All posts by istewart

North Korea, An Institutional Military Gang

There are many things that come to mind when people think of the North Korean government, their irrational leader, propaganda, their nuclear program. Yet, what few people realize is how similar it is to a gang. Since there is such an inequality in prosperity and an extreme government involvement in all aspects of life, the government of North Korea behaves almost exactly like an institutional military gang.

From the beginning of its creation in 1948, the North Korean government was set to run like a gang. Some of the earliest beliefs and guidelines for the country are rooted in gang-like behavior. The main concept of North Korea’s government is called “Juche.” “Juche” is a form of communism that takes from Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. It is a mix that has been created to fit the needs and desires of the North Korean government. The concept of “Juche” also fits into the North Korean “songbun system.” This system give its citizens a social classification based on their family history and the citizen’s education and work performance. This classification makes an immense difference in the way one’s life is lived. Another concept that fits into the idea of “Juche” and the “songbun system” is “Chawi.” This idea is a belief that is instilled into North Koreans throughout their entire lives. It is the idea that all military and government personnel are much higher in status than all other citizens. This idea reinforces the idea of social classes and the stark differences between them in North Korea. The North Korean government also has a set of traditional beliefs that are used as a sort of state religion, and they use this form of beliefs to control family life and marriage.

While North Korea is a communist state, it is also similar in some ways to a royal monarchy. The Kim family has been in power since the creation of the country and this has given them the ability to accumulate immense power. They also rule especially with fear, and in doing so violate many basic human rights. The Kim family and the North Korean government hold a tight grip on their citizens. Like being a gang member, being a citizen of North Korea, comes with many rules and guidelines for all aspects of life. As many gangs have representative colors or patches that they wear, the North Korean people have to wear pins that show their social status. While the pins may seem to North Koreans like a fashion statement, it is one reduction of their already fleeting freedom.

There are many ways that the North Korean government acts like a gang, in the ways that they control their citizens, but they also are involved in more directly in some activities that are usually reserved for actual gangs. North Korea does not have an easy time making money and expanding their economy, so some of their economic activities are somewhat understandable. The country has few natural resources, and that greatly hinders the country’s economy. They resort to illegal and risky business practices. Yet the country’s leaders do not seem to be trying to improve the country for all of its citizens but for a small group of party officials.

There is, however, one group that benefits from the strict restrictions of freedom and terrible lives of the North Korean people: the military elite. This group of highly ranked military personnel exercise many privileges that are not available to civilians and have a much greater amount of freedom. As one journalist said the Kim Jong-il regime resembles “a cult-based, family-run criminal enterprise rather than a government.” With North Korea’s disregard for legal business, human rights, and freedom, the government acts like a gang, much more than it does a government.