For decades the North Korean regime has preached a virulent race-nationalism to its own people. At the same time, however, it has succeeded in making outsiders believe that it is guided by a solipsistic, inward-directed ideology of self-reliant communism. This in turn has nurtured the wishful assumption that the regime no longer has serious designs on South Korea. In this book, his follow-up to The Cleanest Race (2009), B.R. Myers shows that although the myth of Juche has done great service for the regime at home and abroad, the ideology’s content has never played a significant role in policy-making or domestic propaganda. The North Korean nuclear program must be grasped in the context of the regime’s true ideological commitment, which is not to self-reliance, but to “final victory” over the rival state.
The book’s appendix contains an English translation of the oldest extant version (from 1960) of Kim Il Sung’s so-called Juche speech of 1955; this as an effort to discourage the prevailing academic practice of relying on more recent, “emboldened” versions instead. Press Reaction: “Makes a compelling case for its own interpretation of Juche …. should draw attention back to Myers’ contrarian arguments about the nature of the North Korean regime, which deserve to be taken seriously by anyone interested in the DPRK.” – Columbia Political Review “Relying for the most part on Korean language sources, Myers makes a convincing case that what the DPRK has boasted for decades to international audiences as its unique guiding ideology of self-reliance is actually a sham doctrine, bearing no relevance to the actual policies of the DPRK, either domestically or internationally…. A detailed dissection of philosophical, political and historical documentation…. The whole book is rich with citation and influences from psychology, the history of ideas, political history and literature…. [Myers’] criticism of Bruce Cumings, among others, has earned him vitriolic criticism in return. However, most of the time the remarks are aimed at what others perceive to be Myers’ views of North Korea, rather than at the argument he makes, based on his knowledge of the language and the primary sources that indeed corroborate most of his thesis.” – Gianluca Spezza, NK News, October 2015