B.R. Myers: Idea that Juche guides N. Korea policy “a myth”

Myers argues that texts of Juche ideology are deliberately obtuse and vague
October 14th, 2013

B.R. Myers, Associate Professor of International Studies at Dongseo University, has criticized the emphasis some North Korea watchers place on the study of Juche (주체), arguing that the notion it guides policy in North Korea is nothing more than “a myth.”

In an exclusive interview with NK News, Myers strongly criticized the “orthodoxy” in North Korea studies of the “Juche myth”, which he describes as “the notion that North Korea is guided in its policy making by Kim Il Sung’s Juche ideology”.

Myers argues that the texts of Juche ideology are deliberately obtuse and vague, serving merely as “props for the personality cult”, and should not be considered key to understanding what North Koreans believe and how the state behaves.

“There’s nothing that it adds to North Korean ideology,” he told NK News, “that it not really in the real ruling ideology of radical ultra-nationalism”.

Myers accuses what he calls the “Juche mythologists”– the academics of Korean studies who place a large focus on Juche – as having to “resort to a gross misrepresentation of the content of Juche thought in order to keep that myth alive”.

Myers argues that he finds it unlikely that Kim Il Sung would have only really extrapolated on “the ideology which had guided him” until 1965, also noting that all major pronouncements by Kim Il Sung on the subject happened when he was abroad.

Myers argues this is because Juche idea is part of an “outer track” of propaganda designed for the consumption of external audiences , not internal audiences.

B.R Myers is well known for his unique approach to North Korean studies – his 2010 book “The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why it Matters” argued that the guiding ideology of the DPRK was not, in fact, communism or Marxism-Leninism, but a radical ethnic nationalism originating from the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910-1945.

Listen to the full interview:

Click here for part two of the interview, on contemporary issues affecting North Korea

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About the Author

Oliver Hotham

Oliver Hotham is an NK News contributor based in London. He has previously worked at the Sunday Times and politics.co.uk.