In Search of a New Identity: Revival of Traditional Politics and Modernisation in Post-Kim Il Sung North Korea

Author/s (editor/s):

Alexandre Y. Mansourov

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1995/3 (PDF, 3.62MB)

Alexandre Y. Mansourov, 'In Search of a New Identity: Revival of Traditional Politics and Modernisation in Post-Kim Il Sung North Korea', IR Working Paper 1995/3, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, May 1995.

Since the disintegration of the communist camp the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has undergone a profound change in interpreting its raison d'etra in the world. Its leadership bly believes that it has a mission to carry forward by itself the 'true' civilisation of communism abandoned by its former allies. This new sense of mission has sharpened the regime' s insecurity, leading it to explore a nuclear option and redouble its efforts to militarise. It also sparked domestic debate within the ruling class regarding ideological orthodoxy, what was and what was not the legacy of the Great Leader, and what the scope of authority of his successor ought to be. This in turn led to the re-emergence of latent factional disputes within the Korean Workers' Party along ideological and personalistic lines.

In addition, with the demise of President Kim Il Sung, the North Korean political world came to witness a new kind of politics practised by his heir, son Kim Jong-il: instead of the politics of patriarchy he was compelled to engage in the politics of filial piety. Lacking impeccable and long-standing credentials and the leadership qualities of his father, Kim Jong-il had to strengthen his own legitimacy by resorting to time-honoured Korean traditions - preaching traditional Confucian values to the public, and establishing that he was a man of virtue by performing all the required filial rituals at the court.

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