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Flag of the Workers' Party of Korea, the ruling party of the DPRK.

Juche,[a] also called the Juche idea, is the official ideology of the DPRK.[1] Juche is predominantly translated into English as "self-reliance" or "independence," but a more accurate and comprehensive translation is "subjecthood."[2]

The "subject" that Juche refers to is the masses of the people, who form the driving element of socio-historical development. While the Juche idea acknowledges that social movement is ultimately governed by the universal laws of the material world, it asserts that the development of the social movement can be caused and developed by the volitional action and role of the subject—the working masses of the people—who can creatively and consciously transform nature and society to their benefit when they become aware of their own role in socio-historical development. The Juche idea also consists of the assertion that it is only by seizing state power and the means of production and establishing a socialist system that the working masses can free themselves from exploitation and "create history consciously as true masters of society and their own destiny."[3]

Juche philosophy focuses on popular sovereignty and self-reliance to advance revolution in the conditions of the Korean people. This theoretical premise forms the core strategic goal of the Juche idea in upholding the sovereignty and independence of the DPRK from imperialist aggression. In general, the Juche idea upholds political and economical self-reliance and achieving a rich material and cultural life for the people through revolutionary leadership strengthened by a relationship with the masses.[4]

In the foreword to the book Socialist Education in Korea, Derek Ford and Curry Malott write that the "mobilization of Juche allows for endless tactical flexibility in foreign, economic, and social policy even today" and argue its success by noting that Koreans played a key role in defeating Japanese imperialism, forced the U.S. to sign an armistice in 1953, and survived the Cold War, the opening up of China, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the overthrow and collapse of the European Socialist Bloc countries, and have "managed to rebuild their country from rubble" while navigating these "endlessly complex geopolitical challenges".[2]


The Tower of the Juche Idea in Pyongyang, DPRK. The word Juche, 주체, is visible on the tower. In front, a statue of a worker, a farmer, and an intellectual hold up a hammer, sickle, and brush, symbol of the Workers' Party of Korea.
The Tower of the Juche Idea in Pyongyang, DPRK. The word Juche, "주체", is visible on the tower. In front, a statue of a worker, a farmer, and an intellectual hold up a hammer, sickle, and brush, symbol of the Worker's Party of Korea.

The word Juche (Korean: 주체; Hanja: 主體) is a Sino-Korean word that can be defined in English as "subject", "main agent", or "principal agent". It is used to refer to the philosophical concept of the entity perceiving or acting upon an object or environment, a being who has a unique consciousness, or an entity that has a relationship with another entity that exists outside itself.

Juche is also frequently referred to as the "Juche idea" (Korean: 주체사상, or juche sasang). Juche sasang literally means "subject idea" or "subject thought." The word sasang (Korean: 사상; Hanja: 思想) is a Sino-Korean word that means "thought", "idea" and also relates to the concepts of "ideology" and "philosophy". The characters that form the word sasang are also found in the Chinese term that is commonly referred to in English as Mao Zedong Thought.

In some contexts, the Juche idea may be contrasted with the concept of sadae (Korean: 사대; Hanja: 事大), meaning "subservience". Sadae is a Confucian concept based on filial piety that describes a reciprocal hierarchical relationship between a senior and a junior, such as a tributary relationship. The term is also used as a descriptive label for bilateral foreign relations between Imperial China and Joseon dynasty Korea. A more modern usage of the term can also refer to a sycophantic or self-effacing diplomacy towards a stronger nation. This second meaning is sometimes translated into English as "flunkeyism", "toadyism", or "sycophancy" (Korean: 사대주의; Hanja: 事大主義).


The Juche idea is a world outlook and an attitude centered on man, which aims to enable and enhance man's ability to understand the world accurately and to consciously transform the world to man's benefit.[5] The Juche idea holds that the popular masses are the driving force of history, and that humanity's goal is striving for independence from social subjugation and natural restrictions. As is explained in the work Juche Idea: Answers to Hundred Questions, the Juche idea is an ideology "that the masses of the people are the master of the revolution and construction" and that the revolution can emerge victorious when they are educated, organized and mobilized. It is an ideology which holds that "man is the master of his destiny and he has the power to carve out his destiny."[6]

The Juche idea raises the question of man's relationship to the world, and man's role in transforming the world. The assertion of the Juche idea with respect to this question is often summarized as "man is the master of everything and decides everything" (Korean: "사람은 모든것의 주인이며 모든것을 결정한다").[7][8] It should be noted that this assertion does not make the claim that the material world itself is centered on man. As Kim Jong Il has clarified, it has been established by the materialist dialectic that the world consists of matter which moves, changes, and develops in accordance with its own laws. Thus, the philosophy of Juche "does not assert that the material world itself is centred on man," but rather that man "is the transformer of the world and that the world is reshaped by man, not that all changes in the world are brought about by man."[9]

According to Juche, man transforms the world, within the objective laws of material reality, by applying his consciousness and creativity in order to achieve increasing independence from natural and social restrictions. It is this pursuit of independence which causes man (considered primarily as the working masses) to become the driving force of history, which manifests as class struggle in class society. Furthermore, the Juche idea emphasizes that an attitude which centers the interests of man should be adopted in man's activities, and asserts that man's consciousness of his role in transforming the world should be enhanced.


Man-centered philosophy

As Kim Jong Il describes, the centering of man and man's interests is what characterizes the Juche idea's usefulness for enhancing man's active transformation of the world: "By casting a new light on the outlook of the world, on the viewpoint and attitude towards the world, with man as the main consideration, the Juche philosophy provided the working class and other working masses with a powerful weapon to transform the world and shape their own destiny."[9]

Man as a social being

Within Juche, "man" is considered primarily as the social collective of the working masses, rather than purely as individual, biological man. In the context of Juche, the popular masses are not determined by their class background, only by their ideological basis.[4] The category of "man" in Juche excludes the reactionary exploiter class.[10]

The Juche idea concerns itself with defining humans as social beings who possess independence, creativity, and consciousness. According to the Juche idea, these three qualities are what enable human beings to approach the world "not fatalistically but revolutionarily, not passively but actively, and to reshape the world not blindly but purposefully and consciously." Juche further asserts that it is correct for human beings to consciously transform nature and society in ways that benefit them, while also acknowledging the material limits and objective laws of reality. Kim Jong-Il said in regard to this that the Juche viewpoint and attitude are revolutionary because they enable people to transform the world "with a high degree of awareness that they are masters of the world and their own destiny."[3]

Importantly, these qualities of man are considered not to be purely natural, but rather are characteristics of social man, brought out in man by his existence within a social context. Although Juche acknowledges the biological nature of human beings, "man" as discussed within Juche refers to man within the context of social relations.[11]


In Juche philosophy, independence is considered to be the most important attribute that defines what kind of being man is. It is described as "a quality of man to remove the restrictions of nature, oppose all manner of subjugation in society and make everything serve him."[6]

In Man's Destiny and Juche Idea, an explanation is given which describes that man's demand for independence is more precious than physical life, and that man's display of creativity and consciousness are for the sake of independence: "If man loses independence and lives at others’ beck and call, he is alive physically but he is dead as a social being. Man’s display of creativity and consciousness is not for the sake of themselves but for the sake of independence. History has recorded lots of people who dedicated their lives to the fight against tyranny and oppression, a demonstration that independence is more precious than physical life."[12]

Juche philosophy considers independence to be the "life and soul" of man because man's socio-political integrity can be maintained only with independence. As Exposition of the Principles of Juche Idea states, "if man is subjugated by others without independence, he is as same as the dead, though he is in life. Independence, therefore, is the life and soul of man."[13] Juche Idea: Answers to Hundred Questions explains: "The physical life is what keeps man alive as a biological organism, whereas the social and political integrity is what keeps him alive as a social being."[6]

The Korean Association of Social Scientists explains that because man has independence "as his life and soul," independence therefore "becomes life and soul of a country and nation, the people’s collective." Following this, if the people’s independence is to be realized, it is important to first realize independence of a country and nation, "the basic unit of carving out destiny."[14]


In Juche philosophy, creativity is an attribute of social man, by which man transforms nature and society to make them more useful and beneficial to him by changing the old into the new. It may also be described as scientific and technical knowledge, experience and skill obtained by man in social practice. With creativity, man develops the method of his activities with the passage of time.[6][13]

This is contrasted with other beings, which are not considered to have creativity as is discussed within the Juche idea, as "creativity" in Juche philosophy is a trait which is brought out in social man by his existence within social relations. This concept can be contrasted with the activities of animals such as bees or birds, who do in one sense of the word create things in the form of hives and nests. However, as is pointed out in Expositions of the Principles of Juche Idea, this is not considered the same as man's quality of creativity as defined in Juche philosophy, because "they cannot transform the existing forms to make new things. This is proved by the fact that their method is the same even after the change of conditions and environment with the passage of time." In contrast, man's creativity causes him to develop new methods and new creations based on both changing conditions and on the new methods and creations which he continues to develop over time. An example of this is given with the case of man engaging in hunting and gathering for food, then developing farming, and then continuously building on the creative developments in farming by new farming methods and advancements in science and technology.[13]

Man's Destiny and Juche Idea explains that since man is a creative being and the social movement for shaping destiny of human beings assumes creative character, "destiny control without creation is inconceivable." The work explains that man who wants to realize his aspirations and demand for independence can successfully shape his destiny only by the creative method, enhancing and positively enlisting his creativity and constantly transforming nature and society to meet the specific conditions. The work further explains how the "inexhaustible creative ability" of the masses is key in "waging a dynamic struggle for destiny control":

In order to carve out one’s destiny and the destiny of one’s country and nation, it is necessary to strictly rely on the masses of the people possessing inexhaustible creative ability. The popular masses are a decisive force propelling social progress and only when one relies on them strictly and enlists their creativity can one wage a dynamic struggle for destiny control. Whatever outstanding talent and ability an individual has, they are no match for the strength of the masses. It is not an individual but the popular masses who possess in a comprehensive way all knowledge and experience accumulated by humankind through the struggle for carving out destiny in the long historical period.[12]

It is also noted in the above work, in respect to how man's creativity may be applied to actions, that the creative method is to find solutions of one's own that suit one's actual realities, always starting from the specific conditions and settings, and, when introducing other's experience, adopt it by tailoring it to meet one's own needs. As is stated in Juche Idea: Answers to Hundred Questions, "Creativity ensures the realization of independence. Man can translate independence into reality as he has creativity. The fuller he gives play to creativity the better he can put independence into practice."[6]


According to Juche philosophy, consciousness is an attribute of social man, which determines all his endeavours to understand and reshape the world and himself. Because man has consciousness, man is able to understand the world and the laws of its motion and development, and therefore can harness nature and develop society as he desires. Consciousness enables man to be aware of his demands and interests, as well as of the surrounding world, enabling man to make strenuous effort for the realization of those demands and interests. Because he has consciousness, man is able to make active analysis and judgment of new problems and situations that arise in the process of his practical activities, and enables man to take proper measures and steps in conformity with the new conditions. Thus he is able to carry out his planned practical activities to the end by overcoming difficulties and ordeals encountered in the process.[15]

Ideological consciousness is considered to reflect man's desire and interests, and therefore has an active effect on man's conduct. In particular, within the Juche idea, consciousness of independence and class interests is considered to play a decisive role in the masses' revolutionary movement for independence. The masses' revolutionary ability cannot find full expression without consciousness, particularly consciousness of their class interests and independence. It is considered that masses with a low level of consciousness in regard to their class interests and in regard to independence will be less able to transform nature and society to meet their needs, therefore hampering their ability to rise to the revolutionary struggle even in the face of oppression and exploitation. It is considered necessary to have a firm consciousness of independence in order to be able to take an indomitable attitude towards the revolution, actively participate in it with a strong will, and struggle to the end, overcoming all difficulties and trials.[3]

In On the Juche Idea, Kim Jong Il explains that without the regulation of ideological consciousness, man's independent and creative activities would be "inconceivable", stating:

If a man is to be an independent creative being, he must have the consciousness of independence. This consciousness means the awareness of one’s being the master of one’s own destiny and signifies the will to shape one’s destiny by one’s own initiative. Only when a man has the consciousness of independence can he conduct conscious activity to conquer nature and actively struggle against the oppressors who encroach and trample upon his independence. Man’s endeavour to acquire a scientific understanding of the world and transform it actively is none other than the manifestation of his consciousness; man’s role in transforming nature and society, after all, is the role of his ideological consciousness.[3]

In the same work, Kim Jong Il goes on to describe the relationship between consciousness and material conditions in a revolutionary movement:

Material factors, too, play a great part in the revolutionary movement. But the existence of material conditions does not give rise to the revolution automatically. How to make use of these material conditions depends on people’s conscious activity. Whether these material conditions are prepared quickly or not depends on man’s activity. The revolution can be pushed forward only by the active struggle of the revolutionaries and the popular masses. Fundamentally speaking, a revolution does not always break out when all the necessary conditions exist, nor is it carried out always in favourable circumstances. Waiting with folded arms for all conditions to ripen is tantamount to refusing to make a revolution. Primary importance, therefore, should be given to the ideological factor in the revolutionary struggle and construction work, and on this basis strenuous efforts should be made to create all the necessary conditions.[3]

In other words, while material factors are considered to play a large role in a revolution, the consciousness of the masses is considered to be the decisive factor, as how to make use of the material conditions depends on people's conscious activity. It is also noted in the same work that the role of ideological consciousness steadily increases with the development of the revolutionary movement; the communist revolutionary movement is described as requiring a high degree of consciousness from people, as the socialist and communist societies are built by the purposeful and conscious efforts of the popular masses. Meanwhile, the role of ideological consciousness is enhanced after the seizure of political power and the establishment of the socialist system by the working class, and socialism and communism are considered to "provide the conditions for increasing the role of people's ideological consciousness to the full."[3]

Man as master

One of the starting points of the Juche idea is that the master of the revolution is the popular masses, and that the revolution can emerge victorious when they are educated, organized and mobilized.[6]

The concept of man as master of everything means that man dominates the world in accordance with his will and demand. In the Juche philosophy, the concept master "indicates whether the world dominates man or man dominates the world in accordance with his will and demand. In other words, the concept master contains the philosophical meaning of whether man is in the position of dominating the world or being dominated by the world."[16]

This assertion is made in contrast to the view that man is a "powerless" being dominated by instinct, isolated from the world and with no social character, a view described by Kim Jong Il as a reactionary and bourgeois philosophy which "negates a scientific understanding of the world and revolutionary changes, inspires sorrow, pessimism and ultra-egoism."[9]

The term "domination" in Juche philosophy does not refer to oppressive domination such as class domination or colonial domination, but to "controlling and utilizing all objects of the world in keeping with man’s independent interests and demand". It refers to man's transformation of the world for it to serve him, as opposed to the concept that man serves the surrounding world.[17]

As the work Exposition of the Principles of Juche Idea notes, it is incorrect to take a metaphysical view of how man dominates the world. The work explains that "it is wrong to understand in a metaphysical way that man dominates the world. At present, man does not dominate all things and phenomena in the world. The scope of man’s domination over the world is small in comparison with the vast scope of nature." The work goes on to note that society has objective laws that act independently of man's will, and it is only when man correctly understands and uses these laws that man can "dominate society according to his demand."[13]

Meaning of destiny

The concept of destiny which is discussed in Juche philosophy refers to the situation or circumstances of people, matters of life and death, and the direction of development.[7][8] References to "carving out destiny" refers to "the process of fulfilling the people’s basic aspiration and demand."[12]

"Destiny" (Korean: 운명; Hanja: 運命) in the context of Juche philosophy does not refer to a superstitious or religious concept of destiny. It is differentiated from concepts such as inevitable or predestined fate (Korean: 숙명; Hanja: 宿命), or the concept of one's fortune (Korean: 팔자; Hanja: 八字).[7][8] In contrast with concepts of predestined fate or fortune in which man has no ability to change the outcome, the Juche idea emphasizes man's ability to understand the laws of nature and therefore become capable of consciously transforming the world and society for his benefit, therefore becoming the "master of his destiny". As stated in Man's Destiny and Juche Idea, "With the discovery of this great truth, man who had long been a slave to mysticism, fatalism and supernatural god could exalt his dignity and worth as the master of his destiny."[12]

Views on nationalism

The Juche idea holds that nationalism came about to satisfy the need for a nation to defend its interests during its course of development. Juche understands a nation to be a type of social community which holds common kinship and decent, a distinct language, residential area and culture. Every nation is composed of various classes and strata, and there is no one who has ever been outside of a nation. Because everyone is both part of a nation and class, everybody is born with both a national and class identity.[18]

Class and national identities and their respective interests cannot be separated from each other. Although class contradictions exist in every society, all classes within a nation have common national interests in defending the homeland and achieving independence. Because nationalism emerged alongside the development of a nation, it is inherently progressive under most circumstances. However, under capitalist society, the bourgeoisie disguises their class interests for collective national interests to further reactionary ideology.[18]

Historical outlook

The historical outlook of the Juche idea holds that the working masses are the subject of history and the motive force of social progress, and that history develops through the struggle of the working masses to transform nature and society, as they defend and realize independence from all natural and social restrictions. In class society, the exploiting classes attempt to prevent this historical advance, forming a struggle between "the creators of history and the reactionaries of history, between the masters of revolution and the targets of revolution".[3] Through these struggles, society develops and advances.

In Juche philosophy, it is recognized that man lives and conducts his activity in the world, and that the world consists of material which changes and develops as the result of the motion of material, and that nature is both the object of man's labor as well as the material source of his life. However, a distinction is made between the development of nature and socio-historical development in that the developments of nature have no volitional "subject"; in nature, motion takes place spontaneously through the interaction of material elements which exist objectively. In contrast, social movement is considered to be caused and developed by the volitional role of the subject--the working masses of the people.

The working masses transform nature through their labor, producing all social wealth by their hands and advancing history through their creative activity and struggle, changing the societies unfavorable to them. While the working masses are considered as the subject and motive force of history throughout various forms of society, their positive action on socio-historical progress increases as they transform nature and society, strengthening their position, and as they become more aware of their role as the motive force of history. In socialist society, the working masses undergo a radical change in their status and destiny, and their position and role are enhanced due to the revolutionary leadership and struggle of the working class.

As explained by Kim Jong Il, "Only by seizing state power and the means of production in their own hands and by establishing a socialist system can the working masses free themselves from exploitation and oppression and create history consciously as true masters of society and their own destiny." He explains that when the whole society is reshaped completely on the pattern of the advanced working class under its leadership, "the position of the popular masses, the subject of history, would be remarkably stronger, and their role in pushing forward the historical progress and revolutionary development incomparably higher."[3]

Relation to other philosophical ideas

Idealism and metaphysics

Juche holds it as fact that the world consists of material which moves and develops in accordance with its own laws, rather than consisting of consciousness or ideas.[9] Exposition of the Principles of Juche Idea indicates that thanks to the scientific world outlook of Marxism, the exploited working masses "got free from religious illusion and idealistic fiction".[13]

Juche philosophy emphasizes the importance of considering man as a social being living in social relations rather than purely as a biological being. As explained in Exposition of the Principles of Juche Idea, "the view that regarded man as the being dominated by instinct had been used for defending capitalist society where the law of jungle prevailed, causing corruption among the working masses."[13] This purely biological characterization of man, which fails to distinguish man as existing within social relations or to identify social man's key traits as defined in Juche, is criticized because it can be used to "defend exploiter society governed by the law of the jungle",[12] as well as potentially leading to racist theories and racial discrimination.[9]

Dialectical materialism

Juche philosophy regards the dialectical materialist view as the scientific view of the material world. As Kim Jong Il has stated regarding this view:

It has already been established by materialistic dialectic that the world consists of material, not consciousness or ideas, and that it moves, changes and develops in accordance with its own laws, not by any supernatural force. It is an undeniable fact that the world is, in essence, a material entity, a material integrity, and that it moves, changes and develops in accordance with its inherent laws.[9]

Exposition of the Principles of Juche Idea explains the influence of Marxism in freeing people from idealism and in instructing people to "understand and approach the world as it is" and to behave "according to the law of the change and development of the objective material world":

As a scientific world outlook that reflects the world as it is in an objective way, Marxist world outlook had big influence on the development of history and the shaping of people’s destiny. Thanks to Marxism, the exploited working masses got free from religious illusion and idealistic fiction and came to understand that their misfortunes come not from their fate or revelation of God but from the exploitation of the capitalist class and the capitalist system that defends it. And they were awakened that the way for happiness free from the exploitation and oppression is to fight against capital. It is the world outlook that instructs to understand and approach the world as it is, in other words, to behave according to the law of the change and development of the objective material world on the basis of its correct cognition.[13]

Within Juche, it is considered that although this view provides a correct scientific understanding of the world, it does not inherently cause man to actively transform nature and society in accordance with his will or in accordance with man's interests. It is the Juche philosophy which asserts it is able to fulfill this task by emphasizing man's role in taking responsibility for shaping the world and asserting that the world should be shaped according to man's interests. Therefore, it is asserted that "in order to lead a true life, [man] must not only cognize the objective law and behave according to it but also transform nature and society in an active way on its basis. Dialectical materialism cannot enable people to fulfill the responsibility and role for their life. Moreover, it does not directly show the road of shaping man’s destiny. It is the man-centred world outlook that shows the road of shaping man’s destiny directly and scientifically."[13]

The work Man's Destiny and Juche Idea summarizes the view held in Juche philosophy, which is that the Juche idea raises a separate question from what is dealt with by Marx: "As the origin of the world was explained materialistically by Marxism, the Juche idea newly raises the relationship between the world and man, the position and role of man in the world, as the fundamental question of philosophy and gives a scientific answer to it."[12]


The Korean Association of Social Scientists (KASS) states that although the Juche idea is an idea connected with Marxism-Leninism, Juche is a new, original revolutionary idea which "gave answers to the demands of a historical age different from one of Marx and Lenin, and was evolved and systematized with its own peculiar principles."[19] Kim Il-sung developed the ideology which was originally viewed as a variant of Marxism–Leninism until it became recognized as a theoretical advancement. Kim Jong-il officially broke the Marxist-Leninist continuity of Juche, claiming it to be something unique entirely. It incorporates the historical materialist ideas of Marxism–Leninism and strongly emphasizes the relationship between the individual, the nation state and its sovereignty.

Kim Jong-il states this about the unique Juche characteristic of Socialism in Korea and how it is not merely Marxism-Leninism,

"In the early years of revolutionary activity, the leader (Kim Il-Sung) was well versed in Marxism-Leninism. But he did not confine himself to applying Marxism-Leninism to the Korean Revolution but pioneered a new phase of revolutionary theory from a steadfast Juche-oriented standpoint and resolved the problems arising in the revolutionary practice from a unique angle."[20]

Kim Jong-il stated that the historical achievements of Marxism–Leninism must be acknowledged but also states that it has limitations when it comes to the specifics of post-revolution socialist construction in the present day context, and states that, "the present historical condition is fundamentally different from what it was when the founders of Marxism–Leninism were active" and while Lenin certainly advanced Marxism, "is now clear to everybody that one cannot build socialism properly by drawing on a theory that was put forward based on prediction and supposition a century ago." Kim Jong-il adds,

"Although Marxism-Leninism has limitations and failed to clarify the specific ways for building socialism, those parties that are building socialism can prevent the degeneration of their class character if they correctly maintain the revolutionary principle of Marxism-Leninism [...] As for the mistakes revealed in socialist construction in some countries, their parties which allowed dogmatism and revisionism, not Marxism-Leninism and its founders, are to blame for them."[21]

While the achievements of Marxism–Leninism are recognized in the Juche outlook, it is considered that Marxism–Leninism does not provide all the answers necessary for socialist construction in the modern conditions or the specific conditions of Korea, and that it is limited by its historical age.

The Juche idea must not be viewed as a simple inheritance and development of Marxism-Leninism; it must be viewed as a new and original idea. That we should see originality in context with derivations in understanding means that the Juche idea is not an ideology, which contrasts with Marxism-Leninism and that the historical achievements of Marxism-Leninism must be acknowledged. We acknowledge the historical achievements of the dialectical materialism of Marxism, as it smashed the reactionary idealistic and metaphysical outlook on the world, but do not view it as the perfect philosophy of the working class. We appraise the historical achievements of Marxism-Leninism as it proved the inevitability of the fall of capitalism and the triumph of socialism and clarified the and theory on building a classless ideal society free of exploitation and oppression, but we do not see it as a perfect communist revolutionary theory. As a matter of course we have so far not spoken much about the limitations of Marxism-Leninism. But today when its limitations are more and more evident, it is necessary to bring them home to our officials. Only then can they fully understand the originality and superiority of the Juche idea, the revolutionary idea of the leader, and make firmer their conviction of our style socialism based on the Juche idea. – Kim Jong-Il[21]

Individualism vs. collectivism

In Juche, the individual's demand for independence is considered to be the demand of man as an equal member of the social collective rather than as a single, isolated individual who exists outside of social relations.

The individual's demand for independence as described in Juche is considered to be fundamentally different from concepts such as "individualistic greed" or concepts found in existentialism, which is regarded as a bourgeois philosophy. Arguments centering on the isolated individual's autonomy and freedom of will is considered to be "sophism to rationalize individual egoism and liberalism and to defend capitalist system," as is described in the work Expositions of the Principles of Juche Idea. Such claims are described as "bourgeois self-indulgence with which one decides and behaves as he wishes according to his pure will, negating all effects of social environments."[13]

In addition, Juche philosophy argues that the demands of an individual can be better realized only through collectivism, which is considered to be more capable of properly combining the demands of the individual and the collective, to realize the demands of both.[13]


The development of the Juche idea is intertwined with the historical experience of Korea. The Juche idea's development has been influenced by Korea's anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggle against imperial Japan and the imperialist USA, as well as by Korea's position as a country "sandwiched between big countries",[22] given its physical position bordering longstanding world powers such as China and Russia, its proximity to Japan which was formerly an imperial power which targeted Korea, and which now serves the imperialist US, and the US-occupied south Korea. Korea has thus had a long historical experience of being a location in which world power struggles have taken place, with the Juche idea being birthed amidst the anti-colonial struggle against Japan, and the nation of DPRK being born amidst the confrontation against US imperialism which continues today. Stemming from these historical experiences and particular circumstances of Korea, one of the major points emphasized in Juche is the concept of independence from great powers and the avoidance of sycophancy and extreme dependence on foreign powers, and prioritizing the importance of focusing on the material conditions of Korea, centering Korean realities in their own revolution rather than simply following the ideas of others while neglecting to consider the specific situation of Korea.

In the foreword to the book Socialist Education in Korea, Derek Ford and Curry Malott contextualize the development of the Juche idea, describing its origins in the anti-Japanese struggle in Korea, and its further development in the context of the Sino-Soviet split. They write:

In response to those who wanted to build the anti-colonial struggle and the future independent Korea by relying on outside forces or self-styled leaders parroting theories from elsewhere, Kim Il-Sung formulated the slogan “The people are my God,” which encapsulates “the spirit of approaching everything with the masses of the people at the centre and boundlessly treasuring them.” As Kim Jong-Il recounts, Kim Il-Sung “clarified the truth that a revolution should be carried out not by anyone’s approval or instruction but by one’s own conviction and on one’s own responsibility that all problems arising in the revolution should be solved in an independent and creative way.” [...] By making Juche official policy, the WPK and state apparatuses fastened the country’s direction around “the principle of solving for oneself all the problems of the revolution and construction in conformity with the actual conditions of one’s country, mainly by one’s own efforts.” Juche was formulated against “dogmatism and flunkeyism towards great powers” as a dynamic doctrine organized around “independence in politics, self-sustenance in the economy, and self-defense in national defense.”[2]

Anti-imperialist struggle

The development of the Juche idea has been influenced by Korea's anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggle, including the struggle against imperial Japan's colonial domination of Korea, and the struggle against the imperialist USA.

The revolutionary tradition of the anti-Japanese struggle still has heavy influence on DPRK's guiding ideology today. During Japan's colonial domination, Koreans were banned from politically organizing and were subjected to extensive cultural erasure and conditions of slavery. Koreans were given Japanese names, forced to practice Japanese religion, and speak Japanese. All industrial goods made in Korea were exported to Japan, and Japanese workers were paid three times as much as Koreans. The Japanese sent one eighth of the Korean population to other parts of their empire to work as slaves.[23] The anti-Japanese struggle influenced the development of the Juche idea and is intimately linked with the history of Korean socialism, the Korean independence movement, and the life of Kim Il-sung. Therefore, the revolutionary tradition of the anti-Japanese struggle remains important in the DPRK, as both a source of inspiration as well as important material for study.[24]

In response to Korea's colonial oppression by Japan and as part of the Korean peoples' struggles for independence, the Down-with-Imperialism Union (DIU) was formed by Kim Il Sung along with other young communists in 1926. The DIU set as its immediate task the destruction of Japanese imperialism and achievement of Korea’s liberation and independence, with the ultimate aim of building socialism and communism in Korea and, further, destroying all imperialists and building communism throughout the world. The programme which is based on the ideals of anti-imperialism and independence and of maintaining independence in the revolution and construction formed the basis of the programme of the WPK. As is noted in Ro Myong Sim's article "Historical Roots of the Workers' Party of Korea", the young communists of the new generation brought up by the DIU became the backbone of the WPK, and that, thanks to the "precious traditions and experiences of party building established and gained in the period of the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle", the Workers' Party of Korea, the "Juche-type revolutionary party", was founded soon after Korea's liberation in 1945.[25]

Shortly after Korea's liberation from Japan, the US occupation of Korea began, along with the USA's attempt to eradicate socialism from Korea as a whole. US imperialism caused violent destruction throughout Korea during the Fatherland Liberation War in an attempt to annihilate DPRK's existence and prevent the spread of socialism in Korea. The imperialist US still currently occupies the southern half of Korea and conducts antagonistic military exercises aimed at the "decapitation" of DPRK's leadership[26] while also attempting to thwart DPRK's economic growth and sabotage its international relations through escalating economic sanctions programs that are designed to prevent economic growth, international travel, and inter-Korean cooperation.[27] This direct and ongoing confrontation with US imperialism throughout the entirety of DPRK's existence as a nation has influenced DPRK's ideological developments and its focus on forming its own lines and policies from the standpoint of Juche, which keeps focus on Korea's specific material conditions and particular circumstances.

Relation to great powers

In addition to past and ongoing confrontations with colonialism and imperialism, the development of the Juche idea is influenced by Korea's historical experience as a country "sandwiched between big countries" which has caused Korea to have periods of history and ideological trends in which the "worship of big countries" became, in the words of Kim Jong Il, an "ideological malady" that has "long caused harm to the liberation struggle, the communist movement and the construction of a new society." In order for Korea to put itself on a successful path to revolution, Kim Il-sung put forward a policy of rejecting sycophancy and dogmatism and establishing a Juche orientation for the revolutionary movement.[22]

Relation to other socialist nations

Along with Korea's anti-imperialist struggle and Korea's position between influential world powers, the development of the Juche idea has also been influenced by DPRK's focus on their own particular circumstances in revolution and socialist construction, rather than mechanically following the ideological lines of its neighboring socialist countries, China and the Soviet Union. Although DPRK at times received help from each nation and has maintained friendly, peaceful relations with them, the Juche idea was emphasized to avoid extreme dependence on either country's applications of Marxism–Leninism. This was to avoid dogmatic and mechanical application of their ideas and to prioritize the importance of focusing on the material conditions within Korea.

Providing context for the role of Juche in Korea in respect to the advances of Marxism–Leninism in the Soviet Union, Kim Jong-Il said in a 1990 speech:

In the past, many countries, while building socialism guided by Marxism-Leninism, applied the propositions of Marxism-Leninism advanced long before as they were, and imitated the Soviet experience in a mechanical manner. [...] As a matter of fact, we cannot deny the historic exploits and experience of the Soviet Union which built socialism for the first time in the world. However, the experience of the Soviet Union in socialist construction is, in every point, the reflection of the then historical conditions and the concrete situation of the Soviet Union. [...] In our country, once a backward, colonial semi-feudal society, we could not literally accept the Marxist theory which had been advanced on the premises of the socio-historical conditions of the developed European capitalist countries, or the Leninist theory presented in the situation of Russia where capitalism was developed to the secondary grade. We had had to find a solution to every problem arising in the revolution by racking our own brains and with our own efforts to suit our country’s socio-historical conditions. Immediately after liberation we started building a new society under the situation in which our country was divided into north and south and we were in direct confrontation with the US imperialists; this situation urgently required us to solve every problem from the standpoint of Juche. Such a requirement of the developing revolution was fulfilled satisfactorily by the great leader who, on the basis of the Juche idea, put forward original lines and policies suited to our people’s aspirations and the specific situation of our country.[28]

Library works

See also


  1. Paul French (2014). North Korea: state of paranoia. Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-78032-947-5
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Riley Seungyoon Park and Cambria York. "Socialist Education in Korea: Selected Works of Kim Il-sung." 2022. Iskra Books, Madison, Wisconsin. Peacelandbread.com. PDF.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Kim Jong Il. "On the Juche Idea." Treatise Sent to the National Seminar on the Juche Idea Held to Mark the 70th Birthday of the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung. March 31, 1982. Marxists.org.
  4. 4.0 4.1 DPRK Foreign Languages Publishing House (2014). Juche Idea: answers to 100 questions[PDF]
  5. “The Juche philosophy gave new viewpoints on the essence of the world and law of its development that the world is dominated and transformed by man and the world develops by man's active role and in the direction of serving man and in keeping with the development of man. It also clarified the new viewpoint and attitude that one should proceed from man's interest on the basis of Juche-oriented viewpoint on the world and that one should approach the world with his activities as a main.

    The Juche philosophy newly elucidated the viewpoint and attitude to the world, centreing on man and thus gives a great weapon that enables man to shape his destiny successfully by correctly understanding and transforming the world. Herein lies the essential feature of the Juche idea as the revolutionary world outlook of our times and its scientific accuracy, revolutionary character, originality and advantage.”

    "The Juche Idea Is a Philosophical Thought That Centres on Man". Korean Association of Social Scientists, Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Course: Juche Idea.. Archived from the original on 2023-09-23.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 "Juche Idea: Answers to Hundred Questions." Foreign Languages Publishing House. Pyongyang, Korea, Juche 101 (2012).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Man is the Master of Everything and Decides Everything." Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Course: Juche Idea. Korean Association of Social Scientists. Archived 2023-09-05.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "사람은 모든것의 주인이며 모든것을 결정한다." 김일성-김정일주의강좌: 주체사상. 조선사회과학자협회. Archived 2022-06-05.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Kim Jong Il. "On Some Questions in Understanding the Juche Philosophy."
  10. "Man, Main Category of Juche Philosophy." Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Course: Juche Idea. Korean Academy of Social Sciences. Archived 2023-09-23.
  11. “As seen above, independence, creativity and consciousness constitute the essential features of man that distinguish him from animals. It is important to note that these qualities are not gifted, but social qualities that only man can acquire while living and developing in social relationship.”

    Juche Idea: Answers to Hundred Questions (Juche 101 (2012)). Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 "Man's Destiny and Juche Idea." Foreign Languages Publishing House. Pyongyang, Korea, Juche 101 (2012).
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 13.9 "Exposition of the Principles of Juche Idea." Foreign Languages Publishing House. Pyongyang, Korea, Juche 103 (2014).
  14. "Philosophical Meaning and Socio-Political Meaning of Independence." Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Course: Juche Idea. Korean Association of Social Scientists. Archived 2023-08-15.
  15. "Consciousness." Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Course: Juche Idea. Korean Association of Social Scientists. Archived 2023-09-26.
  16. "Meaning of Master, Philosophical Concept." Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Course: Juche Idea. Korean Academy of Social Sciences. Archived 2023-09-23.
  17. "Meaning of Domination, Philosophical Concept." Korean Association of Social Scientists. Archived 2023-09-23.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Kim Jong-il (Juche 91 (2002)). On having a correct understanding of Nationalism.
  19. "What is the ideological and mental source of the Juche idea and its premise?" Korean Association of Social Scientists. 2009-04-14. Accessed via KCNA Watch. Archived 2023-09-23.
  20. On the Juche Idea - Kim Jong-Il, page 7
  21. 21.0 21.1 On some problems of the ideological foundation of socialism
  22. 22.0 22.1 Kim Jong Il. "Worshipping Big Powers and Depending on Foreign Forces is the Way to National Ruin." Talk to Students at Kim Il Sung University. April 5, 1961.
  23. Stephen Gowans (2018). Patriots, Traitors and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom: 'The Empire of Japan' (pp. 25–29). [PDF] Montreal: Baraka Books. ISBN 9781771861427 [LG]
  24. “[기획연재1] 김일성 주석의 항일운동 역사.” 2022. 주권방송. April 5, 2022. Archived 2022-10-20.
  25. Ro Myong Sim. "Historical Roots of the Workers’ Party of Korea." Explore DPRK. Archived 2023-09-28.
  26. Flounders, Sara. “Faced with U.S. ‘Decapitation Drill’ DPRK Korea Missile Launch Is Self-Defense.” Workers World. August 26, 2022. Archived 2023-06-04.
  27. "제국의 제재 - Sanctions of Empire." Nodutdol. October 20, 2020. PDF. Archive.
  28. Kim Jong Il. "Socialism of Our Country is a Socialism of Our Style as the Embodiment of the Juche Idea." Speech Delivered to the Senior Officials of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. December 27, 1990. Marxists.org.


  1. Korean: 주체/主體, lit. 'subject'; usually left untranslated or translated as "self-reliance"