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]