankind’s politics and the history of socialist politics and presented a treasured sword with which to successfully realize the ideals and principles of socialism.

(31) 김정일동지의 선군사상은 투철한 반제자주적립장과 숭고한 애국, 애족, 애민의 정신으로 일관되고 철의 신념과 의지에 기초한 혁명적인 사상리론입니다. // The General’s Songun idea is a revolutionary idea and theory which embodies a thoroughgoing anti-imperialist, independent stand and the spirit of ennobling love of the country, nation and people and which is based on an iron faith and willpower.

(32) 선군이라는 새로운 시대어자체가 장기간에 걸친 제국주의렬강과의 첨예한 대결상태에서 나라와 인민의 운명과 미래를 전적으로 책임지시고 모든것을 우리 인민, 우리 민족의 요구와 리익에 맞게 우리 식으로 풀어나가신 김정일동지의 억척불변의 신념과 의지,담대한 배짱에 의해 생겨난것입니다. 김정일동지의 위대한 사상인 선군혁명사상에 의하여 우리의 힘, 우리의 총대로 조국의 존엄과 인민의 자주성,사회주의전취물을 믿음직하게 지키고 조국의 부강번영과 민족의 밝은 미래를 열어나갈수 있게 되였습니다. // Songun, a new term in our era, was coined reflecting the unshakeable faith, willpower and great pluck of Comrade Kim Jong Il who, taking full responsibility for the destiny and future of the country and people amid long-drawn-out, sharp confrontation with an imperialist power, solved all problems in our own way and in conformity with the demands and interests of our people and nation. As we have the idea of the Songun revolution, a great idea of Comrade Kim Jong Il, we have been able to defend the dignity of the country, independence of the people and gains of socialism with credit and open the way for the prosperity of the country and rosy future of the nation by our own strength, that is, by force of arms.

(33) 선군사상은 주체사상을 구현해나가는 실천투쟁속에서 심화발전된 사상으로서 주체사상의 요구를 완벽하게,전면적으로 실현할수 있게 하는 과학적인 혁명리론입니다. // As an idea enriched and developed in the course of the practical struggle to apply the Juche idea, the Songun idea is a scientific revolutionary theory which makes it possible to satisfy the requirements of the Juche idea in a perfect and comprehensive way.

If Juche is the idea of “self-reliance” (a description that is oversimplified, and so scholars may rightly quibble with it, but it serves our purpose since, as Myers notes, most North Korean citizens would describe Juche as such), what better way to ensure the continuation of the North Korean state than a military capable of defending its territorial integrity? Songun is how Juche is realized, and Songun is realized through Juche. This coagulation is the guiding principle through which policy is made, and thus is what impacts people in their daily lives. This is clearly reiterated in line 35 below.

(34) 위대한 김정일동지께서 선군혁명사상과 리론을 정립체계화하고 심화발전시키심으로써 우리 혁명의 사상리론적보물고가 더욱 풍부화되고 주체사상의 견인력과 생활력이 비상히 높아지게 되였습니다. // The formulation and development of the idea and theory of the Songun revolution by the great Comrade Kim Jong Il further enriched the ideological and theoretical treasure-house of our revolution and greatly increased the appeal and vitality of the Juche idea.

(35) 주체사상은 선군사상의 뿌리이며 선군사상은 주체사상의 빛나는 구현입니다. // The Juche idea is the roots of the Songun idea and the latter is a brilliant embodiment of the former.

(36) 주체사상은 선군사상에 의하여 혁명실천에 빛나게 구현되여 인민대중의 자주위업의 승리적전진과 완성을 담보하는 위대한 지도사상으로 더욱 찬연한 빛을 뿌리게 되였습니다. // Thanks to the Songun idea, the Juche idea could be splendidly applied to the revolutionary practice, shining more brightly as a great guiding ideology which guarantees the victorious advance and accomplishment of the masses’ cause of independence.

(37) 위대한 김정일동지께서는 탁월한 선군혁명령도로 조국과 혁명, 시대와 력사앞에 불멸의 업적을 이룩하시였습니다. // The General performed undying exploits for the country and revolution, for the times and history with his outstanding leadership of the Songun revolution.

(38) 김정일동지께서는 선군혁명령도로 수령님께서 마련하여주신 주체의 사회주의를 영예롭게 수호하고 주체혁명위업,선군혁명위업의 명맥을 굳건히 이어놓으시였습니다. // He safeguarded with honour the Juche-oriented socialism, which Comrade Kim Il Sung established, and assured the solid continuity of the revolutionary cause of Juche, the revolutionary cause of Songun, by dint of his leadership of the Songun revolution.

(39) 주체의 사회주의는 위대한 수령님께서 한생을 다 바쳐 마련해주신 우리 혁명의 고귀한 전취물이며 우리 인민의 생명이고 참된 삶과 행복의 보금자리입니다. 우리 혁명의 승리적전진을 가로막고 우리의 사회주의를 없애버리려는 미제와 제국주의련합세력의 무모한 반공화국압살책동이 극도에 이르렀던 지난 세기 90년대는 우리 혁명에서 가장 준엄한 시련의 시기였습니다. 우리 군대와 인민이 자주적인민,자주적근위병으로 승리자가 되느냐 아니면 또다시 제국주의식민지노예가 되느냐 하는 운명의 갈림길에서 단연 선군의 기치를 높이 추켜드시고 주체의 사회주의를 영예롭게 수호하고 빛나는 승리를 안아오신것은 우리 장군님께서만이 이룩하실수 있는 력사의 기적이였습니다. // The Juche-oriented socialism is a precious gain of our revolution Comrade Kim Il Sung achieved devoting his life, and it is our people’s lifeblood and the cradle of their true life and happiness. The 90s of the last century, when the reckless anti-DPRK moves of the allied forces of the US and other imperialists to check the victorious advance of our revolution and stamp out our socialism went to extremes, was a period of the severest ordeals for our revolution. When our army and people were at the crossroads whether they would remain an independent people and guards to become victors or be reduced to the imperialists’ colonial slaves again, Comrade Kim Jong Il determinedly held up the banner of Songun, and defended the Juche-oriented socialism with honour and achieved brilliant victories. This was a miracle of history which only our General could bring about.

“Severest ordeals” is a euphemism for famine, the collapse of the socialist economy, and near war with the United States (1994). Whereas Kim Il-sung’s credentials were earned by actually fighting the imperial enemy (in Manchuria), Kim Jong-il’s accomplishment was to prevent regime collapse when the chips were stacked against him–a feat, no doubt. However, perhaps the more veritable feat was that accomplished by the propagandists in the 1990s. It can be gleaned from this paragraph the difficulty–but absolute necessity–of positioning not only Kim Jong-il but also Kim Jong-un within the Mt. Baekdu bloodline, and thus the guerrilla tradition.

(40) 김정일동지께서는 선군혁명령도로 조국의 부강번영과 주체혁명위업의 완성을 위한 튼튼한 토대와 승리의 담보를 확고히 마련하시였습니다. // By dint of his leadership of the Songun revolution he laid a firm foundation for the prosperity of the country and the accomplishment of the revolutionary cause of Juche and provided a sure guarantee for victory.

(41) 혁명승리의 가장 중요한 담보는 혁명의 참모부인 당을 강화하고 당의 두리에 군대와 인민을 하나로 묶어세워 혁명의 주체를 튼튼히 다지는것입니다. // The most important guarantee for victory in the revolution is to strengthen the party, the General Staff of the revolution, and solidify the driving force of the revolution by uniting the service personnel and people around it.

(42) 위대한 장군님께서 당건설에서 일관하게 견지하신 근본원칙은 우리 당을 수령의 당으로 건설하는것이였습니다. 장군님께서는 전당 김일성주의화를 당건설의 총적목표로 규정하시고 전당에 유일사상체계,유일적령도체계를 확고히 세우도록 현명하게 이끄시였습니다. 그리하여 우리 당은 수령의 사상과 령도에 끝없이 충실하고 강한 조직성과 규률성을 지닌 혁명적당으로,튼튼한 대중적,군사적지반을 가진 불패의 당으로 강화발전되고 선군혁명위업수행에서 향도적력량으로서의 사명과 역할을 다할수 있게 되였습니다. 장군님께서는 일심단결을 혁명의 천하지대본으로 내세우시고 수령을 중심으로 한 당과 군대,인민의 일심단결을 확고히 실현하도록 하시여 선군혁명의 주체를 비상히 강화하시였습니다. // A fundamental principle which the great General consistently adhered to in the building of our Party was to build it into the party of the leader. He defined imbuing the entire Party with Kimilsungism as the ultimate objective of its building and wisely led the effort for firmly establishing a monolithic ideological system and a monolithic leadership system across the Party. As a result, our Party could be developed into a revolutionary party which is unfailingly faithful to the ideology and guidance of its leader and possessed of a strong sense of organization and discipline and into an ever-victorious party with solid mass and military bases, and could discharge its mission and role as the guiding force in implementing the cause of the Songun revolution. The General held up single-hearted unity as the greatest foundation of the revolution and perfectly realized the single-hearted unity of the Party, army and people centred on the leader, thus strengthening the driving force of the Songun revolution remarkably.

Getting the party in line behind the leader is what distinguishes North Korea, a state ruled over by a “charismatic leader” cloaked in the tradition of a revolutionary past and a revolutionary party, from an autocratic state ruled over by a revolutionary party. Using the categories provided by Barbara Geddes, North Korea is a “personalist regime.” The Party, military, and people are held to be as “one” under the supreme leader.

Moreover, Songun, as it’s elucidated in the paragraph above, affirms what Wada Haruki said of North Korea some 30 years ago: that it is a “garrison state.” In an essay from last year, Sino-NK said:

“In the early 1990s, while South Korea was starting along the road to democratic consolidation, North Korea had become, according to Japanese historian Wada Haruki, a “guerrilla state.” And so it remains. The regime holds to a fluctuating state of emergency, providing itself with just cause to force people into never-ending “marches” towards unattainable goals, or from one “arduous” state of affairs to another. This is then rhetorically justified with recourse to external, and existential, threats to the country’s sovereign autonomy.

This bunker mentality has long justified both the regime’s militaristic orientation and the fact that an extraordinary number of military officers are billeted with key political institutions– a trend that, according to Stephan Haggard and Luke Herman, has increased since 1996. The composition and outward orientation of the regime is a natural reflection of the preeminence of the songun (선군정치/“military-first”) political line that governs domestic policy priorities. While some of the threats regularly cited on the pages of Korean Central News Agency (조선중앙통신) and Rodong Sinmun (로동신문/Workers’ Daily) are arguably real, prioritizing the military is primarily a domestic concern: keeping tensions high thwarts any potential challenger to the regime, provides a good excuse to clamp down on the societal spread of external information, and allows prior claims of impending economic development to lapse into insignificance without serious social consequences.

Songun, then, is predominantly about power. Or, as Daniel Pinkston would have it, “Power is not only critical to songun politics, power is the only thing in songun politics.” In a rigidly centralized political system where power is concentrated in the suryong (수령님/supreme leader) and his closest confidants, the notion that a plurality of opinions from competing power centers would be tolerated, much less entertained, defies both intuition and, according to our research, investigation. There is no debate—not one in bloom or in the making.”

(43) 위대한 장군님께서는 인민군대를 무적의 강군으로 키우시고 인민군대를 핵심으로 나라의 군력을 백방으로 다져 주체혁명위업의 승리를 위한 군사적담보를 확고히 마련하시였습니다. // By strengthening the KPA to be an invincible army and consolidating the military capabilities of the country to the maximum with the KPA as the core, he provided a sure military guarantee for the victory of the cause of the Juche revolution.

(44) 위대한 장군님의 정력적인 령도에 의하여 우리 인민군대는 수령결사옹위를 생명으로 하고 최고사령관의 명령을 맨 앞장에서 결사관철하는 선봉대,선군혁명위업수행의 전위대로 자라났습니다. 국방공업의 주체화,현대화,정보화가 힘있게 추진되여 우리 자체의 힘과 기술로 그 어떤 현대적무장장비도 마음먹은대로 만들어낼수 있게 되였습니다. 장군님의 탁월한 선군혁명령도가 있음으로 하여 우리 인민군대가 무적필승의 혁명강군으로 자라나고 우리 나라가 인공지구위성제작 및 발사국,핵보유국으로 되여 백두산강국의 위용을 당당히 떨칠수 있었으며 제국주의자들의 침략과 도전을 걸음마다 짓부시고 조국의 존엄과 나라의 자주권을 믿음직하게 수호할수 있었습니다. // Under his energetic guidance, the KPA developed into a vanguard detachment which regards defending the leader unto death as its lifeblood and takes the lead in implementing the orders of its Supreme Commander at all costs, and into a trailblazer in the struggle to accomplish the cause of the Songun revolution. A forceful drive was waged to make the defence industry Juche-oriented, modern and informatized, enabling us to produce any sophisticated military equipment as we wish by relying on our own effort and technology. Thanks to the General’s outstanding leadership of the Songun revolution, the KPA could be developed into an invincible revolutionary army, ours could become a country which can make and launch artificial satellites and a nuclear state, fully demonstrating its dignity as the powerful Paektusan nation, and we could reliably defend the dignity of the country and the sovereignty of the nation, frustrating the imperialist moves of aggression and challenges at every step.

Herein lies the “quintessential equation,” discussed in part I. To re-state, this is the logic of Kim Jong-un’s right to dominion rendered into a pseudo-mathematical formula, as follows:

The splendid revolutionary rule of General Kim Jong-il=Songun leadership=powerful revolutionary military=satellite manufacturing and the possession of invincible nuclear arms=the state of the Mt. Baekdu bloodline+defense against the invasions and challenges of imperialist aggressor states [=USA [spoken]+China [unspoken]]+preservation of the highest honor [=the Supreme Leader=Kim Jong-un] of the motherland+unassailable national autonomy. [장군님의 탁월한 선군혁명령도가 있음으로 하여 우리 인민군대가 무적필승의 혁명강군으로 자라나고 우리 나라가 인공지구위성제작 및 발사국,핵보유국으로 되여 백두산강국의 위용을 당당히 떨칠수 있었으며 제국주의자들의 침략과 도전을 걸음마다 짓부시고 조국의 존엄과 나라의 자주권을 믿음직하게 수호할수 있었습니다.]

This equation is the theoretical foundation of Kim Jong-un’s right to rule. Songun, as the foundation of the modern North Korean (“guerrilla”) state, represents the basis of Kim Jong-un’s legitimacy.

(45) 위대한 장군님께서는 사회주의강성국가건설을 위한 튼튼한 물질기술적토대를 쌓으시였습니다. // The great General laid firm material and technological foundations for the building of a thriving socialist country.

(46) 위대한 장군님의 령도에 의하여 우리 혁명이 준엄한 시련을 겪고있던 고난의 행군, 강행군시기에 조국의 부강번영을 위한 강성국가건설의 웅대한 설계도가 펼쳐지고 온 나라에 새로운 기적과 혁신의 열풍이 일어나게 되였습니다. 새 세기 산업혁명의 불길이 세차게 타오르고 지식경제시대가 열리였으며 나라의 이르는 곳마다에 시대를 대표하는 기념비적창조물들이 일떠서고 선군문화의 본보기들이 수많이 창조되였습니다. 위대한 장군님의 현명한 령도밑에 우리 군대와 인민이 선군시대에 창조한 귀중한 재부와 창조물들은 김일성민족, 김정일조선의 부강번영을 위한 고귀한 밑천으로 됩니다. // Under his leadership a grand plan for building a prosperous country was unfolded during the days of the Arduous March and forced march, when our revolution was undergoing grim trials, and a hot wind of creating fresh miracles and innovations swept across the country. Fierce flames of the industrial revolution in the new century flared up ushering in the era of the knowledge economy, monumental structures symbolic of the era were built in all parts of the country and model works representative of Songun culture were created in large numbers. What our service personnel and people created in the Songun era under his guidance constitutes a valuable asset for the prosperity of Kim Il Sung’s nation and Kim Jong Il’s Korea.

The paragraph above is interesting insofar as it shows the propagandists hard at work, completely re-writing history. Rather than economic collapse and mass starvation in the 1990s, there was (another) industrial revolution and the rise of the “knowledge economy.”

(47) 위대한 장군님께서는 선군혁명령도로 조국의 자주적통일을 위한 길에서 새로운 전환을 이룩하시고 세계평화와 안전을 굳건히 수호하시였습니다. 장군님께서는 우리 민족끼리의 6.15통일시대를 열어놓으시고 조국통일과 민족공동의 번영을 위한 고귀한 밑천을 마련하시였으며 제국주의자들의 끊임없는 전쟁도발책동을 짓부시고 아시아와 세계의 평화를 지켜내시였습니다. // The great General effected a fresh turn in the struggle for the independent reunification of the country and firmly defended global peace and security on the strength of his leadership of the Songun revolution. He ushered in the June 15 era of reunification by our nation itself, provided a precious asset for the reunification of the country and the common prosperity of the nation and safeguarded peace in Asia and the rest of the world by smashing the imperialists’ uninterrupted schemes to unleash a war.

(48) 김정일동지께서 반세기가 넘는 장구한 기간 불면불휴의 선군령도로 조국과 혁명,시대와 력사앞에 쌓아올리신 위대한 업적은 우리 혁명위업의 승리적전진과 더불어 천추만대에 길이 빛날것입니다. // The great exploits Comrade Kim Jong Il performed for the country and revolution, for the times and history for more than half a century by dint of his tireless leadership of the Songun revolution will shine for ever along with the triumphant advance of our revolutionary cause.

(49) 우리는 김정일동지의 위대한 선군혁명사상과 업적을 충직하게 계승하고 길이 빛내여나가야 합니다. // We should faithfully carry forward his great idea and achievements of the Songun revolution and add eternal brilliance to them.

(50) 선군혁명사상은 우리 혁명의 위대한 지도적지침이며 장군님의 선군령도업적은 승리의 원동력입니다. // The idea of the Songun revolution is a great guideline of our revolution and his Songun-based leadership exploits are a motive force for victory.

(51) 선군의 기치를 변함없이 높이 추켜들고 주체혁명위업을 끝까지 계승완성해나가려는것은 우리 당과 군대와 인민의 확고부동한 신념이며 철석같은 의지입니다. // It is the unshakeable faith and unbreakable will of our Party, army and people to carry forward and accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche, invariably holding aloft the banner of Songun.


“The Value of Pro Forma Ideology: Kim Jong-un as Songun Exponent“ is part two of a series on ideology and North Korean statecraft that acts as an introduction to a project documenting the cultural and political strategies used by the DPRK government to promote its policy agenda and create strategic discord abroad. This research is supported by an Academy of Korean Studies Grant (AKS-2013- R-11).

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