“Juche”, or Self-Reliance

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“Juche”, or self-reliance, became the official autarkic state ideology of The Democratic Republic of Korea in 1972 (Lee 105). This ideology has shaped how North Korea is ruled as well as how they interact on the global scale. Kim I1 Sung described this method of rule of “being the master of revolution and reconstruction in one’s own country”, as well as “rejecting dependence on others”, and using one’s own brains and strength”, to achieve desirable outcomes (Lee 105). As Lee later describes, these policies have driven a nationalistic approach and justifies self-reliance in the global political landscape. Juche places a stigma around working with outside nations, which is another factor in North Koreas independence of foreign assistance or cooperation. In enacting the “juche” style polices, “charip” or economic independence and self sufficiency was spurred. The belief was that the society North Korea desired only was feasible with an independent national economy (Lee 105). This ideology stems to all aspects of North Korean policy. Having an independent military was a vital piece in achieving juche. This “self-reliant” defense system must be capable of acting with no outside aid or assistance due to these Juche policies. The entire North Korean system has been based off of “juche”, and their sequential lack of influence is a direct result. The inability of North Korea to use allies in the political, economic, and military atmospheres has hindered their chances of becoming a greater power in our world. If they ever hope to be recognized as a true player on the world stage, these policies must shift to allow assistance and cooperation with other entities.

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The political philosophy of “juche” took root in North Korea during the early 1970s. This philosophy, once recognized as “self-reliance” by many scholars, became radicalized by Kim II Sung who creatively combined Marxist-Leninist principles with the political state of North Korea. Their “juche” state became known for mastering reconstruction and revolution– strongly holding to independence and an overall nationalistic drive. In North Korea, “juche” has been used to justify their strict policies of self-reliance and isolation, despite the economic trouble and famine they face. The consequences of following a “juche” philosophy have been detrimental for North Korea, as they have become a hermit to the outside world.

Fearful that international cooperation will lead to lessened sovereignty and defense over North Korea, Kim II Sung decided to implement three versions of the “juche” philosophy to safeguard North Korea: Political and ideological independence, self-sufficiency and self-reliance and a viable national defense system. In other words, this system left North Korea in a corner unwilling to comply or cooperate with foreign powers on economic, social or political fronts; also giving them enough defensive power (in this case, nuclear weapons) to maintain chaju– defense of national independence and sovereignty.  All in all, the “juche” philosophy has played a key role in molding North Korea into the autarkic system we see today. The employment of this philosophy has greatly impacted its citizens, economy and politics leaving North Korea the last frontier of isolationism our world has seen.

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