The Workers’ Party of Korea (WKA) was founded in 1949 (with the support of the Soviet Union) from the merger of a number of Marxist-Leninist and anti-imperialist groups that covered all parts of Korea (including the South prior to its annexation by the United States).
Its Red Flag represents its historical association with the Soviet Union and contains the usual hammer (representing industrial workers), and a sickle (representing agricultural workers), but also includes a central calligraphy brush traditional to Korean scholarship (representing intellectuals).
This addition to the Soviet Red Flag demonstrates Korea’s intellectual independence from the Soviet ideologues (despite their important historical association), and represents Korea’s unique departure from the more formal strictures of Marxist-Leninism. In many ways, the North Koreans interpret their Juche philosophy as an ‘improvement’ or ‘progression’ of Marxist-Leninist thinking – although this is a contested issue. The Juche philosophy views humanity as the driving force of history (and not ‘class’), a humanity that must be led by a strong military (for self-defence purposes).
Although Western narratives try to shoe-horn Juche into Stalinism (suggesting that Stalinism was a departure from Marxist-Leninism) this is incorrect on both counts.
Stalin did not depart from Marxist-Leninism – but did have to apply this ideology during the most extraordinary of situations in the world. Similarly – Korean Juche – has nothing to do with the Soviet system – but is a unique Asian adaptation of Marxist-Leninism – perhaps involving a secular Confucian influence (hence the scholar’s brush). Whatever the case, the North Koreans have a right to self-defence and self-determination. Regardless of North Korea’s development of its own pathway – as a nation it still considers itself part of the International Communist Movement – and I have personally seen North Korean delegations visit the grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery on the anniversary of his death in march of each year (usually accompanying Communist Chinese representatives).
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