There are a few important concepts to learn about when it comes to North Korean state ideologies. The most important is probably Juche (‘self-reliance’), created by Kim Il Sung. Secondary to this is Songun – ‘military first’ – which was created by Kim Jong Il.
Songun: ‘military first’
In short, Songun puts the Korean People’s Army above all else, and makes it the priority of the DPRK both politically and economically. The KPA are seen as the guardians of the party, state ideology and the people, and its welfare is thus more important than anything else in the country.
Songun traces its root back to the anti-Japanese war, but became official policy following Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994 (around the time of the Arduous March – the nationwide famine in the country during this period). In 1995 Kim Jong Il proclaimed the military as the nation’s priority. This had practical effects during the Arduous March, the most impactful of which was that KPA soldiers were the first to receive food rations.
Songun and the KPA in recent years
Since the mid-90s, then, the KPA have featured prominently in North Korean politics and economics. Some felt that after Kim Jong Un took power, the prominence of the military might be scaled down, but this has not happened; Songun and Juche remain the guiding stars of North Korean state ideology.
North Koreans are generally very knowledgeable about Songun, and when you take a trip with Young Pioneer Tours to North Korea, your guides will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have about the state ideologies of the country.
If you have a specific interest in the politics of the tour, then we firmly suggest that you book our yearly Political Interest Tour. This even features a break from the politics now, in the form of a local football match!