Monolithic Ideological System Update

December 19, 2013 9:30 AM

Back in August, North Korea's propaganda machinery updated the "Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System;" these principles were last revised in 1974 when Kim Jong Il was anointed Kim Il Sung's successor. These ten principles, elaborated to a total of 65 sections, are the most cohesive statement of the totalizing ambitions of the Kim family regime, and one with wide currency in the regime's daily propaganda efforts. North Korean citizens are expected to know and follow the Ten Principles, which call for undivided loyalty and obedience to the leader.

The recent revisions reportedly justified the inheritance of power by reference to the importance of carrying out the legacies of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that this ideological update was a prelude to the purge—and purges—that have unfolded over the last week. Radio Free Asia reports that the anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il has been used to reintroduce the Ten Principles in a massive "educational" campaign; in the run-up to the anniversary, workers and students have been required to study the "Ten Principles."

James Person at Wilson Center's North Korean Documentation Project has done the timely service of outlining the origins of the Ten Principles in the earlier purge of the Kapsan Faction in 1967; as always, the NKDP Dossier includes interesting documents from the East European archives.

Following the Korean Worker's Party (KWP) Second Conference in October 1966, the leadership was divided for the last time over the strategic direction of the country. Kim Il Sung's byungjin line of simultaneous pursuit of military modernization and heavy industry was challenged by the Kapsan faction, which sought more balanced development and greater restraints on the cult of personality. Kim Il Sung's answer came in the form of a speech entitled "On Improving Party Work and Implementing the Decisions of the Party Conference," which basically called for an end to pluralism within the party in favor of a military-style centralism and obeisance. Following the purge of the Kapsan dissenters, Kim Il Sung gave a speech in December of 1967 ("Let Us Embody the Revolutionary Spirit of Independence, Self-Sustenance, and Self-Defense More Thoroughly in all Branches of State Activity") that outlined the major ideological lines of the new leaderist system.

We don't want to get carried away with the parallels; Kim Jong Un's byungjin line is not exactly Kim Il Sung's and Jang Song Thaek is not the Kapsan faction. Nonetheless, the underlying dynamics do look somewhat similar: challenges to the leaderist system are met not only with purges but with important ideological justifications for unity and obedience. Moreover, the purges are against those who appear to challenge—however indirectly in Jang's case—the more extreme statist-militarist approaches to the economy. If there are any still out there who see in Kim Jong Un the harbinger of a new order, their stock would seem to have hit an all time low.

"Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System"

(original version)

1. We must give our all in the struggle to unify the entire society with the revolutionary ideology of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung.

2. We must honor the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung with all our loyalty.

3. We must make absolute the authority of the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung.

4. We must make the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung’s revolutionary ideology our faith and make his instructions our creed.

5. We must adhere strictly to the principle of unconditional obedience in carrying out the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung's instructions.

6. We must strengthen the entire party’s ideology and willpower and revolutionary unity, centering on the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung.

7. We must learn from the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung and adopt the communist look, revolutionary work methods and people-oriented work style.

8. We must value the political life we were given by the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung, and loyally repay his great political trust and thoughtfulness with heightened political awareness and skill.

9. We must establish strong organizational regulations so that the entire party, nation and military move as one under the one and only leadership of the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung.

10. We must pass down the great achievement of the revolution by the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung from generation to generation, inheriting and completing it to the end.

Comments

Donald Kirk

Rivaling the Ten Commandments...

Rudiger Frank

I thought about using this analogy, too, and then dropped it, because it is in essence only one commandment, isn't it.

Sunny Lee

Very useful commentary. Reading the "Ten Principles" in English adds new nuance to the Kim religion.

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Stephan Haggard Senior Research Staff