October 03, 2023

How North Korea’s revival of communism goes hand in hand with ultranationalism

Uptick in communist rhetoric during pandemic highlights peculiar ideological mix regime uses to stay in power

During the pandemic, North Korean propagandists have revitalized the term communism in official rhetoric, marking a shift in the country’s discourse after “socialism” or “our style socialism” became the customary post-Cold War way to refer to its socioeconomic system. 

On the one hand, this sudden revival signals a push to strengthen ideological control over citizens amid the upheavals of the pandemic. At the same time, it appears to highlight something DPRK scholars and analysts may be inclined to minimize: a genuine desire by North Korean leaders to move back toward a Soviet-style planned economy.