Tenth Largest Religion

Can you guess what’s the tenth largest religion on the planet?

According to Adherents.com? It’s Juche.

For those who are unaware, Juche is a political thesis formed by Kim Il-sungthat states that the Korean masses are the masters of the country’s development. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Kim and other party theorists such asHwang Jang-yop elaborated the Juche Idea into a set of principles that the government uses to justify its policy decisions. Among these are a strong military posture and reliance on Korean national resources.

It also is part of the economic system where North Korea behaves like the vikings demanding danegeld.

Why is it a religion though? According to Adherents.com, “from a sociological viewpoint, it is clearly a religion”. The arguments are listed here.

It’s clearly got a mythos. The head of the “Church” are the Kims beginning with Kim Il Sung who was followed by Kim Jong Il (Greatest President of All Time) and finally by Kim Jong Un. The Kims basically are everything from Jesus like figures to L. Ron Hubbard.

Let’s look at some of the mythos.

His birth (much like Jesus) was surrounded by divine signs.  Kim Jong Il’s birth was foretold by birds, a double rainbow and a very Jesusesque “star”. And while Jesus was an excellent caterer and didn’t need to swim, Kim has a record-breaking golf score. The cult of Kim has it’s “chapels” and it’s “education” and even it’s Icons and Martyrs.

With this in mind you can see why North Korea behaves the way it does. The core principle of Juche is self reliance (even though North Korea’s nukes are anything but self reliant being based out of Pakistani State Secrets that were sold on to them by an unscrupulous scientist) at least in the eyes of it’s adherents. We provide them aid parcels so as to not watch 24 million odd people starve. Juche states that these are tribute. With such a legendary family, even the might of the USA can be defeated. The alternative reality of Songun Blog was regarded as near parody for us, where America was portrayed as a war monger that went to Iraq to steal the walls from schools and take children’s lunch money. North Korea is basically an alternative reality where state control on information is so strong that ignorance and faith in “a superstition” is better than reality.

As North Korea gets worse and worse (at this point? North Korea has a starvation rate of 2/3 people) and it’s posted IMR is 23 per 1000 (NK probably is fudging the data).

But is it any different from our western electorates? Where we have traded freedom for nebulous safety at the behest of our political representatives? Or where we have traded basic freedoms to the hands of religious demagogues based on fear of a superstitious entity? How is believing in Kim Jong Il’s legendary golf prowess worse than believing that the King of the Jews is a necromancer or the Lamb of God is the world’s most frugal caterer.


  1. Psychopomp Gecko says

    For one thing, we’ve managed to keep religion and state separate enough that a lot fewer people die as a result of the religion.

  2. says

    Hmm given that if you profess disbelief in the Dear Leaders divinity you are probably never heard of again I reckon its hard to know how many really believe in any of it. Take away the dictatorship and for sure some will continue no matter how potty but I doubt it will be a majority?

  3. maudell says

    I think the difference is that North Koreans themselves call it a religion (in a non-pejorative way). Kim il-Sung is still the leader through whom Kim Jong-un supposedly act.
    In this way, Stalinism is not a religion (though it can easily be compared to one) but juche is, even though they are both authoritarian.

  4. freemage says

    I find myself wondering if there are many (or even any) adherents outside the body of NK citizens. It would amuse me greatly (in my schadenfreude glands) to learn of a charter school in one of the states where they’re using that system to get around restrictions on religious instruction being set up to teach the principles of juche. I mean, if the fundies lose their minds over Muslim schools….

  5. says

    The first time I talked to people from North Korea was…
    diheartening. It was at the “beginning” of starvation. Everybody knew they were starving. They said they were doing great. No really, no problems. Everything fine thanks to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. I guess it might have been my first encounter with religious fundamentalists….

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