Korean marxism

   The origins of Korean Marxism can be found in the Korean community living in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Immigrants and refugees had moved to Siberia and Manchuria in significant numbers to the extent that in 1919 there were some 200,000 Koreans in the former and some 430,000 in the latter. With a common enemy in the Japanese, Russian communists linked up with Koreans introducing them to Marxist ideas. In 1918 the Korean People’s Socialist Party (KPSP) was established in Siberia with Bolshevik support and guidance, and many Koreans joined the Bolsheviks, some fighting in the civil war, at this time. In 1919 the Communist Party of All Koreans in Russia was formed and took over from the KPSP. In Korea itself, after various small and semi-communist groups had emerged, the first official Korean Communist Party (KCP) was established in 1925. Plagued by factionalism and undermined by repeated infiltration and arrests the KCP struggled to maintain its existence and in 1928 it was in effect dissolved, leading Korean communists to base themselves abroad, often joining the Soviet, Chinese or Japanese communists. It was not until 1945 and the defeat of Japan and the end of World War II that the Korean communist movement in Korea itself was revitalized. Reestablished in 1945 the KCP soon merged with the New Democratic Party to become the North Korean Workers’ Party, and in 1949 merged with the South Korean Workers’ Party to become the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP). Kim Il Sung was one of the foremost leaders of the KCP and became leader of the KWP, and with the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1948 he became premier and subsequently president.
   While Korean Marxism has been shaped by both Soviet and Chinese Marxism, it is Kim Il Sung’s outlook that has given it its own distinctive character. Soviet-style five-year plans and agricultural collectivization, and imitation of the Chinese Great Leap Forward and mass line indicate something of the influence of the Soviets and Chinese on the Koreans, but the Koreans departed from policies and approach of their larger communist neighbors on various occasions, and as early as 1955 Kim Il Sung began to outline a more distinctive Korean approach called “juche.” This notion refers to a policy of selfreliance, and in practice has seen the DPRK adopt a nationalistic and isolationist approach.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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