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North Korea Authoritarianism

North Korea in Japanese is written as “朝鮮民主主義人民共和国”. Japanese people generally use this name when they refer to North Korea, but this name is really controversial because of the meaning of the Chinese characteristics “民主主義 (min-shu-shu-gi)”. “民主主義” means democracy in Japanese. To begin with, what principle does North Korea try to achieve? Generally, people seem to have one conventional wisdom that North Korea has only authoritarianism, which means favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority. The effects by the media can make this conventional wisdom.

For example, the news about broadcasting the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il must be memorable for those who watched the news. It would be phenomenal for most of them to see North Korean people break down crying because of the death of Kim Jong Il on TV. Through the media, people made sure that North Korea was composed of only autocratic ideas. However, it is suspicious that North Korea seeks just one principle even though there are many alternatives such as socialism, democracy, capitalism, communism, or liberalism.

Everyday Life in The North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950 by Suzy Kim, North Korea Markets and Military Rule by Hazel Smith, and other articles can demonstrate that it is not true that North Korea is affected by only authoritarianism. By looking at politics, society, economic, and education in North Korea though these resources, it becomes clear that North Korea consists of not only authoritarianism, but also socialism and capitalism. First, the idea of authoritarianism is included in education in North Korea. The book, North Koreans in Japan by Sonia Ryang can be used to support this idea.

Generally, there are two ways of explaining the author’s arguments, including qualitative approaches and quantitative approaches. Qualitative methods usually have numerical consequences to prove the author’s argument. On the other hand, qualitative methods don’t rely on the numbers and they utilize the materials which includes non-numerical resources such as interviews, diary, autobiographies. In her book, Ryang discovers the relationships between North Korea and South Korea by writing about North Korean people who live in Japan by using the resources she got from interviews with them.

The information in her book is retrieved people from who actually experienced lives in both North Korea and Japan. Therefore, her book is truly qualitative. She doesn’t say that North Korea is composed of just authoritarianism in a direct way, but it becomes clear that education in North Korea includes authoritarianism. In her book, she specifies what education North Koreans received in Japan. Chongryun, which is an organization consisted of North Koreans in Japan who value Juche idea, had big influences on North Koreans’ thoughts.

Chongryun had a system that monitored citizens’ activities called “haksupjo”, which means a study group. Members in the group took part in self-criticism and group criticism. During these activities, they were supposed to be critical of anything about themselves and show their loyalty to “the Great Marshal Leader Kim Il Sung and the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il” (Ryang, 1997, p105). Do people in democratic countries, having a society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges, educate children by teaching they are wrong and what the people in highest status say is correct?

This education system must be used in only autocratic countries. Moreover, these activities were held in educational places such as University, and helped North Koreans to keep Chongryun’s linguistic orthodoxy (Ryang, 1997, p105). Because the purpose of this education was to defend Chongryun’s tradition, it reveals that North Koreans were brainwashed throughout educations. The aim of education at that time would be that leaders could have more authority. Influenced by the idea that North Korean people should be subordinate to the leaders, their perspectives about history were controlled and became biased.

For example, the Korean War is called “The Fatherland Liberation War” by North Korea, and they still see the U. S. , Japan, and South Korea in the Civil War as enemies (Ryang, 1997, p88). These thoughts are quite subjective and show that North Korean people were lead to be patriotic to their country and their leader though education. Therefore, North Korea has the autocratic system that North Koreans were supposed to behave to be subordinate to the leader Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Second, North Korea has another principle in addition to authoritarianism because North Korean politics are affected by the ideas of socialism. Socialism is a system or social organization which community controls individual’s property to do make a society that is fair and equal for each one. What Kim Jong Il mentions socialism is written on the article, Socialism Is the Life of Our People. This article is based on the talk between Kim Jong Il and the Senior Officials of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

He does not rely on numbers to explain his opinions and just talked about his thought instead of using numbers. Therefore, if this article is compared based on the knowledge about the difference between qualitative and quantitative approaches written in the previous paragraph, this article is not quantitative, but qualitative. He concludes that socialism is the most ideal system for North Korean people by comparing with any other ideas such as communism. As this article’s title is ‘Socialism Is The Life of Our People’, he strongly believes that socialism is the very idea that North Korea should advance.

The reason why he values socialism is that Kim Il Sung, who Kim Jong Il respects the most, also took socialism in his policy to achieve revolution and construction of North Korea (Kim, 1992, p2). Furthermore, Kim Il Sung’s socialism was based on the Juche idea, which is ‘the ideological foundation of socialism and the only guiding ideology of revolution and construction’ (Kim, 1992, p2), so Kim Jong Il also thinks North Korea should be built based on socialism including the Juche idea. He uses expressions such as ‘We must staunchly defend the Juche idea’, or ‘We must cherish the Juche idea (Kim, 1992, p2).

These examples show Kim Jong Il is trying to tell he always considers every North Korean and get reliability from them. As a result, these expressions have the fault of the risk that North Koreans who read this article are brainwashed by him. However, what he wants to tell through his opinions shows Kim Jong Il is trying to make a socialist country because he clearly explains he aims socialism. Thus, politics in North Korea has the idea including socialism, which supports the idea that North Korea has not only authoritarianism but also socialism.

Third, that North Korea relies on just authoritarianism is incorrect because the society in North Korea is made based on the idea of socialism. Suzy Kim mentions society in North Korea through her book. Her book is not quantitative, but qualitative because she gives us a new way of seeing North Korea, which describes each person in North Korea rather than a whole state of North Korea by referring not numerical resources such as autobiographies that North Korean citizens actually wrote.

For example, she quoted the North Korean women’s autobiography which complains the women’s situation in order to show women in North Korea suffered from the lives in North Korea. To be specific, in the autobiography, the women complained people had stereotypes toward women because they were supposed to do housework even though she was seeking to study instead of doing house work (Kim, 2013, p231). As a result, Kim’s book is qualitative. Kim focuses on writing about women in North Korea in several chapters and explains how their roles in the society or their families have been changed.

For example, women couldn’t be involved in the social activities and one of the reasons of it was that approximately 90 percent of women were not literate in 1945, when North Korea has been liberated from Japan (Kim, 2013, p100). Then, women were given chances to go to school. It was possible for women who lived far from school because they could take education by an instructor who came to their house. Their efforts made the result that there were almost no illiterate women by March 1949 (Kim, 2013, p102). After liberation, women in North Korea could get not only opportunities to attend to school, but also equality with men.

In 1946, the Labor Law and the Law of Equal Rights for Men and Women were recognized in North Korea (Kim, 2013, p185). Through these things, women were able to participate in social activities as men did. Therefore, North Korea seems to have been decreasing the inequality about gender. Moreover, Hazel Smith describes the true purpose North Korean government gave women more rights in her book. She says that Kim Il Sung made a policy which has the purpose of supporting women’s domestic work (Smith, 2015, p179). It helped to make the situation that women could work more easily.

However, according to the report by UNICEF, the main occupation that women were charged in were labor-intensive or low output works (Smith, 2015, p285). It is true that the aim that North Korea gave women more rights was not to make men and women have equality, but to boost their economy by giving women opportunities to get involved in a society and economic activities. This idea is the same as the socialism that is trying to make an equal society by controlling people who were workers. Therefore, the socialistic ideas build North Korean society, which demonstrates that North Korea consists not only authoritarianism but also socialism.

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