The human rays of sunshine above are academics devoted to the study of juche, the nonsensical North Korean ideology that stresses self-reliance above all else. You would think that men and women in possession of advanced degrees would recognize the flaws in an economic theory that denies the basic sociability of our species—or, at the very least, would have the critical thinking skills required to realize that North Korea staggers by thanks to foreign aid and smuggling, two major juche no-nos. But that doesn’t appear to be the case for the select group of Ivory Tower dwellers who belong to the International Institute of the Juche Idea, which is sort of the Modern Language Association for Maoist fantasy.
Background on the Institute’s history can be found in this debriefing of a North Korean defector. Kim Il-sung evidently thought that he could strengthen North Korea’s international standing by legitimizing juche as a scholarly topic. Not a wholly illogical plan, perhaps, as universities have always been a source of revolutionary agitation. But as you might expect, few professors were willing to devote their careers to studying an idea that is only slightly more coherent than Jonah Hex.
There have been a few takers, though, most notably in Nigeria, where the national juche committee recently got 530 college students to turn out for a lecture series. (I’m guessing there were free snacks.) And the IIJI’s journal, Study of the Juche Idea, continues to publish semi-regularly; the latest issue actually features an article by an American, Anthony DiFilippo, a sociologist at Lincoln University.
I am most aggrieved to learn that the Institute has now established a beachhead in our beloved Mongolia, too—and at the venerable Chinggis Khan University, no less. How sad to think that a single Mongolian mind will be wasted pondering a philosophy that is essentially meaningless—a truism that even nifty clip art can’t counteract.