[KS] Chuch'e

Yong-ho Choe choeyh at hawaii.edu
Mon Feb 11 14:47:46 EST 2002

Dear readers:
         Bruce is absolutely right in my view that there may be a strong 
influence of pre-war Japan upon North Korea.  Having grown up under the 
Japanese rule (through elementary school), I thought all along that the 
North Korean practice of chuch'e was reminiscent of Japan's emperor worship 
and kukutai and other paraphernalia (such as terminologies) that 
accompanied them.  The generation of people in North Korea who solidified 
the regime after the Korean War had largely shaped their intellectual 
outlook through their exposure to the authoritarian education of pre-war 
Japan, which in turn may have been augmented (or modified) by the Soviet 
(i.e. Stalinist) influence.  It is not surprising at all that the Japanese 
of the pre-war generation find similarities between North Korea and pre-war 

At 06:28 AM 2/11/2002 -1000, you wrote:
>Dear list readers,
>I should read all my e-mail instead of answering these things one at a 
>time. Charles is correct about my article in Hagen Koo's volume, except 
>that I think chuch'e was less a negative reaction to Japanese usages like 
>kokutai, as an appropriation of them for left-wing nationalist purposes, 
>which was a virtual pastime among European radical intellectuals in the 
>1930s (Mosca, Pareto, Manoilescu, many others). An organic politics and 
>self-reliant economic nationalism is the ideal here, but it's also where 
>right meets left when the world economy is in a shambles and every nation 
>is adopting go-it-alone strategies of one sort or another (new orders, new 
>deals, socialism in one country).
>There is a very good book to be written someday on the degree to which 
>interwar Japan influenced North Korea; mostly I've just heard anecdotes 
>from Japanese old enough to have lived through that period who later 
>visited North Korea in the 70s and 80s, and found it much more reminiscent 
>of Japan in the 1930s-early 40s than they could ever have imagined. The 
>most controversial point, of course, would be to link the suryong 
>principle to the Emperor, his birthday being a national holiday, his 
>acolytes finding new orchids to name for him, etc. etc.
>At 09:01 AM 2/11/2002 -0500, you wrote:
>>Dear Ruediger,
>>Dr. Petrov's statement is correct, but I doubt that Paek Nam-un's speech
>>had much to do with the formation of juche ideology in North Korea, except
>>by analogy -- that is, in retrospect we can see that the highly mobilized
>>society of post-Korean War North Korea uses a similar rhetoric to wartime
>>Japan. The notion of juche does have roots in early East Asian ideas of
>>nation-centered subjectivity. Bruce Cumings argues that juche is a kind of
>>negative response to Japanese kokutai ("national essence") the rallying
>>point of pre-war and wartime Japanese patriotism and militarism. See
>>Cumings' article on The Corporate State in North Korea in Hagen Koo's book
>>State and Society in Contemporary Korea (Cornell University Press, 1993).
>>Shutaisei (juchesong in Korean pronunciation) and its meaning was the
>>subject of much philosophical discussion in 1920s Japan; see for example
>>Harry Harootunion and Tetsuo Najita's chapter on Overcoming Modernity in
>>Cambridge History of Japan, or for a more extended treatment Harootunian's
>>recent book Overcoming Modernity. I'm sure there are others on this list
>>with more expertise in Japanese intellectual history who could discuss
>>that subject more extensively. Best,
>>  On Mon, 11 Feb 2002, Leonid Petrov wrote:
>> > Dear Frank,
>> >
>> > In April 1941, the founder of the Marxist Socio-economic school of 
>> historiography, Paek Nam-un, gave a public lecture titled "The Morality 
>> of Regulated Economy". One section of his lecture was titled "T'ongje-Ui 
>> chuch'e-wa sinch'eje-Ui sOngkkyOk" [The Subject of Control and the 
>> Nature of the New System]. There Paek argued that Korea [uri kukch'e] 
>> must become a subject [chuch'e] of the new Japanese economic control and 
>> therefore help the Japanese people [ilbon kungmin] fulfill the Emperor's 
>> policy on the creation of the country's invincible might [kUmgu mugyOl].
>> >
>> > We can see that in this piece the word "chuch'e" was used in its 
>> original meaning -- "subject" -- albeit a little bit broadened by the 
>> fascism-tilting author.
>> >
>> > This lecture was given at the Keijo Daiwa Hall, the usual venue for 
>> "patriotic" events held in the Japanese-occupied Seoul.[1] Paek also 
>> argued for successful creation of the Japan-Manchuria-China bloc in East 
>> Asia as was suggested by the "Eight Corners under One Roof" [hakko 
>> ichiu] motto. He also compared the merits of Japanese economic system 
>> (which he unequivocally called "our national economy") with that of 
>> Germany and Italy. Paek claimed that, from the moral point of view, the 
>> Japanese economic model, based on the Imperial system, was far more 
>> advanced than those implemented by some "prominent leaders" in 
>> Europe.[2] Despite the timid criticism of over-regulation and rising 
>> prices, Paek called upon his countrymen to mobilize all national 
>> resources and prepare themselves for the extremes of wartime economy.
>> >
>> > 
>> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> >
>> > [1] Paek Nam-un, 'Tosei Keizai-no Rinrisei' [The Morality of Regulated 
>> Economy], Toyo-no Hikari, (June 1942), No. 4-6.
>> >
>> > [2] Paek Nam-un, 'T'ongje KyOngje-Ui YullisOng' [The Morality of 
>> Regulated Economy], Ha Il-sik, trans., Hwip'yOn. Paek Nam-un ChOnjip 4., 
>> Seoul: Iron-gwa Silch'On, 1991, pp.282-284.
>> >
>> > With best regards,
>> >
>> > Division of Pacific and Asian History
>> > Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
>> > The Australian National University
>> > ****************************************
>> > Mob: +61-403076604
>> > Tel:   +61(2) 6125 3172 (office)
>> > Fax:  +61(2) 6125 5525 (office)
>> > E-mail: petrov at coombs.anu.edu.au
>> > WWW: http://north-korea.narod.ru
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > ----- Original Message -----
>> > From: "Ruediger Frank" <rfrank at eplus-online.de>
>> > To: <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>> > Sent: Friday, February 08, 2002 8:03 PM
>> > Subject: [KS] Chuch'e
>> >
>> >
>> > > Dear list,
>> > >
>> > > I am currently writing an article on the political system of North Korea
>> > > for a German university textbook. Needless to say that in the course of
>> > > this work I have to deal with the term Chuch'e.
>> > >
>> > > As far as I remember having heard, a philosophical term called Shutaisei
>> > > (Chuch'esOng) has already been used by the Japanese in the 1920s, long
>> > > before Kim Il-sOng introduced Chuch'e in his speech to the 
>> propagandists of
>> > > the Nodongdang on December 28, 1955. Is that correct? And if yes, in 
>> which
>> > > context has it been used before?
>> > >
>> > > Thanks a lot for your help.
>> > >
>> > > Best regards,
>> > >
>> > > Ruediger Frank
>> > > ***********************
>> > > Ruediger FRANK
>> > > Humboldt-University Berlin
>> > > Korea Institute
>> > > Fon: +49-30-55 99 878
>> > > Fax: +49-30-2093-6666
>> > > e-mail: ruediger.frank at rz.hu-berlin.de
>> > > Web: http://www2.hu-berlin.de/korea
>> > > ***********************
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> >
>Yong-ho Choe
>Department of History
>University of Hawaii at Manoa
>Honolulu, HI  96822
>Tel: 808 956-6762
>Fax: 808 956-9600
>E-mail: choeyh at hawaii.edu

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