The Cult That Is North Korea

Cultic Studies Review, Volume 1, Number 3, 2002, pages 292-308

The Cult That Is North Korea

Christopher M. Centner

Defense Intelligence Agency


World policymakers are puzzled by North Korea’s erratic and violent behavior, failing to understand that North Korea is not a traditional nation-state, but a cult that possesses territory. As a cult, North Korea needs to maintain tensions with the outside world and resist reforms that would seem to others as rationally necessary. Moreover, Pyongyang seems to be slipping more and more toward a totalistic cult model that mirrors the behavior of groups that have, in the past, used weapons of mass destruction, murdered outsiders, and committed group suicide. By viewing North Korea not as a rational nation-state but as a religious cult, policymakers will have a better model to understand and predict Pyongyang’s behavior Some attributes of South Korea’s Sunshine Policy appear to correctly focus on weakening Kim Jong Il’s absolute control over the North Korean population.

North Korea is a conundrum. Despite our best efforts, Pyongyang continues to strain regional stability. U.S. attempts to resolve disputes with dialogue and substantial aid only result in aggressive propaganda and continued confrontational responses. U.S. policy and indeed most nations’ policy toward North Korea are based upon the model of state-to-state relations. In this model, the two states, although possibly in conflict, bargain with one another to find areas of mutual gain. This “rationalist” model of foreign affairs typically works well in estimating how another state will react to actions and propositions. It fails with North Korea. North Korea does not adhere to agreements or international norms that most countries — even the most venal — consider important. It uses diplomatic immunity to smuggle drugs and counterfeit funds worldwide. It kidnaps foreigners and forces them into slavery. While children starve, Pyongyang sells food for hard currency and tests missiles designed to strike countries providing it the greatest amount of humanitarian aid. North Korea is a foreign policy puzzle for Japan and China as well. In every case, these countries have failed to find a way to reduce Pyongyang’s erratic behavior or bring it into the Community of Nations.

A new model to understand and predict North Korea’s seemingly erratic behavior is needed. Otherwise, the region will continue to spasm from crisis to crisis. The world will continue to attempt to placate and soothe a nation whose actions appear unpredictable and whose military capabilities threaten the region with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

North Korea remains an enigma because the wrong model is being used by policy-makers. North Korea does not behave in a manner consistent with a nation state. Instead, North Korea is, and behaves like, a violent religious cult that controls territory. If one wants to understand why North Korea behaves as it does, one must study not nation-state behavior but the behavior of other violent cults such as the Aum Shinrikyu, Peoples Temple, and others.

What is a Cult?

There are numerous definitions of “cult.” However, “cult,” in its most contemporary and psychological sense, typically refers to religious or philosophical organizations with specific identifiable attributes. A cult is a group or organization that exhibits singular devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing. While such a definition could encompass practically any single-purpose organization, cults employ organized manipulative techniques of persuasion and control designed to advance the goals of the groups’ leaders. These manipulative techniques of persuasion and control include, but are not limited to: isolation from society and family; information control and censorship; diminution of individuality or individual judgment; promotion of total dependency on the group; and the depiction of the outside world as evil and dangerous.[1]

North Korea As Compared to Cult Definitions

When compared to the attributes of a cult, North Korea slides easily into the definition. The country’s political doctrine, Juche (pronounced JOO-chay), is not communist, but instead “a quasi-mystical concept in which the collective will of the people is distilled into a supreme leader whose every act exemplifies the State and society’s needs. Opposition to such a leader, or to the rules, regulations, and goals established by his regime, is thus opposition to the national interest. The regime therefore claims a social interest in identifying and isolating all oppositions.”[2]

“Contrary to contemporary notions,” writes Thomas J. Belke, author of Juche: A Christian Study of North Korea’s State Religion, “Juche, which literally means ‘self reliance,’ is not just a North Korean version of Marxist atheist philosophy. Rather it is a highly developed religion — the eighth largest religion in the world in terms of numbers of adherents.” Surprisingly, however, almost no works about the Juche cult are available in the U.S. Of the more than 4.7 million books available through only four focus upon Juche; three of those are North Korean. In contrast, about 650 books address Mormonism, over 260 address Sikh beliefs, over 60 discuss Wicca, and nearly 60 address Shintoism.

Thus, despite the fact that Juche has, for good or ill, a significant impact upon national security, almost no effort is made to understand the faith. The danger posed by ignoring Juche can be demonstrated by comparing its attributes to cults and, in particular, violent cults. Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., psychologist and executive director of the American Family Foundation, created a checklist for individuals concerned that a particular organization may, in fact, be a cult. North Korea fits practically every attribute of the checklist:

[North Korea] is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment. North Korea is led by Kim Jong-Il, who seized and extended the personality cult created by his father and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-Sung. Kim junior is depicted as the world’s greatest leader, with supernatural powers and unparalleled capacities. An October 1995 North Korean press article stated that “the leader is not an individual, but the brain of the revolution, the center of unity, and the supreme person who represents the popular masses.” Kim is reputed to have written hundreds of books, all epic masterpieces. He can stop rain and predict the discovery of natural resources. He is brilliant, able to provide on-the-spot guidance to scientists and workers alike. Miraculous natural events demonstrate that even nature is on his side. As a toddler he smeared a map of Japan with black ink and caused a rainstorm to pummel Japan. “By a touch of Kim Jong-Il’s hand the sea turned into a fertile land and a deep valley into a paradise.”[3] Spring blossoms miraculously came into full bloom in October 1998, as Kim was proclaimed Secretary of the Workers’ Party of (North) Korea. This phenomenon, we are told, proved that nature also honors Kim Jong-Il.[4] In just two years, North Korea published over 300 poems and over 400 songs praising Kim Jong-Il.[5] Words and images link him and his father to ancient Korean mythology.

[North Korea] is preoccupied with bringing in new members. North Korea attempts to promote its cult across the globe. Worshipful groups exist in Russia, England, Australia, Japan, India, Bangladesh, Peru, Guinea, Vietnam, and in over 80 other countries.[6] Libraries in the developing world find themselves the destination for piles of tracts on Juche, a topic that has no practical utility to locals.

[North Korea] is preoccupied with making money. North Korea’s main emphasis in its foreign policy is the acquisition of hard currency. From ballistic missile sales to counterfeiting[7] and opium production.[8] Pyongyang focuses its organizational strength on accumulating hard currency which it then apparently uses for prestige construction projects and its war machine, not on development or food.

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. According to the U.S. Department of State, the North Korean government attempts to control all information. Internal media censorship is strictly enforced, and no deviation from the official government line is tolerated. The regime prohibits its citizens from listening to foreign media, and violators are severely punished. Radios and television sets receive only domestic broadcasts. The average North Korean cannot make or receive telephone calls to other nations. There is no Internet access available to the general North Korean public. All information feeds focus on Kim and his cult. There is no academic or artistic freedom. A principal function of plays, movies, operas, children’s performances, and books is to contribute to the cult of personality surrounding Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. Nearly every science paper in academic journals, from physics and math to fisheries research, begins with a quote from either Kim or his father. Indeed, it is considered a gross criminal act to throw away a picture of the “Great” or “Dear” Leaders.[9]

Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about [North Korea] and its leader(s). In her book, North Koreans in Japan: Language, Ideology, and Identity, Professor Sonia Ryang describes how North Korean education methods limit the conceptual and even linguistic options of Korean children. “Instead of understanding concepts and theories behind politics, children are provided rote chant-like responses to political questions, with no intellectual foundation to conceive of alternatives.”[10] A North Korean-English phrasebook contains such ditties as “I say the U.S. imperialists are wolves in human form!” and provides another name for North Korea: Juche.[11]

The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel. North Korean authorities can control virtually all aspects of citizens’ lives. The government dictates their schools, their movements outside their villages and even their residences. Some of these restrictions seemed to have broken down recently due to the famine.[12]

[North Korea] is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: The leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; [North Korea] and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity). North Korea claims that Juche is a new, advanced, and scientific ideology that will free the world finally of imperialism and reactionism — that is, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan.

For the first time, the movement for the transformation of the world began to achieve new developments on the track toward independence, thanks to the immortal Juche idea which completely clarified the road to realize independence for the popular masses, countries and nations, and now with the 21st century just around the corner, the movement to make the world independent has entered a new stage of development.[13]

[North Korea] has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society. North Korea sees itself at war with imperialism in the forms of Japan and the U.S. “The abominable cruelties committed by the U.S. imperialist aggression troops still make our people burn in their hearts with indignation and resolve firmly to take revenge on the enemy.”[14] North Korea persistently claims Tokyo has not ended its drive to claim all of Asia. "The Japanese reactionaries' preoccupation is to realize their dream of 'Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere' which they failed to do in the past," the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Their move to deploy those [refueling] aircraft is a green light for reinvasion of Korea. Japanese militarists' comeback to Korea is in the offing. But, this can never frighten the DPRK. The Japanese reactionaries' war hysteria will only lead them to self-destruction. [15]

[North Korea’s] leader is not accountable to any authorities. Kim Jong-Il is a divine leader of North Korea, son of a divine leader Kim Il-Song. Kim has no entity or organization to whom he is answerable. As Korea Today states: “All the people should become absolute worshippers, resolute defenders and thorough executors of Kim Jong-Il’s ideas....”[16]

So it goes. Juche and the worship of Kim Jong-Il match almost perfectly with those attributes expected to be found in a cult. Where U.S. policy is addressed to a governmental counterpart, it is received by an organization more akin to the Aum Shinrikyu or the Solar Temple. Indeed, the most oppressive nations imaginable — Iraq or Libya, for instance — do not control their people, have such singular spiritual purpose, or match as many cultic attributes as North Korea. Aside from its possession of territory, it is a radical religious group, not a nation-state.

North Korea As a Totalist Cult — Nation-State Vs. People’s Temple

While identifying and treating North Korea as a cult rather than a country might help the U.S. to better formulate and execute an effective foreign policy, a further step is necessary to determine whether the cult is potentially violent. Violent cults typically have the most extreme of attributes seen in moderate cults. To these attributes is added a focus upon and preparation for death, major upheaval, or violence.[17]

Each violent or suicidal cult focuses upon a forthcoming fierce upheaval and prepares for the event. In Tokyo, the Aum Shinrikyu gassed innocents because they believed that if they started World War III, it would ultimately ensure their rebirth and salvation. In California, Heaven’s Gate, the cult led by Marshall Applewhite, focused violence inward through castration and eventually collective suicide. In Guyana’s jungles in 1978, People’s Temple leader Jim Jones ordered hundreds of his followers to swallow a suicide cocktail of cyanide-spiked Kool-Aid. His loyal guards, armed with guns and arrows, stood at the edge of the crowd threatening any resisters. They had practiced for that day, a day justified by Jones’ hallucinatory view of the world, wherein his flock faced an imminent attack by evil mercenaries.[18] In a French Alps cottage in 1995, two Order of the Solar Temple members shot and killed 16 adherents before setting fire to the bodies and killing themselves. Mass murder and suicide were justified in the minds of the group leader, Luc Jouret, as an escape from an evil world that would soon be destroyed.[19] Weapons were at the ready to carry out this plot.

Again, North Korea matches the pattern of the most violent cults. For years, Kim Jong-Il has directed massive resources to the military, despite the nationwide famine. Resource constraints and a faltering of its economic partners have not reduced the North’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, since Kim Jong-Il took power, military officials have moved steadily up the North’s government hierarchy. The entire country transformed into a fortress, with massive underground facilities built to withstand the forthcoming Armageddon. Most disturbingly, North Korean propaganda is calculated to create a population eager for war, revenge, and mass suicidal attacks world-wide. Korea Today states,

All the KPA officers and men are full of the fighting spirit and vigor to give an annihilating blow to the aggressors and make them forlorn wandering spirits.... The U.S. imperialist aggressors should be mindful that this planet will never exist without Korea.... If they finally unleash a war, our People’s Army will blow up the U.S. territory as a whole and demonstrate the mettle of the great Marshal Kim Jong-Il’s army, the strongest in the world.[20] There is no sanctuary on the planet to escape the North’s unlimited, relentless strike on this planet.[21]

DPRK troops are exhorted to defend Kim, Juche’s cult leader, “at the cost of their lives, whatever storm may blow.”[22] Self-destructive phrases such as “the spirit of human bombs and of suicidal attack” have become common and repetitive propaganda themes since Kim took power. The Korean Central News Agency, for instance, explained that “Our People’s Army is replete with the spirit of resolutely safeguarding the leader, the spirit of human bombs and the spirit of suicidal attack.”[23] Korean People’s Army soldiers sing songs such as “Ten Million Will Become Human Bombs.”[24] Oratorical contest participants call upon North Korean Youth League officials to fulfill their obligations in preparing North Korea’s youth to be human bombs.[25] The phrasing clearly indicates soldiers and children are indoctrinated to pledge their lives to Kim, to make suicidal attacks in defense of his person. These suicidal attacks appear to be envisioned as a certain means to victory in the final conflict with imperialism:

All our people, more than 20 million, have firm faith and will; [we are] ready to become human bombs for your sake. This reminds me of the meaning of our party’s optimistic slogan “Let us see who will be the final winner. Victory is ours.”[26]

With such religious fervor, it is possible that Kim could command his followers to defend him even if North Korea is not actually threatened by outside forces.

The Rational Actor That Never Was

Our current foreign policy appears predicated on a North Korean rational actor that may not exist. Even recent policy reviews[27] on how to handle North Korea assume a rational, “calculating” Pyongyang counterpart — even though previous policies based upon that assumption have failed. When examining our policy with North Korea from a cultic perspective, the reasons why policy has not succeeded appear far more obvious. Our policy appears grounded upon the concept that Kim Jong-Il is a con artist who merely uses Juche and the cult of personality to accrue power and wealth. This viewpoint ignores the evidence that the Juche cult is preparing for an Apocalypse, one that it might set off at any moment. Policymakers do not appear to consider the possibility that he actually believes himself to be a god. Thus, a policy to reduce regional tensions while ensuring North Korea understands that it would lose any conflict may easily fail. Soothing words from outside are calls to violence: Kim and North Korea use conflict with the outside world to maintain North Korean isolation and strong cult cohesion. For Kim Jong-Il conciliatory responses and attempts to reduce tensions by the U.S. must be met with hostility and overt aggression by the North.

Many in the U.S. believe Kim Jong-Il is unlikely to unleash a war he patently cannot win. But Kim’s calculations may be irrational. What objective information does he have to formulate a rational policy? The North declares him beyond all other humans: “Human history records many distinguished thinkers and military commanders, but there is no parallel to His Excellency Marshal Kim Jong-Il both in art and military affairs.”[28] He is a god, and one does not furnish gods unfavorable intelligence, or tell them their goals cannot be achieved. He knows he is the master of a great crusade opposing imperialism and that he has suicide squads with fanatic acolytes. If war should come, surely there would be global convocation to the crusade. Certainly, the spiritual strength of the Korean masses would overwhelm the corrupt imperialists and their reactionary lackeys. And, if North Korea should be threatened with extinction, then Japan, the U.S., and their puppets will expire with them. Kim’s calculations may be as clear as those of other violent cult leaders: Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Marshall Applewhite. Cults are dangerous because the threat dynamics are internal, not external. They are driven by the perceptions of a leadership that might interpret mundane events as cosmic signs for action. Thus, rock lyrics, congressional visits, and even comets have triggered murder and suicides. It is therefore unlikely that U.S. policy can stave off similar acts by North Korea; the triggering events for such catastrophes may be unidentifiable and irrational.

The U.S. has attempted to negotiate with North Korea on nuclear and missile issues, but if the cultic model holds, these efforts face formidable obstacles to success. Agreements with cults are transitory, and cease as new revelations make the agreements invalid. For North Korea, weapons are seen as essential not for deterrence, but as tools for final confrontation. When signing the 1994 Agreed Framework that froze North Korea’s nuclear activities at Yongbyon, the U.S. apparently hoped North Korea would either collapse or reform before its nuclear program would mature. It has done neither. Cults do not collapse so predictably.

It is unlikely that, given the current leadership of Kim, North Korea will soon join the list of respectable nations. The cult he runs needs conflict to maintain its identity. It must destroy South Korea and humiliate Japan and the United States. Even if peaceful unification was possible under the banner of Juche, the bloodbath to purge Southern apostates would likely dwarf the genocide that stained Cambodia or even Nazi Germany. Actions taken to prop up the North Korean regime — by food aid and other financial incentives — are unlikely by themselves to soften the North’s ideological fanaticism: Aid might only extend the window in which a suicidal crusade could come to pass.

A New Foreign Policy

A new and effective foreign policy for North Korea must start with the premise that Pyongyang is a cultic state. Refocused intelligence and academic research is needed before detailed policies can be recommended. Traditional approaches and policies are unlikely to be appropriate, much less effective, when facing a cult-run enemy nation. Foreign policy strategies that have been used to avoid war successfully in the past — such as political concessions, arms control, financial rewards, economic cooperation, and personal inducements — may not only be inapplicable to North Korea but unrealistic, given Pyongyang’s fundamentally hostile worldview and its fanatical, resolutely uncompromising Kim-focus doctrine. Some guides to a new and more effective North Korean foreign policy may be available by studying past U.S. experience with cult organizations, and by studying religious terrorists. In the case of the U.S. failure to successfully negotiate with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, the FBI was criticized for treating the cult leader as a “self-interested, perverted, self-indulgent personality who had conned these people.” However, the FBI retorted that Koresh believed he was the sacrificed Lamb of God who would lead them through the tribulations, and that Koresh remained in total control of the negotiations. The FBI simply could not find a successful method to negotiate with a religious fanatic who could break agreements by a revelation.[29]

Koresh, and the other cult leaders, remained in control of the timing, methods and actions of their followers during each bloody incident. In North Korea’s case, the “Dear Leader” has controlled North Korea’s internal dynamics; the method and timing of his international escapades; the pace of the resulting negotiations with the U.S., South Korea, and Japan; and other aspects of his environment. In any confrontation between Juche and the world, Kim will always attempt to maintain total control. If Kim believes that confrontation threatens the loss of internal control, it is possible that he will retreat to consolidate his influence and reestablish authority. Control is his primary weapon, both internally and externally. Dr. Langone noted that during the siege at Waco there was only one psychological profile that actually mattered: that of David Koresh. “The idiosyncrasies and possible mental instability of a cult leader can make the behavior of the entire group as unpredictable as the leader’s own personality.” Dr. Langone’s statement suggests that the State Department should pay particular attention to the psychology of Kim, and remain very sensitive to the unpredictability factor.

South Korea and Sunshine Against Juche and Kim Jong-Il

Very little is written on how to diminish the threat of cults, or how to reform them toward peace. Many beneficial contemporary religions and several social movements began their existence as cults, but evolved into main-stream movements. It is possible that North Korea and Juche will do the same. But North Korea, Kim, and Juche all exist as a counterpoint to South Korea and its allies. If North Korea could accept South Korea, its existence would no longer make sense. To compromise is to die. North Korea’s rhetoric and ideology does not appear to permit it to go gently into that good night. If death is the only option, Kim may try to take South Korea, the U.S., and Japan with him.

One possible policy option is to focus efforts on the North Korean citizenry rather than the governmental leadership. Some research indicates how, and why, individuals withdraw from cults. Individuals leave cults when they become less isolated from the larger society; as intimate contacts become less regulated; as individuals see less urgency in regulation of their time, lifestyle, and behavior; when individuals perceive the cult is failing the group it is supposed to support; and when individuals see the leadership as less exemplary.[30]

Interestingly, there are some aspects to South Korea’s Sunshine Policy that appear to consider these conditions. Many of Kim Dae-jung’s policy goals focus on ways to increase contacts between Koreans rather than improving relations with the regime. These policies could weaken cult cohesion and control. The more North Koreans are exposed to South Korean tourists, the less dominion Pyongyang has on the population’s perception of the South. The more families are united, the less Pyongyang has an ability to isolate its people. Even Seoul’s outreach to Koreans in Japan will help break the Juche-based isolation of the pro-Northern faction. Meanwhile, South Korea has shown that Northern military provocations will not be tolerated. Seoul is also creating what the Juche cult only promises: a powerful and proud Korean people who are respected across the world.

Other policy options are available. Juche stripped to the bone is a rather simple philosophy. A schism, or “reformation” of Juche by Koreans outside of North Korea could attack the most dangerous attribute of the cult: Kim’s right to lead. Indeed, Kim Jong-Il’s consistent failure to provide for his people — and his fixation on military development — has led to hunger, economic collapse, and suffering. He has failed to meet his followers’ needs, and should be held accountable by those who support Juche worldwide. Hwang Jang-yop, the North Korean who defected in 1997 and who had helped to formulate Juche, may be quite helpful in re-aligning the international movement toward a more constructive and peaceful direction.

Kim Jong-Il obviously looks to the military as his greatest asset. Any time that asset is weakened, as when South Korea responded powerfully to North Korean naval incursions, Kim himself is weakened. Front organizations that serve North Korea’s goals worldwide also need attention. Kim Jong-Il has focused his country on acquiring science and technology. Since he is obsessed with strengthening his armed forces, it is unlikely the acquisition of any advanced technology by front organizations would serve the interests of world peace.

Seoul’s creative policy maneuvers are worthy of U.S. study. However, both South Korea and the U.S. must incorporate within their respective consultative bodies experts in cultic studies, and those experienced in negotiating with violent or suicidal cults. And both countries must ensure that Kim is exposed to the outside world and pushed into reality. The Korean People’s Army soldiers make suicidal pledges to him. Kim controls the military and its devastating weapons. As long as the personality cult of Kim remains — as long as he is a god — and as long as Kim remains isolated from reality, violence and mass bloodshed could occur at his whim.

Victory! Then What?

The end of the Juche cult will not end problems in Korea. The North Korean post-unification citizens will need guidance and support. When a regimented culture collapses, people often search for other organized ideologies to fill the void. Rampant Korean nationalism and expansionism may become near-term threats. Some evidence suggests that former cult members in the U.S. have been able to transition into regular society by joining mainstream religious groups that provide structure and personal support. Christianity and Buddhism are the largest religions in South Korea. Buddhists, Evangelicals, and other supportive mainstream religions should prepare to provide the philosophical and emotional support the North Koreans will need in a post-cult world.

North Korea may be an extreme cult case, but it will likely not be the last. The world is now connected with communications means that permit the creation of instant ideologies. Ideas, good or ill, are shared worldwide in the wink of an eye. Internet and other modern means of connectivity permit people to immerse themselves into a world of like-minded individuals. Cut off voluntarily from alternative views, they are the rich soil where new and dangerous cults will likely germinate.

Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2002, Page


Michael D. Langone, Ph.D. (Ed.), Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1993), pp. 4-5.

[2] U.S. Department of State, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998.

(hereafter cited as DPRK Human Rights Report 1998).

[3] “Personality Cult of Kim Jong-Il,” Koreascope, 1998. Reposted at:

[4] "Mysterious Natural Phenomena Continue," Korean Central News Agency, October 7, 1997,

[5] “Personality Cult of Kim Jong-Il.”

[6] Thomas J. Belke, Juche: A Christian Study of North Korea’s State Religion (Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice Book Company, 1999), p. 192.

[7] “DPRK Dollar Strong As Ever.” Chosun Ilbo, Seoul, November 6, 1998. Reprinted by Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network,

[8] “North Korea on a Global Crime Spree: U.S. News,” Korea Times, February 7, 1999. Reprinted by Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network.

[9] DPRK Human Rights Report 1998.

[10] Sonia Ryang, North Koreans in Japan: Language, Ideology, and Identity (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996).

[11] Simon Bone, “Happy Birthday Kim Il Song,” September 1998,

[12] DPRK Human Rights Report 1998.

[13] Kim Jong Il: The Lodestar of 21st Century,

[14] Kwon Hyok Choi, “Sinchon Indicts Murderous U.S. Imperialists,” Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Number 7, Juche 88 (1999), p. 7. The North Koreans use the birth year of Kim Il-Sung as the beginning of their calendar. Oddly, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) website is organized internally in the traditional calendar, not the Northern one.

[15] " Japan's Moves To Deploy Airborne Refueling Aircraft Denounced," Korean Central News Agency, January 13, 2001.

[16] “Editorial Calls for Letting this Year Mark Turningpoint in Building Powerful Nation,” Korea Today, Number 3, Juche 88 (1999), p. 5.

[17] Louis Jolyon West and Paul R. Martin, “Pseudo-Identity and the Treatment of Personality Change in Victims of Captivity and Cults.” From Dissociation: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives, posted on

[18] Chris Baden, Preventing Violence by Religious Cults: An Intelligence Community Role? Non-published thesis, Joint Military Intelligence College, August 1996, p. 27.

[19] Ibid., p. 26.

[20] “Annihilating Blow Will Be Given,” Korean Central News Agency, December 3, 1998,

[21] “Aggressors Cannot Escape Destruction,” Korea Today, Number 3, Juche 88 (1999), p. 32.

[22] “Young Soldiers Take Oath on Mt. Paektu,” Korean Central News Agency, August 26, 1998,

[23] United States Must Clearly Know its Opponent — Military Commentator’s Article, Korean Central News Agency, December 4, 1998.

[24] “Kim Jong Il sees performance of KPA merited chorus,” Korean Central News Agency, September 9, 1999,

[25] “Youth Day Observed,” Korean Central News Agency, August 27, 1999,

[26] "Letter to G.S. Kim Jong Il from War Veteran," Korean Central News Agency, February 17, 1998,

[27] William J. Perry, “Review of United States Policy Toward North Korea: Findings and Recommendations,” unclassified report, October 12, 1999,

[28] “Renowned Military Strategist,” Korea Today, Number 10, Juche 87 (1998), p. 11.

[29] “FBI Got It Wrong, Says Expert,” Psychiatric News, June 21, 1996,

[30] Stuart A. Wright, Leaving Cults: The Dynamics of Defection (Washington, DC: Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Monograph Series, No. 7, 1987), pp. 14-17.


Reprinted with permission from Strategic Review, Spring 2000, United States Strategic Institute, Boston. Minor editing changes have been made to the original.

Christopher M. Centner is a senior intelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has had numerous assignments in the Intelligence Community involving chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, and combined arms analysis. He is a graduate of the Joint Military Intelligence College in Washington, D.C., and of Auburn University at Montgomery, where he received a masters’ degree in political science.