North Korea: a living, breathing Stalinist state 5, 2003
By Charles Whelan

Seoul -- Half a century after the death of Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet dictator, North Korea remains the world's only country routinely referred to as Stalinist.

The isolated, impoverished regime came into being after Soviet troops occupied the northern half of the Korean peninsula at the end of World War ll and the southern half came under US control.

North Korea's founding father Kim II-Sung established power in Pyongyang during the Soviet occupation, and in 1948, while Stalin exerted his iron-fisted rule in the Kremlin, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was born.

Today, more than a decade after the Soviet Union disappeared and 50 years after Nikita Khrushchev repudiated Stalin's heritage, experts dispute to what degree, if at all, the Soviet leader's legacy lives on in Pyongyang.

"Many of the Stalin's practices have been seen over the decades in the North Korean context," said Yoon Young-O, professor of politics at Kookmin University in South Korea.

"So in a sense it is relevant to refer to the regime as Stalinist. But in fact, there is a lot more to North Korea than Stalinism."

It was Stalin who gave birth to the communist cult of personality, concentrated power in his own hands and killed tens of millions of fellow communists in a reign of terror based on mass murder, torture and the Soviet gulag.

Kim II-Sung happily perfected the personality cult, centralising control in his own hands while building his version of the gulag, labour camps dotting the North Korea landscape.

His son and successor Kim Jong-II took over the levers of power and enjoys a similar cult as the "peerless leader."

But North Korea never refers to itself as Stalinist, and the name Stalin carries negative connotations for all Koreans.

In 1937 Stalin ordered the forced deportation of more than 200,000 ethnic Koreans from the Soviet Far East to Soviet Central Asia, his first mass deportation of an ethnic minority, details of which began to emerge only long after his death.

And North Korea insists it owes no debt to Stalin or anyone else, claiming that its own home-grown ideology of 'Juche', or self-reliance, introduced by Kim Il-Sung and reinforced by his son, sets it apart as a unique regime.

Under Juche, North Korea asserts that its destiny lies is in its own hands and owes nothing to outside help or influence, playing down the role in its development played by communist allies China and Russia.

However, 'Juche' is not alone is setting North Korea apart from the Soviet Russian experience.

"There is something of Stalin in North Korea," said Yu Suk-Ryul, a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, affiliated with South Korea's Foreign Ministry. "But it only explains a bit of what goes on there."

No communist country, Stalinist or otherwise, has established a family dynasty in the way that North Korea has done, he said.

"South Korean specialists don't see North Korea as a real communist country," Yu said.

The country is a theocracy centred on a being endowed with supposed supernatural gifts who is worshipped with religious fervour.

"The leader and Juche, his ideology, are biblical truth and unchallenged," Yu said.

The system also draws on the cultural bedrock of Confucianism and the powerful dynastic tradition that united the Korean peninsula for hundreds of years before Stalin was born.

"Under Confucianism, the father figure is omnipotent, and Kim Jong-II is the Confucian emperor, the paramount father figure and a paradox for a communist state, whether Stalinist or otherwise," Yu said.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.