By Holden Vallei
From 1972 to present, the official philosophy of the North Korean government is “Juche”, an ideology which many Marxists, including myself, have dubbed as “Revisionist”, or contradictory to the principles of Marxism-Leninism. I continue to stand by that statement. However, what was North Korea like before that? In my opinion at least, North Korea was not only best Korea, but an example of what genuine Marxism-Leninism can achieve when put up directly against Capitalism.
Before we go on, some terminology is necessarily. What is the “DPRK”? The DPRK is an abbreviation for the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, more commonly known as North Korea. What is the “ROK”? The ROK is an abbreviation for the “Republic of Korea”, more commonly known as South Korea.
In 1945, after decades of occupation from the Japanese Monarchist-Fascist-Imperialists, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics occupied the Northern half of Korea. Within a year, the Soviet Civil Administration in Korea gave up their authority to the Provisional People’s Committee for North Korea, which was designed to act as a temporary government while the permeant government for North Korea was being set up. During this time, a major land reform was being carried out. Land that belonged to Japanese collaborators was confiscated and given to the peasants and farmers who worked the land. (Citation 1)
In 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was officially founded as a Socialist Republic led by the Workers’ Party of Korea. (Citation 2)
In 1950, the DPRK invaded the ROK in the hope of reunifying Korea under the rule of the DPRK. Just when the DPRK was about to win, the US Armed Forces intervened. Just when it looked like the ROK was about to win, the People’s Republic of China intervened. For the next few years, the war was at a stalemate. In 1953, a ceasefire was finally reached. However, it was not a permeant peace, meaning the DPRK and ROK are still technically at war and could go to war at any moment. (Citation 3)
When the war ended, the DPRK was more devastated than the ROK was. Yet this did not stop them. In the next nineteen years, the DPRK made remarkable socioeconomic progress. Basic services like food rations, housing, healthcare, and education were all made free. (Citation 4) Homelessness was very extraordinary, as everyone was legally required to have a home. (Citation 5) The Taean system of socialist collective management was expanded on, allowing for the workers to have democratic control of the means of production. (Citation 6) The economy was very successful. Despite the devastation from war, the DPRK had a GDP per person that was roughly equal to that of the ROK for most of the 1950s and 1960s, and it was even higher than that of the ROK in 1971. (Citation 7&8) We should also take into account alongside that statistic that people in a country where basic services were free should have been making less. However this was not the case. British Post-Keynesian economist Joan Robinson called the DPRK’s economic development a “miracle”. (Citation 9) While supply could still be unreliable, all homes had electricity by 1968. (Citation 10) By 1972, all children from age 5 to 16 were enrolled in school, and over 200 universities and specialized colleges had been established. (Citation 11)
While the DPRK may have strayed from Marxism with the introduction of “Juche” in 1972, before that, they really showed what Socialism is capable of accomplishing when pitted directly against their Capitalist neighbor to the South.
- Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947. Princeton University Press, 1981, 607 pages, ISBN 0–691–09383–0.
- Demick, Barbara (2010). Nothing to Envy: Love, Life and Death in North Korea. Sydney: Fourth Estate. page 64. ISBN 9780732286613.
- Hunter, Helen-Louise (1999). Kim Il-song’s North Korea. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. page 196. ISBN 0–275–96296–2.
- Buzo, Adrian (2002). The Making of Modern Korea. London: Routledge. page 101. ISBN 0–415–23749–1.