December 19, 2011

History of Communism in North Korea

[source: wikipedia]

Early Korean communism

Alexandra Kim, a Korean living in Russia, is sometimes credited as the first Korean communist. She had joined the Bolsheviks in 1916. In 1917, Lenin sent her to Siberia to mobilize Koreans there against the counter-revolutionary forces and the Allied Expeditionary Forces. In Khabarovsk Kim was in charge of external affairs at the Far-Eastern Department of the Party. There she met with Yi Dong-Wi, Kim Rip and other Korean independence fighters. Together they founded the Korean People's Socialist Party in Khabarovsk on June 28, 1918.

Founding of the Communist Party of Korea

The Communist Party of Korea was founded during a secret meeting in Seoul in 1925. The Japanese had banned communist parties under the Peace Preservation Law, so the party had to operate in a clandestine manner. The leaders of the party were Kim Yong-bom and Pak Hon-yong. The party became the Korean section of the Communist International at the 6th congress of the International in August–September 1928. But after only a few months as the Korean Comintern section, the perpetual feuds between rival factions that had plagued the party from its foundation led the Comintern to disband the Communist Party of Korea in December the same year. However, the party continued to exist through various party cells. Some communists, like Kim Il-sung went into exile in China, where they joined the Communist Party of China. In the early 1930s Chinese and Korean communists began guerrilla activity against the Japanese forces.

End of the Second World War

After the Second World War and the liberation from Japanese rule, the situation for the Korean communists changed considerably. The country was divided into US and Soviet occupation zones, and the working conditions for the party were very different in the two zones. In the US-occupied South, the Communist Party leader Pak Hon-yong, who had been a prisoner of the Japanese, and became active in Seoul upon his release in 1945. He reorganized a Central Committee, of which he became the Secretary. Being based in Seoul, his group had limited contact with the Soviet occupation forces in the north.

The Soviet Red Army liberated northern Korea from the Japanese occupation in August 1945. At the time there were very few Communist cadres in the Soviet occupied zone. The practice of the Soviets in most countries it occupied after World War II was to rely on the domestic Communist Party to transform the occupied state into first a pro-Soviet and then a Soviet style socialist state but this was initially difficult in what became North Korea because of the lack of a strong domestic Communist presence. The Soviets began to rely largely on exiled Communists who returned to Korea at the end of World War II as well as ethnic Koreans who were part of the large Korean community in the USSR and therefore Soviet citizens. Kim Il-sung became a prominent figure of the party in the northern areas. After his years as a guerilla leader, Kim Il-sung had moved to the Soviet Union and had become a Captain in the Red Army. His battalion arrived in Pyongyang just as the Soviets were looking for a suitable person who could assume a leading role in North Korea.

On October 13, 1945 the North Korea Bureau of the Communist Party of Korea was established. Though technically under the control of the Seoul-based party leadership, the North Korean Bureau was had little contact with Seoul and worked closely with the Soviet forces (termed the Soviet Civilian Authority). The first chairman of the Bureau was Kim Yong-bom who had been sent to Korea by the Comintern in the 1930s to conduct underground activity. Kim Il-sung was a member of the Bureau at its founding and replaced Kim Yong-bom as chairman in December, 1945. Official North Korean historians later disputed this, claiming that Kim Il-sung had become its chairman from the onset of the Bureau. Moreover, official North Korean sources claim that the meeting was held on October 10. October 10 is regarded as the 'Party Foundation Day' in North Korea, on which Kim Il-sung formed the first genuine Marxist-Leninist party in the country. Official North Korean historians tends seek to downplay the role of early communist leaders like Pak Hon-yong. Official North Korean sources claim that the name of the Bureau was changed to 'Organizational Committee of the Communist Party of North Korea' (often simply referred to as the 'Communist Party of North Korea').

On July 22, 1946, following a similar united front formula that was implemented in Eastern Europe after the Second World War, the North Korea Bureau joined with the New People's Party, the Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party (supporters of an influential religious movement) to form the North Korean Fatherland United Democratic Front.

Formations of separate Workers parties

On July 29, 1946 the New People's Party and the North Korea Bureau held a joint plenum of the Central Committees of both parties and agreed to merge into a single entity. A founding conference of the Workers Party of North Korea was held on August 28–30. Kim Tu-bong, the leader of the New People's Party, was elected Chairman of the party. Vice Chairmen of the party were Chu Nyong-ha and Kim Il-sung. At the time of establishment, the party is believed to have had about 366,000 members organized in around 12,000 party cells.

The merger of the North Korea Bureau of the Communist Party of Korea and the New People's Party can be seen as analogous to similar mergers taking place in Eastern Europe in the years following the Second World War, such as the formation of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and the Hungarian Working People's Party. The merger of the two parties was not uncomplicated. Between the two there were differences in terms of social background of cadres and ideological profiles. The New People's Party had a significant following of intellectuals whereas the Communist Party was mainly based amongst workers and peasants. Moreover, the Korean communists had been riddled by internal differences, and different communist fractions were present in the new unified party. At the time of the founding of the new party discussions emerged on the role of Marxism-Leninism as the ideological foundation of the party. At the inaugural congress of the party, Kim Il-sung stated that "…the Workers Party is a combat unit and the vanguard of the working masses. We must fight with our utmost to maintain the Party's purity, unity, and iron discipline. If we were to fight against the enemy without meeting these conditions within our ranks, it would be nothing less than folly.", arguing in favor of maintaining a Marxist-Leninist orientation.

The remainder of the Communist Party of Korea, still functioning in the southern areas, worked under the name of Communist Party of South Korea. The party merged with the New People's Party of South Korea and the fraction of the People's Party of Korea (the so-called forth-eighters), founding the Workers Party of South Korea on November 23, 1946.

The Workers Party of South Korea was outlawed by the U.S. occupation authorities, but the party organized a network of clandestine cells and was able to obtain a considerable following. It had around 360,000 party members. The clandestine trade union movement, the All Korea Labor Union was connected to the party. In 1947 the party initiated armed guerrilla struggle. As the persecution of party intensified, large sections of the party leadership moved to Pyongyang. The party was opposed to the formation of a South Korean state. In February–March 1948 it instigated general strikes in opposition to the plans to create a separate South Korean state. On April 3, 1948 the party led a popular uprising on Jeju island, against the unilateral declaration of the foundation of the Republic of Korea. In the suppression of the revolt, thousands of islanders were killed (see Jeju massacre).

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