Organized Panel Session
Despite North Korea’s status as a small, geographically remote, and developing country in Northeast Asia, Kim Il Sung still sought power and status that was equivalent to that of past Marxist heroes, such as Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Zedong, during the 1970s and 1980s. One way North Korean leader Kim Il Sung tried to achieve global recognition was by disseminating his own seemingly internationally-applicable ideology of Juche that promoted independence, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency. The most fertile space to export this ideology was the recently decolonized Global South, which identified with these same anti-imperialist principles. Using North Korean press reports and documents from South Korea’s Diplomatic Archives and the U.S National Archives, I investigate the exportation of Juche to Africa, Latin America, and southern Asia via study groups, conferences, and friendship associations as a way to promote Kim Il Sung as a world-renowned revolutionary theorist. North Korean propagandists primarily used the exportation of Juche as a means to popularize Kim Il Sung’s image abroad and bolster his authority domestically. Due to its shallowness and inapplicability as a developmental guide and the North Korean government’s renegade status abroad, Juche never took root in the Global South. To many peoples in the Global South that encountered the ideology, Juche was a Rorschach test that idealized aspects of Third World socialism that one found most appealing despite the obvious unfeasibility of successfully implementing true self-reliance in an increasingly globalizing Cold War world.