Organized Panel Session
The study of North Korea’s ideologies as heuristic devices or explanatory variables has been criticized as a preoccupation with diversion. According to this view, the study of ideologies, such as Juche, is a methodically folly for two main reasons: 1) they have no discernible bearing on policy or daily life; and 2) they exist to be praised aloud rather than studied. This paper, ever mindful of this critique, challenges it by subjecting it to empirical scrutiny. Rather than assuming ideology does or doesn’t matter at the level of everyday life, it proposes these positions as hypotheses and sets out to empirically resolve them.
Using public opinion of former residents using two surveys of South Korea-based North Korea migrants conducted in 2016 and 2018, this paper examines the relationship between ideology and lived reality in North Korea. The surveys analyzed here, adaptations of extant immigrant surveys, were adapted and revised to explore the attitudes and opinions of North Koreans. Different from studies that use state discourse and imagery or public speeches, surveys ask the opinions of various characteristics of North Korean state and society to people who lived in North Korea. Respondents are asked their opinions of various characteristics of North Korean state and society, with a focus on attitudes towards the concepts of Juche and other “pro forma” ideologies (e.g., Sungun) across North Korean generations – those who came of age under different political regimes and under different socioeconomic conditions. The survey findings are complemented by insights from in-depth interviews.