Wikipedia defines Juche as such:

Juche, usually translated as "self-reliance", is the official state ideology of North Korea, described by the regime as Kim Il-sung's "original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought". It claims that an individual is "the master of his destiny" and that the North Korean masses are to act as the "masters of the revolution and construction".

Kim Il-sung (1912–1994) developed the ideology – originally viewed as a variant of Marxism–Leninism – to become distinctly "Korean" in character, breaking ranks with the deterministic and materialist ideas of Marxism–Leninism and strongly emphasising the individual, the nation state and its sovereignty.

So, how exactly does Juche compare with movements like Integralism, Fascism, National-Socialism, National-Solidarism, Ba'athism, Maoism, Stalinism and/or other movements that promote Authoritarianism and/or a one-party state in combination with Socialist principles and Nationalist principles?

Other than being rooted in Korean culture, what is it that differentiates Juche from the aforementioned movements?

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    You forgot to ask about Syndicalism, National-Bolshevism, and Strasserism too... Nov 4, 2016 at 17:46
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    Are you asking about the ideological theory preached by the NK government or the ideology they actually practice?
    – Philipp
    Nov 4, 2016 at 19:31
  • @Philipp : I'm refering to either the theory or the practice. I'm quite familiar with various variations on both Marxism and Fascism, but Juche is an ideology I know but very little about.
    – user3025
    Nov 5, 2016 at 10:00
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    There exist Juche study groups around the world, such as this one in England.
    – gerrit
    Nov 7, 2016 at 0:16
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    It's a kind of theocratic monarchy. The leader is a deity (albeit a mortal one), as was is father, and is grandfather.
    – armatita
    Jun 12, 2018 at 15:08

4 Answers 4


The Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs published an article in 2003 which provides an overview of juche. The article is available online for free as a PDF (see the linked document). For a description of juche, that is a great place to start.

As Philosophy

If you are looking at this as an exercise in political philosophy, Lee succinctly says (pg.109):

... there is nothing particularly revolutionary or novel in the tenets of the juche philosophy

This largely seems to be true: juche rests on the basis that any generically "Marxist" theory does. There is a struggle between workers and owners, the economic subsystem dictates the political and cultural system, etc.

Context is Everything

The original question asks:

Other than being rooted in Korean culture, what is it that differentiates Juche from the aforementioned movements?

I'm going to challenge the frame of the question here. When reading political thought, context is everything. For example, the concerns of the American Founding Fathers are very similar to the concerns of classical Greek and Roman writers. What separates them is history and culture. And that is enough.

More than a few students have noted that many of our modern debates are identical to debates we find in the classics, just expressed with a different language. What makes them interesting is the nuances and subtleties that come from how the culture and history interact with that particular thought.

  • I went a little off-book with that frame challenge in the second heading. If anyone has a recommendation for improving it, I would appreciate it. Nov 7, 2016 at 20:13
  • So, basically, you're arguing that there is no substantial difference. Basically, you're arguing that they're all more or less the same. Basically, you're arguing that the only significant difference between these ideologies is whichever circumstances they developed in, whichever ideologues conceived them, And thus, those circumstances and ideologues are what truly matter most in how we look at these ideologies? Is that a correct interpretation of your answer?
    – user3025
    Jun 10, 2018 at 11:55
  • @JohnSlegers In political theory the same ideas are often developed by different people at different times. Although a simple black and white reading will make them very similar, the nuances and historical meaning of their beliefs will be very different. Whether that makes the same or different is essentially an exercise for the reader :) For my money, the different historical concerns are important - so I would say that even if the content of the belief is 100% identical to existing philosophies, the new context makes it different. Jun 15, 2018 at 18:24
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    The traditionalist school would argue that there is a singular transcendental, primordial, universal truth and that most religions and ideologies (and even science) are just flawed attempts to express and implement the same wisdom, by different cultures in different time periods. From this perspective, the importance of the similarities between each of these belief systems would far outweigh the importance of the differences!
    – user3025
    Jun 16, 2018 at 11:06
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    @JohnSlegers Thanks! That is exactly the dimension I was trying to capture. I would upvote that more if I could. I'll think about the best way to incorporate that into the answer. Jun 18, 2018 at 17:50

Juche is an ideology that evolved from Marxism-Leninism and became its own ideology that included "autonomy, independence, self-sufficiency for the economy, and self-reliance in defense". The ideology led to North Korea building up its military in the 1960s and was developed by Kim Il-sung to be his own version of Marxism. Juche is also a very "man-centered Socialism" ideology, arguing that historical progress was driven by material forces and 'great men', not people.

The political and ideological might of the motive force of revolution is nothing but the power of single-hearted unity between the leader, the Party, and the masses. In our socialist society, the leader, the Party, and the masses throw in their lot with one another, forming a single socio-political organism. The consolidation of blood relations between the leader, the Party and the masses is guaranteed by the single ideology and united leadership. -Kim Jong-Il

The popular masses are placed in the center of everything, and the leader is the center of the masses. - Kim Jong-Il

Juche treats the leader of the movement as one of the main driving forces of the people and history, kind of leading to the borderline worship of the North Korean leaders we see today.

Integralism, compared to Juche, is not very socialist, but a Catholic ideology as a condemnation of Modernism in Catholicism. It came to prominence around 1907 and was based around a zealous desire to defend Catholicism against modernity, usually with clandestine methods.

Fascism is an authoritarian ideology that varies among different movements (like National Socialism/ National-solidarist in Nazi Germany), but shares the following characteristics: extreme militaristic nationalism,contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, belief in natural hierarchy based on the 'right' people being in charge, and a desire to create a Volksgemeinschaft (German: “people’s community”), in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation. Fascism is anti-socialist but also anti-capitalist, advocating for a mixed economy to achieve national self-sufficiency while preventing too much capitalism from allowing enemies of the state to take control and too much socialism to prevent economic growth or allow a state power to have complete economic control (ex: Hitler hated capitalism and warned against capitalism, calling America Germany's enemy filled with Jewish capitalists and called for nationalization of education and healthcare. However, Hitler also hated socialism and also saw it as a Jewish conspiracy so the Jews could potentially install their own leader in places like Germany to control everything. Basically, to fascists like Hitler and Mussolini, capitalism and socialism were both extremes used by the 'enemies of the people and the state' to take down the Fatherland). Fascism also supports constant war to the point of survival of the fittest and that the state is only valuable if it fights wars on and on the guarantee only the strongest nation-state survives. While Juche and other forms of socialism and many forms of capitalism fight wars, neither ideology believes that the government is only valuable through constant war and inherently wants to constantly fight against other nations (even at the cost of things like the national economy or infrastructure) until only you and a few satellite states remain. Using fascism as a basis, let me go over other ideologies: *Maoism: a Marxist ideology where the only necessary war is the peasants rising up and taking the means of production in a revolution that allow a dictatorship of the proletariat to take control on behalf of the peasants. *Stalinism: form of authoritarian socialism/low-stage communism that has the Premier and Communist Part council control the means of production of behalf of the common worker through the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat as described by Karl Marx in his work Critique of the Gotha Program.

Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. -Karl Marx

Stalin achieved the dictatorship of the proletariat through the Soviet Council (Stalin was elected into power by this council and had his power checked to a limited degree by said council) and implemented Socialism in one country: achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat by creating a dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia and spreading this version of Marxist socialism through a series of revolutions worldwide supported by the USSR. Everything is owned by members of the state on behalf of the common worker since socialism defines common as public ownership through the state, a cooperative, or worker's union on behalf of the community.

Ba'athism is an Arab nationalist ideology about creating a unified Arab state. Most versions are a form of Arab socialism or an Arab mixed economy. Many of these relate to Juche by being vaguely socialist in nature (though, it is technically not socialist now since it allows for limited private enterprise. That being said, most stuff is owned by the state and even modern North Korea is not capitalist since capitalism requires a market economy and North Korea still runs on a command economy This makes Juche and North Korean economics different from other ideologies mentioned based around socialism and Marxism and very different from fascism, which allowed for a very controlled, limited market economy).


Integralism: this is pretty much a form of catholic social-theocracy. Catholicize Gaddafi's Libya and you might have a reasonable clue what this is about. At the same time, some integralism is clearly fascist, and the organizational structure of catholicism lends itself to a corporatist model. (The Holy See is technically a corporation-state after all, so one could argue the Vatican is corporatist to begin with)

Fascism: Fascism isn't about social welfare but an alternative solution to the class conflict proposed by Marxism. In practice, this solution is not social welfare but a repressive totalitarian state that puts the interests of the wealthy elites first and redivides the population along a national, rather than class basis. Fascism has always been capitalist.

National-Socialism: Nationial socialism has only historically existed in its fascist form.

In this form it is capitalist, not socialist, but makes a particular enemy out of Jews and the financial-capital class with which they were associated, as well as with socialists and especially Marxists. The nation is conceived of as subordinate to a dictator who represents the people of master-race.

In the alternative form which has never been achieved, it is a Strasserite-National Bolshevik state. It may have a revolutionary dictatorship at first but then in theory it organizes more similarly to a socialist state. Jews may or may not be hated on a biological basis but antisemitism takes on the rhetoric of the class conflict in Marxism. Some modern Strasserite groups now disavow antisemitism as being dated and unnecessary. Strasserites often denounce egalitarianism and feminism, may be white supremacist, and denounce liberal-style human rights. They are not generally accepted by the far-left and are a minority position on the far-right, meaning they remain a syncretic nationalist socialist position that few outside the bounds of the ideology tolerate or cooperate with.

National-Solidarism refers to several different ideologies. Some are Christian and nationalist and some support capitalism with heavy reforms and union power. Often they portray themselves as a third way between unbridled capitalism and Communism, but are heavily nationalistic as well.

Ba'athism is an anti-imperialist secular nationalist ideology with socialist roots. It is the ideology of Assad's Syria and was the ideology of Hussein's Iraq.

Maoism is not nationalist. It is patriotic, internationalist, and socialist. Maoism is distinct from Marxism-Leninism with Mao Zedong-thought, which was the ruling ideology of China under Mao Zedong, and was formulated by later Marxist theorists in South America.

Stalinism is a term used to describe the ruling policies of the Soviet government during the Stalin era. It can't really be properly understood as independent from Marxism-Leninism, and nor was it considered such at the time. It is also important to remember that Stalin did not, contrary to western popular belief, hold absolute power. Stalin was more like a president than a dictator in regards to his authority in the Soviet government, so many policies during the Stalin era were just the policies of the central committee, irrespective of Stalin's own personal opinions on what should be done. Marxism-Leninism is not necessarily authoritarian or nationalistic by the standards of liberal democracy, and many Marxist-Leninists fall into the lower left quadrant of the political spectrum. Indeed, Marxism-Leninism is typically anti-nationalist, favoring an international united struggle of the proletariat against capitalism.

Juche is a communist ideology that sees self-reliance as the path to global socialism and sees the collective action of massed humanity, not class struggle, as the driving force of progress. It is intensely anti-imperialist, and arguably nationalistic as it favors the self-reliance not only of the individuals but all countries, nations, and peoples. It was developed slowly and codified in 1982 by president Kim Il Sung of North Korea and remains the ideology of the Korean Workers Party, the party with 607/687 of the seats on the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK. Unlike Marxism, Juche sees a powerful leader as vital, and as such, president Kim Il Sung has great, if not technically absolute, influence over the Worker's party and the state. Closely connected is the Songun policy in the DPRK, which is essentially a military-first policy as a bulwark against imperialist interventionism. It is likely, however, that the Songun policy is being discontinued, as the DPRK now has a capable nuclear deterrent that should make imperialist intervention difficult.

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    Fascism is a revolutionary movement dedicated to undoing the impact of the French revolution in Europe. They reject Capitalism and Marxism alike, favoring a Corporation state based on the Integralist model of feudal Europe. While Fascism's anti-Capitalism may have often been rather implicit, National-Socialism is pretty explicit in its ant-Capitalist & anti-Marxist. Like the Anarchist Bakunin, National-Socialists have always argued that Capitalism & Marxism are just two sides of the same subversive Jewish coin.
    – user3025
    Jun 10, 2018 at 11:42
  • (continued) Anyway, self-reliance not only of individuals but all countries, nations, and peoples is a key concept in National-Socialism and other forms of Fascism (see "Jedem das Seine"). And Fascists see a powerful leader as vital, and as such, Mussolini and Hitler had a great, if not technically absolute, influence over the party and the state (see "Führerprinzip"). Also, Fascists governments believe a strong military is essential to protect the self-reliance of a nation against imperialist intervention. See where I'm going with this?!
    – user3025
    Jun 10, 2018 at 11:42
  • This answer could be improved by defining terms. In particular, I am confused about how an ideology can be patriotic but not nationalistic. It would also help to define capitalism, socialism, and communism, as they feature prominently. Jun 12, 2018 at 22:33
  • Patriotism has a civic character, nationalism has an ethnic character. German patriotism would concern the state and citizens of Germany and be hostile to the detractors of same, but might be ambivalent towards German diaspora whose residence and allegiance is with another country. German nationalism might concern, for example, all German-speaking persons (including those in Austria or Switzerland) but ostracize those who don't conform to some arbitrary orthodoxy of German-ness. Remember that though "Nation" is sometimes used as a synonym of "Country" or "State," each term is distinct.
    – Eikre
    Oct 12, 2018 at 22:39
  • So, the comparisons with various forms of fascism are moot because largely speaking fascism is not really "national socialism" the way left-nstionalism is. First and foremost the way they form is different. Fascism forms to protect a capitalist structure with a nationalist dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, usually an actual personal dictatorship which refocuses effort on symptoms of capitalism and especially perceived ethnic "troublemakers." It is rabidly anti-communist and always class-collaborationist.
    – Pds314
    Jan 2, 2019 at 9:21

Juche can be translated as "self-ownership" is described by the government as Kim Il-sung's original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought. It postulates that "man is the master of his own destiny", that man is to act as master "continuously transforms nature and society, changing as he desires[5]" and that by becoming reliant on oneself and strong the individual can "free himself from the fetters of society and nature".

Juche is new and revolutionary, because it refuses the state and is centered on the individual. Never in history has ever such thing existed. What the north Korean state has done is to change the Juche idea to make it sound socialism. But of course it the quite the opposite.

This is described by the maxim coined by Kim Il-sung in a 1972 interview with Japanese journalists: "man is the master of everything and decides everything." Man transforms the world and embodies Chajusŏng, or independence and autonomy. By putting man at the center, Kim Jong-il denies that a group can have those elements. A group doesn't has a will, consciousness, creativity only the individual has those elements and can act upon it.

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    Welcome to Politics Stack Exchange! Please cite the sources you've used in your answer.
    – Glorfindel
    Oct 12, 2018 at 20:30
  • Thanks for the answer. Glorfindel already pointed out that you should back-up your answer with the sources you've used. If your name is correct and you yourself are an expert in this field, please describe the nature of your expertise. Oct 12, 2018 at 21:17
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    I'm thinking of downvoting as there are not enough superlatives in the description.
    – user19831
    Oct 13, 2018 at 20:04
  • Your answer sounds like an extract from political pamphlet 1950s or 1960s. And statements like "Juche is new and revolutionary, because it refuses the state and is centered on the individual" completely ignore reality (I can't think of an ideology centered less on the individual and more on the state & more stuck in the past). Also, you answer fails to answer the question : what exactly differentiates Juche ideology from other movements that promote Authoritarianism and/or a one-party state in combination with Socialist & Nationalist principles (like National-Socialism, Ba'athism & Stalinism)?
    – user3025
    Oct 14, 2018 at 13:34

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