THE CULT OF PERSONALITY OF KIM IL-SONG: FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS OF A STATE MYTH (NORTH KOREA)
A Cult of Personality in a communist nation appears to be an incongruity, the aggrandizement of an individual in a society committed to the role of the masses and a theory of historical determinism. However, a Cult has practical functions: patriotic agitation, legitimization of a regime, policy promotion, or factional weapon. A Cult may also derive from the ego needs of a strong leader. The Cult figure usually adopts a charismatic leadership style and uses personality projection as a leadership strategy. Five characteristics differentiate a Cult of Personality from mere positive image-making or hero-worship: (1) it exists under an authoritarian regime; (2) special virtue is attributed to the subject; (3) the subject is hailed as an authority on any and all matters; (4) the subject has a "canon" of authorized writings; (5) most important, national experience or history is interpreted through the object's life. Social properties which abet a Cult of Personality include weak institutionalization, lack of opposition by intellectuals, strong foreign enemies, and disruptive social changes. Content analysis was applied to North Korean publications to determine the core of the mythology about Kim Il-song, to ascertain how the Cult images developed and changed over time, and to discover which images might be correlated to specific events or policy changes. The Cult of Personality of Kim Il-song of North Korea underwent three distinct phases: from 1945-50, when basic images were developed and hero worship fostered; the Korean War and era of reconstruction, until about 1965, when hero worship progressed to a genuine Cult of Personality; and the modern period, when the Cult assumed international dimensions and prepared for transfer to a new leadership generation. The Kim Cult performed the following functions: legitimization of the regime, policy promotion, generation of national and personal pride, attraction of support for reunification policies, and easing of leadership succession to Kim's son. The Cult of Kim was artificially maintained and adopted characteristics and techniques from the Cults of Stalin and Mao. However, it succeeded because it appealed to basic Korean societal patterns, which may have derived from Confucian ideals still prevalent in social and family organization.