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[Op-Ed] Republic of the Kim Il Sung Dynasty

Posted September. 26, 2009 07:51,   


Three months after the two Koreas adopted a joint declaration on reunification on July 4, 1972, the North revised its socialist constitution to name leader Kim Il Sung, who was then prime minister and father of his eventual successor Kim Jong Il, as president. Pyongyang also established a monolithic leadership system supporting the absolute power of the president. The North probably believed that its only option was to strengthen its dictatorship to provide a lynchpin for its communist regime amid détente between East and West.

Radio Free Asia of the United States recently said North Korea revised its constitution again in April to name Kim Jong Il as the supreme leader who directs state affairs, putting him on an equal footing as his late father, who remains the country’s permanent president. The amendment has put the North’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, head of the North Korean parliament, under Kim Jong Il.

The new constitution defines the powerful National Defense Commission as an organization that formulates the country’s major policies and drops the term “communism,” replacing it with “songun (military-first policy)” for the first time. The military-first ideology of Kim Jong Il has been put in parallel with his father’s stature. Claiming itself to be socialism’s last bastion, the North has put the military-first policy to the front instead of communism, showing its true nature as a militarist country. The declaration shows that the North’s power comes from the barrel of a gun.

The supreme goal of the North’s military-first politics is to maintain the dynastic succession of the ruling Kim family. A North Korean propagandistic poster is known to describe Kim Jong Il’s third son Jong Un as a “young general” inheriting the Mangyongdae bloodline of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and praises the “glory” of the country enjoying the leadership of the Kim family. When U.S. State Secretary Madeleine Albright visited the North in October 2001, Kim Jong Il showed deep interest in the Thai royal family, saying Thailand maintained a strong monarchy and national independence amid its long tumultuous history. If the North is to create a ruling dynasty, it should first drop the term “Democratic People’s Republic” from its official name.

No other socialist country has maintained power through a father-to-son power succession. North Korea has no choice but to resort to its military and the barrel of a gun rather than socialism to maintain the Kim dictatorship. Even after Pyongyang completes its third-generation power succession around 2012, the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung, it cannot change its military-first politics to a traditional socialist system.

Editorial writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)