|The Problems of Human Rights in North
/by Hwang Jang Yop(the Former International-Secretary of KWP)
1. Absolutism of the Great Leader can Never Co-Exist with Human Rights
(1) The nature of absolutism of the Great Leader
Absolutism of the Great Leader is Stalinism modified 'for the worse.'
Stalinism's dictatorship of the highest leader is based on Marxist ideas about the class struggle and proletariat dictatorship. Marx himself was opposed to dictatorship of the highest leader and the creation of personality cults. Nevertheless, his thoughts on proletariat dictatorship eventually became the ideological foundation of the dictatorship of the highest leader.
That Stalin appointed Kim Il Sung as the ruler of North Korea is a historical fact. But the leaders of North Korea insisted that Kim Il Sung was naturally accepted and exalted by his people because of his miracles - founding the anti-imperialism league in 1926 when he was 14 years old, creating the Juche (self-reliance) ideology in 1930 when he was 18, and so on.
North Korean leaders focus on two types of propaganda in justifying the absolutism of the Great Leader. The first is to spread ridiculously exaggerated and fabricated stories of the revolutionary activities of Kim il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and the second is to spread a version of the Juche ideology that is distorted by feudalism.
It was against this backdrop that the issue of Kim Il Sung's own memoirs emerged. The novels and movies about his revolutionary activities had been created by writers and artists belonging to the central party's propaganda department. Thus the propaganda department insisted that it should be in charge of writing Kim Il Sung's memoirs, but the Party History Center insisted that it should do the honors since the Great Leader's memoirs was part of the history of the revolution.
In the end, Kim Jong Il decided that the honor should go to the Party History Center. The writers came from the pool managed by the propaganda department, with a couple of Party History Center officials acting as advisors in gathering historical resources.
Kim Il Sung's memoirs <Together with the Century> was created by artists who had been writing scenarios for revolutionary novels and films. Thus it made for very interesting reading. When Part 1 was published, it was a huge hit. This was only natural, since its contents were literally scenes straight out of the movies that had been made for the same purpose, and its plot was as interesting as any novel or film.
Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were also very pleased with memoirs, and commended the writers for doing a good job. Kim Il Sung's memoirs was publicized as the laborious work of Kim Il Sung himself and designated compulsory reading material for all party members and citizens and school students. Spurred by the success of Part 1, the Party History Center made grandiose plans to publish memoirs of not only the partizan struggle but also the post-liberation period, and threw itself to the task. The propaganda department began to make use of Kim Il SungOs memoirs in its overseas propaganda.
When Kim Il Sung died on July 8, 1994, there was a debate on whether the party should continue publishing his memoirs. I firmly stated my opinion that the party should stop publishing the memoirs. I pointed out that quite a few people already questioned the integrity of the memoirs published so far because it was too intriguing to be true. So if the memoirs continued to be published even after Kim Il Sung's death, people would lose their faith in even the ones that had been published while he was alive. I also had another reason in mind. It was alright to stretch the truth about the partizan struggle before the liberation since no one would take issue with that. But exaggerating about the post-liberation period, which is public knowledge, was a different matter. I was afraid it might cause problems in diplomatic relations.
Kim Il Sung's partizan warfare was carried out under the guidance of the Chinese communist party, but the struggle in Northeast China (Manchuria) was not a significant part of the communist struggle in China as a whole. Furthermore, Kim Il Sung's partizan struggle was but a small part of the struggle in Northeast China. So the Chinese could turn a blind eye to the North Korean leaders' exaggeration of Kim Il Sung's feats, since his struggle was a drop in the bucket compared to the struggles of the Chinese communist party led by Mao. However, the Chinese people would react differently if the historical facts that were being distorted occurred after the liberation. That was what I was afraid of.
Overzealous officials ignored my advice and submitted the sequel to Kim Il Sung's memoirs for Kim Jong Il's approval. The memoirs are still being published, long after the death of Kim Il Sung. Distortion of history will not go unpunished forever. But for now, the memoirs are still being used to fool the North Korean people and maintain absolutism of the Great Leader.
In order to establish the ideological foundation for absolutism of the Great Leader, Kim Jong Il not only exaggerated his father's revolutionary activities but also resorted to falsifying history to make it seem as if Kim Il Sung and his family were the mainstream in the patriotic struggle against Japanese imperialism.
Everyone knows that countless patriots took part in the March First Movement for Korean independence. But Kim Jong Il distorted history to make it look as if only the Kim family rebelled against the Japanese. He glorified his family as the 'Great Revolutionary Lineage' and tried to turn the revolutionary tradition of the Korean people into a family tradition monopolized by his family.
Until the 1960s, many heroic figures such as Eul Ji Mun Deok, Kang Gam Chan and Lee Sun Shin were recorded in North Korean history textbooks. But with the emergence of absolutism of the Great Leader in the late 1960s, these heroes disappeared from textbooks. Independence fighters such as Ahn Chang Ho and Shin Chae Ho are described as 'toadies who had to depend on foreign forces to survive.'
Kim Jong Il coined the term 'the Three Generals,' a legendary trio led by Kim Il Sung, plus Kim Jong Il, who had nothing to do with the partizan struggle, and Kim Jong Sook, who was an ordinary member of the partizan guard. Other family members such as Kim Il Sung's parents Kim Hyung Jik and Kang Ban Seok and two uncles were called 'indomitable warriors of the revolution.' He even built elaborate tombs for Kim Il Sung's grandparents and made party officials visit the grave to offer flowers on public holidays.
By monopolizing the patriotic struggle of the Korean people and emphasizing the importance of upholding the tradition of the revolution, Kim Jong Il, as the descendent of Kim Il Sung, tried to convince the people of his qualifications as the successor of the revolution and the next leader of the Korean people.
The importance of a person is not determined by what he thinks of himself but by an objective evaluation of his achievements. Kim Il Sung' personality cult was forced on the people by Kim Il Sung and his son; it was not the result of objective evaluation.
Kim Il Sung is entitled to a favorable evaluation for participating in the partizan struggle against the Japanese in his youth. Although it was Stalin who appointed him the ruler of North Korea, it is true that he was the youngest and most capable of the partizans, which is what got him appointed in the first place. No one challenges this.
Then what would be an objective evaluation of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il's achievements?
- Did Kim Il Sung and his partizan struggle liberate North Korea from Japanese rule?
No. None of the partizan fighters including Kim Il Sung participated in the battle to liberate North Korea. This was accomplished by Soviet's Red Army alone.
- Was Kim Il Sung right in instigating the Korean War?
He was wrong to do so. The Korean War brought immeasurable grief and suffering to the Korean people and great losses to the people of China and the US as well.
- Was Kim Il Sung right in passing the government to his son Kim Jong Il? Was Kim Jong Il right in inheriting the government from his father?
They were both wrong. Transferring state power from father to son shows that they are guilty of the crime of turning the government, which belongs to the state and the people, into their private property. In a socialist country, the state has monopoly over not only government power but also all property rights. By monopolizing the government, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il became plunderers who intercepted the power to rule over the people as well as all economic and cultural rights. They turned the people into slaves who had to obey their every command. There is no doubt that Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are to blame for making millions of people starve to death and for turning the whole country into one huge prison.
And yet Kim Jong Il persists in his despicable crimes, calling the Korean people 'Kim Il Sung's people' and his birthday 'The Day of the Sun,' and designating the times the 'Juche Era' as if Kim Il Sung was royalty. Furthermore, the only achievements that Kim Jong Il can call his own are destroying the self-reliant economy that his father had built and driving the North Korean people into absolute poverty. That he is called 'our great love,' 'a respected figure in world politics' and 'the sun of the 21st century' is nothing but a farce. This alone proves beyond doubt that absolutism of the Great Leader is an ideology based on incredible falsehood and deception.
② The conversion of the Juche ideology into absolutism of the Great
During those times, there was not much difference between North Korea and other states in the Soviet Union. At all events, the North Koreans shouted 'Long live Stalin' before shouting 'Long live Kim Il Sung.' All the party officials were intent on besting one another in showing their loyalty to the Soviet Union; no one dared talk about becoming self-reliant or gaining independence.
During the 4th meeting of the whole house of the DPRK Workers' Party in November 1951, Heo Ga Ee, the pro-Soviet official that had been in charge of the party's projects, was dismissed from his position. This was a significant incident that signaled not only Kim Il Sung's rise to power in the party but also the beginning of the historical struggle to break away from Soviet control.
After the Korean War, Kim Il Sung cunningly took advantage of the power balance between China and the Soviet Union to purge first of all the South Chosun Workers' Party members, followed by the pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese party members. He thereby succeeded in establishing a dictatorship with the backing of his own supporters. From then on, Kim Il Sung strongly criticized toadying to the Soviet Union and the doctrinarism of mechanical imitation of the Soviet Union. He also began to emphasize the ideology of self-reliance.
Breaking away from Soviet control and gaining independence was an important concern for not just North Korea but all the socialist states and the international communist movement as a whole. Even after the abolishment of the Comintern in 1943, Soviet Union was regarded as the suzerain state of socialism and the main base of the international communist movement. The party line and policies of the Soviet communist party was considered the international line that all communist parties had to follow. There were quite a few communist parties that were dissatisfied with this subordinate relationship they had with the Soviet communist party.
At the same time, Kim Il Sung presented the people with an original party line and policy, which he claimed was a creative application of Marxism-Leninism to North Korea's reality. It was during this time that the principles of ideological self-reliance, political autonomy, economic independence and military self-defense came into the picture. These principles were declared the basic position in the pursuit of autonomy and creativity.
In pursuing autonomy and creativity, Kim Il Sung tried to create his own style in projects and working methods. The 'Chollima Campaign,' a national competition to increase productivity, was based on his newly-found style and method. All these had a positive influence in social development in North Korea.
But with the establishment of absolutism of the Great Leader, only literature by Kim Il Sung was listed as compulsory reading for the party's study sessions; Marxist classics were relegated to reference material. At one point, even these classics were taken away by the authorities.
When Kim Jong Il began to take over the reins, the task of establishing the one-ideology system and the sole leadership of the Great Leader was declared the first and foremost task of the party. To this end, several rounds of ideological struggles took place within the party, and all the projects of the party were geared towards establishing the one-ideology system and the sole leadership of the Great Leader.
Establishing the one-ideology system means making the Great Leader's ideology the exclusive ideology of the entire society and completely rejecting any other ideology. The task of establishing this one-ideology system includes idolizing the Great Leader, turning his ideology into a faith, making his ideology absolutely legitimate, and swearing unconditional loyalty to him. Establishing the sole leadership of the Great Leader means making the entire party, military, state and people move as one to the commands and instructions of the Great Leader.
The one-ideology system and sole leadership of the Great Leader are two sides of a coin. The one-ideology system demands that everyone thinks and acts only according to the Great Leader's ideology and will. This demand manifests itself in the form of the sole leadership of the Great Leader.
When talking about establishing the one-ideology system, it is taken for granted that this involves establishing the sole leadership of the Great Leader. And when talking about establishing the sole leadership of the Great Leader, it is taken for granted that it is on the premise that the one-ideology system is established. The two are the organizational and ideological aspects of the same concept.
Making the Great Leader's ideology and leadership absolute values form the basic content of absolutism of the Great Leader. Then how was the Juche ideology used to justify the absolutism of the Great Leader's ideology and leadership? Answering this question will also explain how the Juche ideology was converted to absolutism of the Great Leader.
The Juche ideology started from opposition to toadyism and doctrinarism and from the creative application of Marxism-Leninism to adapt to North Korea's reality. Adapting Marxism-Leninism to suit North Korea's reality means two things.
The first is adapting the ideology to suit the interests of the Korean people, and the other is adapting it to be compatible with North Korea's social development and natural and geographical conditions.
At first, the emphasis was on applying Marxism-Leninism to North Korea, which was in a distinctly different situation from other countries. But gradually, the emphasis shifted to adapting the ideology to suit the interests of the people.
Together with the emphasis on opposing toadyism and adopting an autonomous viewpoint that seeks to protect the interests of the people, the idea that the people are the masters of the revolution and construction was established. Refusing to worship another country (a more powerful country) and protecting the interests of one's own people became the first and foremost requirements in achieving self-reliance.
In more concrete terms, this meant moving from following and imitating the Soviet Union to protecting the interests of the Korean people and solving all problems in a manner suited to North Korea's situation.
This change can be summed up as a shift from accepting Stalinism as the guiding ideology to accepting Stalinism and nationalism as the guiding ideology. Until the end of the 1960s, the Juche ideology was a combination of Stalinism and nationalism. Until this time, the Juche ideology was completely within the theoretical framework of Marxism, and lacked the theoretical foundation to distinguish itself from Marxism.
Then in the 1970s, the task of systematically establishing the theory of the Juche ideology based on the new human-oriented philosophy began in earnest.
The human-oriented philosophy differs from the historical materialism of Marxism in how it views the nature of social movement.
Marxism begins with the theory that the ideal is a reflection of the material. Marxism divides all social phenomena into the material and ideal, and tries to define the laws of social movement based on the principle that the material defines the ideal. Marxism assumes that since social movement is also a material movement, it would be similar to the movement of Nature. Therefore, just as the movement of Nature follows a definite law, so does the movement of society. The only difference is that unlike the movement of Nature, human ideas (consciousness) operate on social movement, making it seem as if there is no definite law governing social movement. However, because ideas are reflections of the material, they do not have an independent and definite law of movement. Thus ideas are simply invariable reactions to material social movement, which is governed by a definite law.
What then is the material aspect of social movement? That is, what is material social movement?
Material social movement is defined as production activities meant to provide the means through which human beings reorganize Nature to derive their food, clothing and commodities. Without such production activities, the social life of human beings would not be possible, and there would be no such thing as the development and advancement of social life. Social movement by nature means the economic activity of creating, distributing and consuming material wealth, and all other social phenomena including politics and culture are derivatives of this economic activity.
What then is the definite law that governs economic activity, that is, the material movement of society?
It is the law that the relationship of production corresponds to advancements in productivity. How then should we view the interaction between material life and ideal life? By accepting that the social existence of human beings defines their social consciousness.
What is the basic element of the social existence of human beings?
It is the method of production, which is the combination of productivity and production relationships. Social consciousness is a reflection of human beings' social existence, and social mechanisms, the manifestation of social consciousness, constitute the superstructure of society.
To recapitulate, the relationship of production corresponds to advancements in productivity, and based on and reflecting the relationship of production are the various forms of thoughts and consciousness, and these are manifested in political, legal and cultural mechanisms, which constitute the superstructure of society. The superstructure is defined by the foundation, but at the same time reacts to it. This is the formula in MarxOs historical materialism.
Marx divides social movement into the ideal and material. That is, he claims that the economic movement underpinning social movement is the nature of social movement and that the law governing the economic movement is the material law of social movement. However, Marx does not mention who initiates the movement and for whom it is initiated. He fails to pay due attention to the subject of social movement, which is of fundamental significance in defining the nature of social movement as opposed to the movement of Nature.
Movement is an expression of the properties of the material that is in movement. What is the fundamental difference between the movements of non-living things and living things? Non-living things interact blindly, whereas living things move according to a purpose based on the instincts of self-preservation and perpetuation. This is what sets biology apart from all other sciences such as physics, chemistry and astronomy.
What then is the fundamental difference between the movement of animals, which are biological beings, and humans, which are social beings?
The movement of animals is geared towards instinctively adapting to their environment and fulfilling their needs, whereas the movement of humans is geared towards reorganizing the material world with their autonomous ideas and creative abilities, thereby fulfilling their needs in an autonomous and creative way. This is the basis for the formation of social science, which is distinguished from biology and all other natural sciences.
The characteristics of human-led social movement are defined by the characteristics of the social existence of humans. Humans possess more than the instinctive needs and physical strengths that they are born with. Humans possess mental strength (ideological and cultural assets that form the social consciousness) accumulated in the process of social life, as well as material strength (socially produced material assets). They also have the strength to socially unite and cooperate with each other.
The advancement of humans is defined by the development of their mental strength, material strength and strength for social cooperation. If follows that the advancement of social movement, which is initiated by humans, is also defined by the development of the same strengths. Humans, the subject that initiates and propels social movement, are therefore not biological beings with only physical instincts but social beings with mental, material and cooperative strengths.
With the view that the social beings in a society are the subject of social movement (the material beings that initiate and propel social movement), we came up with the following definition of the Juche ideology in September 1972.
'The Juche ideology is the ideology that the people are the masters of the revolution and construction and that the people possess the strength to propel the revolution and construction.' 'It is the ideology that I am the master of my destiny and that I possess the strength to pioneer my destiny.'
We used the terms revolution and construction in the definition because at that time, North Korean society referred to all social movement in pioneering human destiny as revolution and construction.
To paraphrase the definition of the Juche ideology in more generic terms, 'it is the ideology that the people are the subject of social movement and that the people have the strength to propel social movement.' In other words, 'it is the ideology that humans are the masters of human destiny and that humans have the strength to pioneer their destiny.'
This initial definition of the Juche ideology does not contain any elements of class distinction or absolutism of the Great Leader. However, North Korean leaders soon distorted this definition to suit their theory that 'the Great Leader gives the party its existence and the party gives the working class its existence and the working class gives the people their existence.' Thus according to the distorted definition of the Juche ideology, the Great Leader is the master of social movement and the master of the people's destiny, and he plays the most influential role in determining the destiny of the people.
This is connected to the ideology that humans are individual beings and at the same time social beings that cannot survive outside the social group. Since animals have instincts for self-preservation as well as species preservation, it can be said that the life of the species is important to animals as well.
There is no doubt that individuals have life. The basic characteristics of life is the need to live and the ability to fulfill that need. The social group, which is formed by the unity of individuals, is also characterized by the need to survive and the ability to fulfill that need. Therefore the social group can also be regarded as a social life form since it also has life.
The social group gains strong life when individuals unite according to the social nature of humans. The social nature of humans seeks to preserve the lives of both the individual and social group. In order to do this, it is important to realize the principle of democracy to guarantee the freedom and equality of individuals while at the same time realizing the principle of comradely cooperation to guarantee the close cooperation of the members of society.
Creating such social relationships is possible only through politics. When all privileges are done away with and all social relationships become autonomous and cooperative, so that people share their joys and sorrows and pioneer their own destinies in an autonomous and creative manner, then such a social group can be regarded as a sociopolitical life form. We had used the concept of sociopolitical life form to characterize the ideal social relationship in which all people enjoy complete freedom and equality and ideal social cooperation.
However, North Korean leaders claimed that sociopolitical life form was a society that moves as one under the unique ideology of the Great Leader. In addition, the Great Leader is at the center of this sociopolitical life form and acts as the brain, and the people are like the organs in the body that follow the brain's commands. North Korean leaders went as far as to compare the Great Leader to the seed of a peach and the people to the flesh of the peach. In other words, the flesh of the peach exists to protect the seed, meaning that the people exist to fulfill the needs of the Great Leader, not the other way round.
As the personality cult of the Great Leader intensified, so did the policies that were needed to keep the people ignorant and blindly faithful to the cult. Consequently, North Korea today is filled with ridiculous myths that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. These myths are even published in the Rodong Shinmun, the mouthpiece of the Workers' Party.
Absurd stories have spread throughout North Korean society. For example, upon the death of Kim Il Sung, white cranes were spotted circling over the statue of Kim Il Sung to mourn his death, Kim Il Sung's portrait appeared high up in the sky, and so on and so forth. And when Kim Jong Il visited Panmunjeom, the sky turned foggy to protect him from South Korean snipers, but when he reached the soldiers guarding the checkpoints at Panmunjeom, the fog dramatically disappeared and glorious sunlight shone on his magnificent form.
Proclaimed Kim Il Sung in a poem of praise that he wrote on the occasion of the 50th birthday of his beloved son, 'Heaven and earth shake with the resounding cheers of all the people united in praising him.'
Kim Jong Il went to great lengths to create the Kim Il Sung personality cult, and Kim Il Sung led the efforts to turn Kim Jong Il into a god. And thus in the small, hermit land of North Korea, people lived under the illusion that the entire world revolves around the two suns Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.