The state TV targets men with “untidy hair and unhealthy attire” in a new propaganda campaign against Western styles and influences.
In the TV series “Let Us Trim Our Hair in Accordance With Socialist Lifestyle” unruly-haired men are singled out and their names and addresses publicised.
Another N Korean TV series, “Hairdressing and Our Living”, sets out various state-approved men’s hair styles on grounds of hygeine and health. These include the “flat-top crew-cut” and this one, the “high-hairstyle”.
The campaign on men’s proper attire took TV cameras out onto streets, sports grounds and bus stops. Programs even criticised one long-haired man’s wife for not paying enough attention to her husband’s hair. Elsewhere a man’s workplace was condemned for not supervising his appearance better.
The TV holds up this man as exhibiting a correct hair cut. It recommends 1-5cm for back and sides and 5cm for tops of heads. If they’ve still got any, men over 50 are allowed up to 7cm, to cover baldness.
Visits to the barber should be made every 15 days. A man’s hairstyle reflects his “ideological spirit”, the propaganda says.
About the Goverment Propaganda
North Korea’s communist government is waging war against men with long hair, calling them unhygienic anti-socialist fools, and even leader Kim Jong Il has trimmed his famous bouffant locks.
The hair campaign comes as North Korea’s dictatorship struggles to tighten its control over information, monitor its population and dictate cultural tastes. It is directing men to wear their hair “socialist style,” deriding shabbily coifed men as “blind followers of bourgeois lifestyle.”
North Korea’s state-run Central TV even identifies violators by name and address, exposing them to jeers from other citizens.
“We cannot help questioning the cultural taste of this comrade, who is incapable of feeling ashamed of his hair style,” the station said Monday, showing a Mr. Ko Gwang Hyun, whose unkempt hair covered his ears.
“Can we expect a man with this disheveled mind-set to perform his duty well?” the announcer asked.
The government, which demands unquestioning allegiance and controls all publications and broadcasts, is growing wary of outside influence seeping in.
Foreign broadcasts penetrate the country through smuggled transistor radios. As North Korea’s economic woes persist, more North Koreans are travelling to China to seek food – and are exposed to the rapidly spreading capitalist culture there. CDs containing South Korean songs and TV dramas – popular in most of Asia – are reportedly smuggled into the North.
The hair campaign, which began in October and is dubbed “Let’s trim our hair according to socialist lifestyle,” requires that hair be kept no longer than five centimetres. But the state trendsetters allowed an exception: old men can grow hair up to seven centimetres to hide balding.
The campaign claims that long hair hampers brain activity by taking oxygen away from nerves in the head. It doesn’t explain why women are still allowed to grow long hair.
In November, a North Korean broadcast chastised men with long hair as “fools who abandon our own lifestyle and mimic other people’s model.”
Short haircuts fit with Kim Jong Il’s “songun” – or army-first – philosophy, which focuses on military strength and exhorts the people to follow the example of the 1.1 million-member Korea People’s Army, the loyal backbone of Kim’s rule.
Kim himself for many years wore a bouffant hairstyle – reportedly to boost his height – but recently set an example by trimming it.
He shares his intolerance for a bohemian look with South Korea’s late dictator, Park Chung-hee.
In the 1970s, at the height of Park’s authoritarian rule, police banned miniskirts. Long-haired male college students were dragged into police stations for forced haircuts and were only released after writing letters of repentance.
In reaction to the pressure to conform, more young South Koreans took to long hair, blue jeans and guitars – and demonstrating. The government considered the trend rebellious and closed down schools and banned songs deemed “harming the public morals.”
Park was murdered by his own spy chief in 1979, and long hair – dyed in a variety of colors – is now widely accepted in South Korea.
About North Korea
The Korean Peninsula was first populated by peoples of a Tungusic branch of the Ural-Altaic language family, who migrated from the northwestern regions of Asia. Some of these peoples also populated parts of northeast China (Manchuria); Koreans and Manchurians still show physical similarities. Koreans are racially and linguistically homogeneous. Although there are no indigenous minorities in North Korea, there is a small Chinese community (about 50,000) and some 1,800 Japanese wives who accompanied the roughly 93,000 Koreans returning to the North from Japan between 1959 and 1962. Although dialects exist, the Korean spoken throughout the peninsula is mutually comprehensible. In North Korea, the Korean alphabet (hangul) is used exclusively.
Korea’s traditional religions are Buddhism and Shamanism. Christian missionaries arrived as early as the 16th century, but it was not until the 19th century that major missionary activity began. Pyongyang was a center of missionary activity, and there was a relatively large Christian population in the north before 1945. Although religious groups exist in North Korea today, the government severely restricts religious activity.
By the first century AD, the Korean Peninsula was divided into the kingdoms of Shilla, Koguryo, and Paekche. In 668 AD, the Shilla kingdom unified the peninsula. The Koryo dynasty–from which Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century derived the Western name “Korea”–succeeded the Shilla kingdom in 935. The Choson dynasty, ruled by members of the Yi clan, supplanted Koryo in 1392 and lasted until Japan annexed Korea in 1910.
Throughout its history, Korea has been invaded, influenced, and fought over by its larger neighbors. Korea was under Mongolian occupation from 1231 until the early 14th century. The unifier of Japan, Hideyoshi, launched major invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1597. When Western powers focused “gunboat” diplomacy on Korea in the mid-19th century, Korea’s rulers adopted a closed-door policy, earning Korea the title of “Hermit Kingdom.” Though the Choson dynasty recognized China’s hegemony in East Asia, Korea was independent until the late 19th century. At that time, China sought to block growing Japanese influence on the Korean Peninsula and Russian pressure for commercial gains there. The competition produced the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Japan emerged victorious from both wars and in 1910 annexed Korea as part of the growing Japanese empire. Japanese colonial administration was characterized by tight control from Tokyo and ruthless efforts to supplant Korean language and culture. Organized Korean resistance during the colonial era was generally unsuccessful, and Japan remained firmly in control of the Peninsula until the end of World War II in 1945. The surrender of Japan in August 1945 led to the immediate division of Korea into two occupation zones, with the U.S. administering the southern half of the peninsula and the U.S.S.R. taking over the area to the north of the 38th parallel. This division was meant to be temporary until the U.S., U.K., Soviet Union, and China could arrange a trusteeship administration.
In December 1945, a conference was convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea. A 5-year trusteeship was discussed, and a joint Soviet-American commission was established. The commission met intermittently in Seoul but deadlocked over the issue of establishing a national government. In September 1947, with no solution in sight, the United States submitted the Korean question to the UN General Assembly. Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea quickly evaporated as the politics of the Cold War and domestic opposition to the trusteeship plan resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate nations with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems. In 1950, the North launched a massive surprise attack on the South (see, under Foreign Relations, Korean War of 1950-53).
Goverment and Political Conditions
North Korea has a centralized government under the rigid control of the communist Korean Workers’ Party (KWP), to which all government officials belong. A few minor political parties are allowed to exist in name only. Kim Il Sung ruled North Korea from 1948 until his death in July 1994. Kim served both as Secretary General of the KWP and as President of North Korea.
Little is known about the actual lines of power and authority in the North Korean Government despite the formal structure set forth in the constitution. Following the death of Kim Il Sung, his son–Kim Jong Il–inherited supreme power. Kim Jong Il was named General Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party in October 1997, and in September 1998, the SPA reconfirmed Kim Jong Il as Chairman of the National Defense Commission and declared that position as the “highest office of state.” However, the President of the Presidium of the National Assembly, Kim Yong Nam, serves as the nominal head of state. North Korea’s 1972 constitution was amended in late 1992.
The constitution designates the Central People’s Committee (CPC) as the government’s top policymaking body. The CPC makes policy decisions and supervises the cabinet, or State Administration Council (SAC). The SAC is headed by a premier and is the dominant administrative and executive agency.
Officially, the legislature, the Supreme People’s Assembly, is the highest organ of state power. Its members are elected every four years. Usually only two meetings are held annually, each lasting a few days. A standing committee elected by the SPA performs legislative functions when the Assembly is not in session. In reality, the Assembly serves only to ratify decisions made by the ruling KWP.
North Korea’s judiciary is “accountable” to the SPA and the president. The SPA’s standing committee also appoints judges to the highest court for four-year terms that are concurrent with those of the Assembly.
Administratively, North Korea is divided into nine provinces and four provincial-level municipalities–Pyongyang, Chongjin, Nampo, and Kaesong. It also appears to be divided into nine military districts.
About Juche Ideology
Another obstacle facing mission work and church planting in North Korea is Juche ideology. Even if one had access into North Korea to do mission work, the Juche ideology poses such an immensely different view of the world than Christianity that many difficulties would arise. Thus, it is necessary to seek a definition of Juche, examine the uses of the Juche ideology in society, and explore the challenges it presents to church planting and mission work in the country.
1. Definition of Juche Ideology
Juche is the philosophical theory that guides all facets of political, economic, social, religious, and personal life in North Korea. Juche is a brand of Communism, which mixes aspects of Marxism, Leninism, Christianity, Confucianism, and xenophobia (hatred of foreigners) to emphasize that the Korean people’s destiny can be assured only by self-reliance. Juche, in Korean, means, “self-reliance” or “self-dependence.”
Juche ideology consists mainly of two parts-a philosophical theory and a guiding principle. The philosophical theory maintains that the masses are the masters of history and revolution. Kim Jong Il says, “the history of social development is the history of man’s independence, creativity and consciousness,” and “the socialist cause is the revolutionary cause of independence, which is limited at realizing independence for the popular masses and is advanced and accomplished by the struggle of the masses.”
In other words, the Juche cause is to free the popular masses, and this is possible because history is determined by the masses. The guiding principle asserts that the masses are not able to realize their revolutionary goal without being organized and led by the Leader (“Suryong”). The Leader makes it possible for the masses to unite and pursue “the revolutionary cause” of independence and self-reliance. The “Theory of the Immortal Socio-Political Body” states that political life is given only by the Leader, and political life must be considered more precious than physical life. Thus, in Juche thought the Leader deserves the respect and obedience that is due to the divine Creator. The ruling hierarchy in Pyongyang has also grafted the Confucius virtue of loyalty and filial piety into Juche ideology, and through ceaseless indoctrination campaigns, converted all the people into becoming loyal children of the “absolute father.”
Originally North Korea adopted Marxism-Leninism as its ruling philosophy when it proclaimed its establishment in 1948. However, it later replaced it with the so-called Juche ideology, which it alleges is a creative application of Marxism-Leninism. The evolution from Marxism-Leninism to Juche can be divided into four stages:
The first stage covers the period from the inauguration of the North Korea regime in 1948 through 1967, when Marxism-Leninism served as a pure ideology, the second stage from 1967 through 1974, when the Juche idea was declared a “creative application” of Marxism-Leninism, the third stage of a transitional nature from 1974 through 1980, when the term Marxism-Leninism, was erased from the charter of the Workers’ Party, and the fourth stage after 1980 when Marxism-Leninism was scrapped both in theory and reality.
2. Influence of Juche in Society
The Juche idea guides all political matters in North Korea by giving the regime an ultimate goal of liberation from imperialist forces and reunification of the country. Kim Jong Il describes the need to preserve Juche against imperialism:
The struggle to preserve the Juche character and national character is the struggle against imperialism and dominationism… the imperialists are now working more blatantly than ever to obliterate the Juche character and traits of other countries and nations and realize their dominationist ambition.
The Juche thought asserts that the nation’s struggle is one against imperialistic forces that are trying to erase the independent qualities of the country. The North Korea regime describes South Korea’s opening to the West as a tragedy. Kim Jong Il says, “In South Korea… the soul of the nation and beautiful customs are now being totally erased by the clamour of the authorities for anti-national “internationalization” and “globalization.”
Further, the Juche idea guides political action in North Korea by making reunification with South Korea an urgent national goal. Kim Jong Il describes reunification as a sacred national task:
To reunify the country in accordance with the noble idea of respected comrade Kim Il Sung is the revolutionary duty and moral obligation of our party and our people. It is a sacred national task devolving upon our generation…
The North Korea regime sees national reunification as the only way in which the nation of Korea can successfully complete “the revolutionary task” of freeing the popular masses and country from imperialist forces. It is an extremely nationalistic and paranoid political regime.
The Juche thought also guides all economic matters in the North. The North Korea regime seems intent on being self-reliant even in economic terms. Even though its closed economic policies have resulted in mass famine and a degrading economy, Kim Jong Il continues to avoid reform and introduction of capitalistic features in the economy.
This is largely due to the fact that Juche ideology criticizes capitalism as a major obstacle to national development. Kim Jong Il says:
It is not socialism but capitalism that blocks the road of national development. In the capitalist society where the nation is split into hostile classes and individuals’ interests are place above social interests, national unity cannot be achieved, people cannot have the attitude as befits masters towards the development of the country and nation, nor can social wealth be used properly for the common development of the nation.
Kim Jong Il believes that adherence to the Juche idea, even in its economic principles, will eventually lead to national prosperity.
The Juche thought also pervades every other facet of North Korean society, affecting society, culture, family, education, and even personal relationships. As a result of Juche, the nation has become very nationalistic and extremely loyal to Kim Jong Il. The Juche idea has also created a culture in which collective rules and norms are followed versus a western, individualistic view of relationships. Korea specialist Bruce Cuming has cleverly noted that Juche “is a state of mind, not an idea, and one that is unavailable to the non-Korean. It is the opaque core of what one could call North Korea national solipism.” In Juche thought, there is no room for God, because Kim Il Sung is God the Father, Kim Jong Il is God the Son, and Juche is God the Holy Spirit.
3. The Challenge of Juche to North Korea Missions
The Juche philosophy presents several challenges to North Korea missions. First, in Juche thought there is no room for Christian missions or Christianity. Since Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are God, any suggestion that there is another God is sacrilegious. How does one share the message of the true and living God with people who are so convinced that their “Leader” is the true God? Second, in Juche thought there is no room for the Christian church. If a North Korean decides to believe in Jesus, then how does he participate in church life? Is he to proclaim his faith and face arrest or martyrdom, or is he to keep his faith secret and attend secret church meetings? How does a North Korean Christian live his life in a Juche-oriented society? Third, how can missionaries “redeem” elements of the Juche thought in proclaiming the gospel and spreading a church planting movement? Though much of the Juche ideology opposes Christian thought, its structure and world view are similar. Can elements of Juche be used to help North Korean people understand and accept the gospel easier? How can the collective values of Juche be used in a healthy, Christian way? These questions, and more, are the challenges Juche philosophy presents to Christian missions in North Korea.