North Korea’s Juche a major world religion

The website Adherents.com classifies North Korea’s “juche” (self-reliance) ideology as a religion.

“From a sociological viewpoint, juche is clearly a religion”, considering that it is so influential in its adherents’ lives and that it is exclusive of other ideologies, Adherents.com states.

Furthermore, juche ranks in the top ten of the world’s major religions judged on the number of believers. Including the world’s four major religions — Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism — Juche (19 million followers) is number 6, just after Sikhism (23 million).

This means that juche actually outnumbers several better-known religions, including Judaism (14 million), Bahai (7 million), Jainism (4.2 million), Shintoism (4 million), and Zoroastrianism (2.6 million).

Juche has all the necessary religious elements, including a founder (Kim Il-sung), a successor (Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un), a sacred ground (Mangyongdae), an organization (Workers Party and the military), doctrines, and precepts.

A prevailing view in academia likewise considers juche a religion. Rhee Sang-Woo, former president of Hallym University, said, “Juche is in the same vein as a monotheistic religion. North Korea is a strict theocracy.”

North Korea has 10 principles designed to uphold its monolithic one-party system. Article 3, Clause 6 of these 10 principles — a set of guidelines for everyday life — stresses the need to “respectfully care for, and thoroughly protect, the Dear Leader’s portraits, statues, and publications.”

Shin Eun-hee, a professor of religious studies at Simpson College in the U.S., regards juche as a “spiritual force that has sustained the North Korean people since the 1990s.”

Regarding juche as a major religion, we are reminded once again that it is not easy to free the North Korean people spiritually.

[Excerpt of Chosun Ilbo article by Lee Seon-min]

Life under Kim Jong-un has not changed for the better

North Korean insights from a New York Times article:

In the 10 months since Kim Jong-un took the reins of his desperately poor nation following the death of his autocratic father, … its capital has acquired more of the trappings of a functioning society, say diplomats, aid groups and academics who have visited in recent months.

But in rare interviews this month with four North Koreans in a border city … they said that at least so far, they have not felt any improvements in their lives since the installment last December of their youthful leader — a sentiment activists and analysts say they have also heard. In fact, the North Koreans said, their lives have gotten harder.

Food prices have spiked, the result of drought and North Korea’s defiant launching of a rocket in April that shut down new offers of food aid from the United States. The price of rice has doubled since early summer, and chronic shortages of fuel, electricity and raw materials continue to idle most factories, leaving millions unemployed.

In two days of interviews with North Koreans, a thinly concealed disgust over inequality that has risen in recent years — and a realization that the national credo of juche, or self-reliance, was a carefully constructed lie — was striking. Mrs. Kim, a pig farmer, when asked if she thought there were those who still believed in North Korea’s single-party system, she shook her head and said “zero.”

She and the others suggested that the information vacuum had been eased by the spread of cellphones (though sanctioned phones cannot call outside the country) and by South Korean soap operas that are smuggled across the border and secretly viewed despite the threat of prison. A 58-year-old retired truck driver from Sunchon, a city north of the capital, said he and his family locked their doors and covered their windows when watching the DVDs that offered glimpses of well-stocked supermarkets and glittering shopping malls.

“I wish we could have such a clean, shiny life,” he said, adding that few people he knows still believe the government propaganda that paints South Korea as far more impoverished than the North.