Myers, Brian
January 2006
Acta Koreana;Jan2006, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p89
Academic Journal
For decades foreign observers have regarded Kim Il Sung's so-called juche speech of 1955 as a watershed in his country's ideological history--the first public occasion on which the dictator spoke of the nationalist concept of juche. The speech is also routinely described, though with no textual evidence, as an enunciation of the need for national self-reliance. All too often foreigners, unconsciously emulating the North Koreans' own practice, have projected the party's more recent interpretations of the term juche backward in time onto the 1955 speech. The following article proceeds from the view that the speech must be read closely with a view to the context of its own time--a time in which P'yŏngyang's own dictionaries either defined juche as a concept devoid of nationalist connotations or ignored at altogether, a time when it was considered acceptable throughout the socialist bloc to call for the "creative" application of Marxism-Leninism to national conditions; a time in which the juche speech appears to have aroused no more attention than was usually given to Kim's public discourse. Through an analysis of the text itself, the article sets out to show that the speech--only the first half of which deals with juche at all--is not nationalist in any meaningful sense of the term, nor does it even mention self-reliance. In closing, the article raises the possibility that Kim's criticism of the more ludicrous excesses of sovietophilia was motivated by his fear that they could alienate public opinion in South Korea.


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