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The Truth about North Korea: The Effects of Ideology, Cults, and Narratives on America

Posted by Jordan Tennenbaum on

North Korea is one of the most secretive countries in the entire world, and they would prefer to keep it that way. Historically, they have isolated themselves from ‘imperialist nations’ in an effort to determine their own fate, creating a challenge for foreign relations. One reason that North Korea remains so independent is because of a self-determining ideology that contextualizes and guides the actions and attitude of the entire country. This religious-like doctrine demonizes foreign nations, controls civilian actions, and reinforces culturally specific narratives, creating a homogenous and hostile nation.

North Korea

To understand information regarding the history and narrative of North Korea, one must understand the true meaning of the ideology that guides the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and influences everything from government media to North Korean tradition, and U.S. foreign relations to the struggle of survival in the Hermit Kingdom. Through an investigation of ideology, I will show that the unwavering, near-religious support of Kim Il Sung and the Juche Ideology has created a cult-like country with a quilt of influential, internalized, and culturally specific narratives that negatively affect North Korea’s relationship with, and representation of America. I will demonstrate how these narratives directly and negatively affect North Korea’s perception of America, as well as explain how they contribute to the historically tense relationship between North Korea and the United States in regards to human rights, the Korean War, and nuclear policy.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an ideology, beginning with the repetition of ideas, is “a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture,” including “the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program” ( This definition articulates how patterns of group thought can influence culture and politics, and therefore demonstrates how the DPRK has utilized ideology as a manipulative method to control civilians and society, causing unimaginable hardship and profound psychological effects on the people of North Korea. Further, Jost, Ledgerwood, and Hardin suggest “ideologies may function as prepackaged units of interpretation that spread because of basic human motives to understand the world, avoid existential threat, and maintain valued interpersonal relationships” leading “disproportionately to the adoption of system-justifying worldviews” (Jost, Legerwood, and Hardin). With this definition, it becomes clear how ideology, and specifically Juche Ideology, function so smoothly in North Korea.

The Juche Ideology and DPRK history are influenced heavily by Karl Marx, who in (1859) A Contribution to the Critique of the Political Economy, wrote that the means of productions of a society, called the base, shapes the way in which ideology develops, known as the superstructure. Marx states that the totality of the “relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political, and intellectual life” (Marx). In this quote, Marx notes that that societal production is a large determining factor in the ideology and outlook of a culture.

When examining the development and history of North Korea, it becomes apparent how the very limited economic freedom and opportunity for production has and instilled an ideology involving state compliance, national pride, complete independence, nuclear power, and especially disgust for foreign nations. According to South Korean Professor of Sociology Chung Young-chul, the ideology of the North Korean government, and therefore its citizens, historically and vehemently demonizes America. Beginning with the US role in the division of the Korean Peninsula during the Cold War and the subsequent Korean War, North Korea began to incorporate anti-American sentiment into its forced ideology, therefore becoming “a cultural composite consisting of anti-imperialist ideology, nationalism and historical reflection of division and war” (Young-chul). Chung Young-chul notes that in North Korea:

Historical facts are endlessly reproduced in literature, media propagation and school education to implant animosity in the socio-political sub-conscience of the population. In the wake of liberation, anti-Americanism became the most popular ideological slogan and the most appealing catch phrase representing national identity among North Koreans. …Denouncing the U.S. imperialist aggressors became a routine course of political education at all schools and social organizations… The “sins” of Americans continue today as the North Koreans insist the United States is blocking Korean reunification. As long as the division continues, the branding of the United States as the “arch enemy” can hardly be revised (Young-chul). 

The DPRK has strategically developed and impressed an ideology upon its citizens that has responded to historical needs while both justifying and rationalizing the actions of North Korean leaders, poor conditions of life, and hostility towards America. For the citizens of North Korea, ideology has been used as a precisely developed, yet subtle weapon to control and subdue a population, like an opiate of the masses, in a way Marx would consider ironically religious.

Juche Ideology is the primary pattern of thought in North Korea: it is a part of the mentality of every citizen and it is the driving force behind Korean society, history, and decision-making. According to the official DPRK government website, Juche ideology upholds that “the masters of the revolution and construction are the masses of the people,” meaning “that man is the master of everything and decides everything,” especially in regards to “independence in politics, self-sufficiency in the economy, and self-reliance in national defense.” With this attitude, it is clear why “the Korean people value the independence of the country and nation and, under the pressure of imperialists and dominationists, have thoroughly implemented the principle of independence, self-reliance and self-defense, [while] defending the country's sovereignty and dignity firmly” (Official Webpage of the DPRK).

The core of Juche, translating to self-reliance, requires a shift to independence: “a process that is equitable with the Marxist-Leninist notion of socialism as a transitional stage to communism” (French). Utilizing traditional Asian wisdom while rejecting Western influence, the Juche ideology marks a transition away from Japanese colonialism, American occupation, and USSR dominated ideals towards Maoist leadership, heavenly-mandated Confucian authority and also traditional Korean ways of thinking. Drawing on these influences, the Juche ‘call to independence’ requires chawi (self-defense), meaning North Korea “gives primacy to the military over the proletariat” because “as long as imperialist countries continue to exist so [will] the military–first [attitude]” (French). Through the twisted policy of the North Korean government, a powerful, independent military has become symbolic of the Juche goal of national unity, which is seen by North Koreans in a positive light, especially in regards to foreign imperialist powers. This has impressed a cohesive and powerful ideology upon the people of North Korean, allowing for the prevalence of a cult mentality.

While Juche could be seen internally as a uniting force among North Koreans, in reality it has created a nationally brainwashed, cult following of their ‘prophet’ and late, great leader, Kim Il Sung. While cults often have a negative connotation due to connections with historically unstable leaders and practices, the term is used in the scholarly sense to denote ideological commitment, religious reverence, civilian management, hostile elitism, self-justification, and especially a lack of doubt (Lalich and Lagone). The term ‘cult’ is not used to label all North Koreans as inherently evil or wrong, but rather to show how their undying devotion to their leader and state is characteristic of a cult mentality.

According to the Huffington Post, “this nationalist orientation reached full bloom in the 1972 Constitution which enshrined Juche as the overarching ideology of the state” (Amarasingam). Juche was used by Kim to complete “his total domination of the DPRK’s political life, holding all positions of power with the ability to issue edicts, grant pardons and sign treaties. He oversaw political, economic, and military life, all senior appointments and all diplomacy” (French). This ideology became fully incorporated into North Korean psyche after “the fall of the USSR in 1991 [which] rather than weakening Kim Il Sung's commitment to socialism, was a major boost to the Juche idea” because “the fall of the USSR only signaled the superiority of the North Korean system” (Amarasingam). With complete faith in the newly proven Juche ideology, the citizens of North Korea reacted powerfully to the death of their great prophet-leader Kim Il Sung. “With his death in 1994, Kim Il Sung was relegated to godlike status, and subsequently he and his purported Juche ideas were regarded with a level of holy sanctity that was not quite possible while he was alive” (Amarasingam).

The holiness with which North Korean citizens revere their authoritarian leaders has assisted in the creation of a nearly religious, North Korean cult following of the Kim dynasty. According to the Huffington Post, the cult attitude has “raised Kim Jong Il to a kind of prophet, uniquely capable of interpreting and implementing his father's hopes for the country,” while historically allowing both leaders to “have successfully wielded the Juche idea as a political shibboleth to evoke a fiercely nationalistic drive for North Korean independence and to justify policies of self-reliance and self-denial in the face of famine and economic stagnation in North Korea" (Amarasingam).

The cult revolving around the Juche system of political and social ideology is enforced by four main pillars: a strong Korean desire for independence rather than foreign occupation, the implementation of the Ten Principles, the enduring deification of leaders through the use of propaganda, and the recent public perception of a personable leader. In discussing the Discovery Channel documentary “Inside North Korea,” Michael Breen states that for one to comprehend how the North Korean people are so willingly embrace Juche ideology, they must first understand Korea’s history of being occupied by foreign powers. Historically, Korea has been occupied and controlled by foreign nations, including violent Japanese colonization from 1876 1945, and American invasion during the Korean War in 1950. These occupations, Breen states, led to a population desperate for a strong leader to ensure their independence from foreign nations, and the Juche ideology fit perfectly this need in the aftermath of the Korean War (Cummings). Using the unifying call of Juche, Kim Il Sung was able to take the North Koreans’ enduring frustration with foreign occupation, unite North Koreans in a cult-like manner, and assert that under Kim’s leadership, they would be independent, nationalist, and superior to foreign nations.

Through the implementation of the Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System, essentially a list of commandments of independence, North Koreans declare undying devotion, obedience, and gratitude to Kim Il Sung, making him the focal point of the DPRK, and solidifying his immortal rule in the cult society of North Korea. Kim Jong Il revised the Ten Principles in 2003, detailing both the importance of unity within the workers party, and the inclusion of the North Korean leader with his father as a god. The Ten Principles are as follows:

  1. “Fight, with all your strength, to make society the Kimilsung-Kimjongilist one.


    Venerate the Great respected comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as the Great Leaders of the Party and of the People, as the Eternal Suns of Juche.
  3. Make the authority of the respected comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and of the Party the absolute one. Be ready to defend them.
  4. Arm yourself with revolutionary ideas of the Great respected comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and fulfill their ideas: the line and the policy of the Party.
  5. Defend the principles following unconditionally the commandments of the Great comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as well as Party line and its policy.
  6. Reinforce further the ideological willful and revolutionary unity of the whole Party around the figure of its Leader(s).
  7. Learn the Great comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, have a high moral and ethical image, use revolutionary methods and the people’s model of action.
  8. Venerate the political aspect of life, bestowed by the Leader and Party, respond by having a high political consciousness and successes in your job.
  9. Establish a strict organizational discipline in a wholehearted movement of the whole Party, whole state and whole army under the Party’s sole leadership.
  10. Inherit and fulfill the great deed of the Juche revolution, started by the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung, and guided by Great respected comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, which continues from generation to generation" (Tertitskiy).

    Not only do The Ten Principles guide the nationalistic ideology all North Koreans live by, but they also affect the way in which citizens go about their daily lives. A report by the Korea Institute for National Unification states that, “through the enforcement of these principles, North Korea attempts to seize and control all organizations, as well as the thoughts and lives of all North Koreans. The authorities brainwash their citizens by enforcing Q&A classes at the daily assembly and by requiring the attendants to repeat the Ten Principles in class” (Korea Institute for National Unification). In a cult-like manner, The Ten Principles must be memorized by every North Korean citizen in order to establish complete loyalty, obedience and admiration for Kim Il Sung, and subsequently his son Kim Jong Il, and grandson, Kim Jong Un. Each principle is detailed with subsections regarding how Kim Il Sung is responsible for the triumphs of the Korean people, and therefor they must be completely devoted and grateful to him. Today, The Ten Principles have become more prominent than the Constitution, and are seen as the supreme law in the country.

    Devotion to the cult in regards to the Ten Principles is not only internally generated by North Korean nationalism, but is maintained using strict repercussions for anyone who breaks them in the slightest. For example, Article 3.6 of the Principles states, “Portraits, plaster figures, bronze statues and emblems of the respected and beloved Great Leader, publications that include the Great Leader's portrait, works of art symbolizing the Great Leader, signboards with the Great Leader's instructions, and the party's basic slogans shall all be treated with respect and protected at all costs” (Columbia Law). Breaking these laws can mean death, or years of imprisonment, which is why the strict implementation of the Ten Principles has created a strong cult presence in North Korea.

    In addition to the Ten Principles, propaganda has played a major role in the influence and creation of the North Korean cult mentality. As the nation's propaganda chief in the 1970s, Kim’s son Kim Jong Il paved his way to power by raising his father, Kim Il-Sung, to demigod status as founder of the Communist State. Much of the propaganda, including posters, statues, and pictures legitimized and immortalized Kim Il Sung’s leadership throughout the Korean War and applauded him for leading the DPRK through that conflict. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) would also refer to Kim as ‘Dear Leader’ whenever it reported on his actions. This small title undoubtedly had strong effects on the cult surrounding Kim Il Sung.

    While propaganda in the early years of the DPRK focused on the immortalization of leaders, the passing of Kim Il Sung in the 1990s led to a transition in content to racial superiority, devotion to the state, and a rejection of other nations in the form of posters, art and film. This change helped ingrain the importance of Juche and North Korean pride, further instilling a cult-like mentality in the DPRK. Lisa Ling, in the 2007 National Geographic documentary “Inside North Korea,” utilizes shots of statues, art, and posters around the capital city of Pyongyang, including inside of every major building, and along the streets of nearly ever city. The effect that propaganda has upon the people Ling interviews is apparent as they address their love for Kim Il Sung accordingly. Ling proceeds to explain how and why Juche is integral in the cult-inducing propaganda in North Korea, noting that it glorifies the idea of superiority over foreign nations and the importance of ultimate devotion to Kim Jong Il, as he is credited with defending North Korea successfully against imperialist nations (Inside North Korea).

    In addition to the negative predisposition towards foreign occupation, the strictness of the Ten Principles, and the prevalence of propaganda, Kim Jong Un has recently solidified his control of the North Korean cult through small changes in his public image to appear personable and likable. Whereas Kim Il Sung had utilized the legend of his “military triumph and role as both a galvanizer of the anti-colonial struggle and guerilla leader ” to become an “overwhelmingly heroic figurehead” that learned “from his time in Stalin’s Soviet Union…how the power of the cult… could be used mobilize the masses,” his successor chose a different path (French). In becoming more likeable and relatable, Kim Jong Il has established firm control of not only the minds and lives of North Koreans, but also their hearts:

    “The 20-something leader has a very different style to his father, demonstrating a softer, seemingly personable side. In the last 12 months, the world was introduced to his wife during a number of high-profile public appearances, something that never happened during his father's reign. In one memorable scene last year, a visibly relaxed and smiling Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, were filmed taking in the attractions at an amusement park outside the capital. He has also shown a willingness to speak publicly, even acknowledging the suffering of his own people during one speech in April last year. It's a new era and Kim Jong Un realizes the more he can kind of shape the narrative to the international community, the more it is to his benefit in terms of getting security and money and everything else that he wants for his country" (Armstrong).

    Ironically, this nationalistic, ideological cult has perpetuated the acceptance and reverence of North Korean leaders. This is because the Juche system, which is characterized by an inherent dislike for foreign occupation, the implementation of the Ten Principles, the utilization of propaganda, and the emergence of a recently ‘likeable’ leader, was originally established to promote the Korean masses as the backbone of the DPRK, yet unfortunately has ensured oppression and strict dedication to the Kim dynasty. These aspects of North Korean culture have established the cult around the Kim Il Sung and his family, and ensured a society that worships its leaders yet never questions reality.

    The Juche ideology, which was activated through years of integration with Korean culture, laid the framework for hyper-nationalist and isolationist thinking. Foreign oppression created a desperate need for ideological guidance. The Ten Principles created the template that outlined the people’s devotion to Kim Il Sung. The propaganda promoting Kim Il Sung created a constant tool for asserting the dominance of his rule over the North Korean people. And a likeable Kim Jong Il solidified the DPRK’s control of hearts of innocent citizens. Understanding how the Juche Cult that thrives in North Korea is essential because it contextualizes a complex history and reveals the overall psyche of the average North Korean people, which has led to the creation of culturally specific narratives directly relating to their perception and understanding of the outside world.

    The power of the Juche Ideology and subsequent cult-like, nationalistic following of North Korean ‘prophets’ has both ‘united’ and suppressed the citizens of the DPRK, therefore creating societally ingrained, specifically North Korean narratives that have historically affected both their relationship with, and representation of America in a negative way. Narrative, in the North Korean sense, is the overarching sentiment and perspective of a nation based on culturally and uniquely conditioned stories, ideas, histories, and events that are well known by all citizens of the DPRK, and in this case relevant to the relationship with and representation of the United States. In the DPRK, narratives are perpetuated, habituated, given value, and normalized by Korean tradition and culture, comprehensive government control, and especially state run media.

    It is important to note that all cultures have their own unique and well-known narratives. In the United States, specific events and stories and are treasured and revered for their cultural value, such as the drafting of the Constitution by iconic delegates, the freeing of the slaves by President Abraham Lincoln, and the fight against the Nazis in World War II. These events are relevant to America not only because they are historically notorious, but also because they reflect the values and ideals that our society believes in, adheres to, and strives to achieve.

    According to Liberty in North Korea, an organization that rescues refugees, offers resettlement assistance, and changes the global perception of North Korea, narratives are powerful tools that should be wielded carefully. For example, America’s current narrative of North Korea has profoundly affected the relationship between our countries due to inaccurate representations:

    “For decades, mainstream media has focused on the ‘crazy Kims’ and nuclear weapons, treating the country as part threat, part joke, and part hopeless tragedy. Twenty-four million people–ordinary people like you and me–face the world’s most repressive government, but they have been lost in this definition of North Korea. This politicized and securitized narrative has created a barrier of apathy, preventing global citizens from engaging with this issue, causing a huge deficit in support for the North Korean people” (Liberty in North Korea). 

    While America’s narrative has proven to be very influential in regards to foreign relations, the narrative of the DPRK has greatly affected the relationship between North Korea and the United States as well. These manipulated and anti-American narratives help fuel North Korean society’s raison d’être, and therefore negatively affect foreign relations due to the poor representation of and relationship with America. First, the narratives affect North Korea’s perception of America due to their prevalence and credibility, which is derived from total government control of information sources. Second, they directly and negatively affect foreign relations with America because they are so hyperbolic and confrontational that they halt any chance of peaceful progress. Just as the American narrative regarding North Korea has prevented the United Stated from providing aid, connecting culturally, and empathizing with Korean citizens, the DPRK narrative is so outrageous and politicized that it has prevented North Koreans from connecting with the rest of the world. With an understanding of the function and meaning of narrative within a society, I will show how the North Korean narrative has negatively affected foreign relations with America in terms of human rights, the Korean War, and nuclear power.

    In utilizing the frequent repetition of culturally significant material, KCNA has shaped the North Korean narrative in regards to the human rights record of the United States. Although generally biased, the mainstream American media presents viewers with a relatively of perspectives and various sources. On the other hand, the Korean Central News Agency, a state-run media system, relies heavily on the use of recycled cultural narratives that present information in an affirmative manner, without crediting any sources of information. The KCNA railed America “as the world’s worst human rights abuser,” declaring the US “a kingdom of racial discrimination” in which citizens are forced to tolerate “a living hell [where] elementary rights to existence are ruthlessly violated.” The state news agency perpetuates that America is plagued by high rates of unemployment, rising housing costs, widespread crime, prison prevalence, government tyranny, and excess spending, creating “a tundra of human being’s rights to existence” (KCNA-Tundra).

    As the North Korean government and media continue to preach unjustified American hatred to maintain societal order, it becomes clear that the human rights narrative is manipulated to an extent not seen in the American media, justifying the existence of the DPRK and therefore demonizing the United States. According to North Korean News, “the North Korean people are taught from birth that the United States is their major enemy in the world,” and this “narrative presents us with a master class of deliberate distortion on the part of the North Korean government… to portray the Korean people as victims of U.S. imperialism ...[throughout] history until the Great Leader finally saved them. This political narrative is designed and perpetuated to give the North Korean state a raison d’être” (

    In addition to human rights, North Korea perpetuates narratives about the Korean War that heavily influence their perspective of America. Today, American media sources offer a variety of information about the war, even if they portray America in a negative light, from articles detailing the horrors of a brutal bridge massacre in vivid honesty (Choe, Hanley, and Mendoza), to scholarly sources that historically contextualize the Korean War as a response to Communism involving Japanese colonization. These resources provide accurate information, instill perspective in the reader, and create a non-manipulative and informative narrative that helps educate rather than demonize.

    The Korean War narrative clearly serves to falsely represent America, preventing a chance for positive international relations. According to the KCNA, the United States was the “provoker of the Korean War” while the innocent Korean “socialist camp steadily grew in the international arena and the anti-imperialist struggle. It was against the backdrop of a start of arms race and extreme horror of economic depression… that the U.S. political and military authorities decided to launch the Korean War” (KCNA - Provoker).

    With the label of the provoker of the Korean War, the United States is accused of egregious and horrendous war crimes. “After occupying South Korea under the mask of "liberator" in September of 1945, the U.S. started its bestial atrocities against the Korean nation,” including killing “Koreans by the cruelest and most brutal methods baffling human imagination.” Due to these transgressions, the Korean narrative portrays the US as a nation of ‘barbarians’ that “has committed too many crimes against the Korean nation to count for more than a hundred years,” for which it warned, “the Korean nation will certainly settle [those] accounts” (KNCA - War Crime). With the United States declared as their mortal ‘sworn enemy,’ it is clear that the North Korean narrative establishes the United States as a nation that they desire hostile foreign relations with, and because of this, history has unfolded accordingly.

    In addition to narratives regarding human rights and the Korean War, North Korea’s nuclear policy narrative has drastically affected both how they perceive and interact with the United States. According to the mainstream media, North Korea frequently threatens the United States, as well as their southern neighbors, due to sanctions that restrict launching ballistic missiles, halt nuclear programs, ban large scale arms, and encourage close monitoring (New York Times Asia Pacific). While not the most productive in terms of creating strong and long lasting foreign relations, these limitations are seen as necessary for a country that has violated a nuclear non proliferation treaty in 1993, threatened to reinstate their nuclear program in 2003, and revealed nuclear bomb capabilities in 2003 (CNN). Scholars claim that the country with the world’s fifth largest military frequently manipulates narratives: for example North Korea labeled the United States–Japan missile defense system a Theater Missile Defense (TMD), which is contradictory because TMDs are inherently offensive rather than defensive (Ford and Kwon).

    According to the North Korean nuclear narrative:

    “The DPRK is a full-fledged nuclear weapons state capable of beating back any aggressor troops at one strike, firmly defending the socialist system and providing a sure guarantee for the happy life of the people… Having an independent and just nuclear force, the DPRK put an end to the distress-torn history in which it was subject to outside forces' aggression and interference and could emerge a socialist power of Juche which no one dares provoke” (KCNA - Nuclear Consolidation).

     According to the this narrative, the purposes of the possession of nuclear weapons include self-defense and deterrence in the context of “evidence of the U.S. grave nuclear threat to the DPRK” that includes “nuclear blackmail…which has lasted for decades” and the domination of “the peninsula as a nuclear forward base and a bridgehead for carrying out its Asia-Pacific strategy.” The narrative claims the United States has gone “beyond the level of threat,” requiring that the DPRK nuclear policy use force as a “treasured sword of justice for protecting the nation from U.S. nuclear blackmail [and] aggression” and “defending peace on the Korean Peninsula”(KCNA - Nuclear Commentary).

    Clearly, the overriding North Korean narrative aims to mold the perception of America among DPRK citizens into a threatening, violent, and unpredictable nation stopping at nothing to terrorize innocent citizens. With North Korea’s entire raison d’être centered on the demonization of America, their foreign relations sadly reflect their internalized attitude. Encompassing both fear of and disgust with Americans, the North Korean narrative, in terms of US human rights, the Korean War, and nuclear capability has clearly set the precedent for their relationship with the United States throughout history.

    Through the investigation of ideology, I have shown how the implementation of the Juche Ideology has created a cult enforced by the Ten Principles, propaganda, and a hatred for foreign occupation. This has enabled the creation of culturally specific narratives regarding US human rights, the Korean War, and nuclear policy have effectively ruined the perception of America among North Koreans, and therefore impaired past and future opportunities for positive relations between the two countries.

    Due to an ideological cult and the subsequent prevalence of manipulated narratives, the past sixty years have yielded unsuccessful results when trying to understand, reach out to, or even cooperate with North Korea. Everything the Hermit Kingdom perpetuates as part of its narrative serves to justify internal actions, demonize foreign nations, and hide the reality of a crippled state from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this truth, weakly hidden by the DPRK’s manipulative political and media narrative, is the inescapable reality of life for thousands of deprived North Koreans, yet this is beginning to change.

    While researching this essay, I wanted to better understand how North Korea could possibly evolve into the infamous and controversial nation that it is today. While the actual transformation was very slow and complex, it does shed light on the manner in which cultural ideologies help create and instill unique narrative with potentially negative implications. Though these ideologically based narratives do serve to unite North Korea, in reality they have completely isolated the nation, and ruined the country’s opportunity for the pursuit of happiness. Currently, North Korea is one of the most undernourished and underdeveloped nations in the world, lacking infrastructure, food, clean water, electricity, money, opportunity and freedom. The effects of the North Korean narrative sadly weigh heavily on the brainwashed citizens who have no choice but to accept their repressed, static conditions of life.

    While narratives typically give culture historical value, they can also perpetuate false perceptions and facilitate poor relations, especially when deeply entrenched in a powerful ideology. It frequently becomes too easy to blame history, or North Koreans in general, for the way that our two countries have dealt with each other. It becomes too simple to ignore the underlying historic need that the Korean government has for a controlling ideology, and the ease with which it has created narratives that manipulate the minds of its citizens. It has become natural to ignore the profound effects of America’s narratives upon the desperate people and nation of North Korea. While completely understanding the evolution of North Korea is nearly impossible, understanding the historic role of ideological narratives in relation to politics is paramount to promoting peace, historical literacy, and strong foreign relations around the world.

    This article was written by Jordan Tennenbaum, the founder of Sticker Slap. 


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