Total, Thus Broken: Chuch’e Sasang and North Korea’s Terrain of Subjectivity

  • Cheehyung Kim
Part of the Mass Dictatorship in the Twentieth Century book series (MASSD)


Vinalon (vinylon) is a textile fibre made from the common chemical compound polyvinyl alcohol. In North Korea it is often called chuch’e som, or ‘cotton of self-reliance’. Vinalon was so named due to its place in North Korea’s history as a home-grown product that relieved the dire need for textiles in the post-Korean War period. Recently, this most independent fibre made a comeback in North Korea, when the February Eight Vinalon Complex — the factory where vinalon was first produced, back in 1961 — reopened in 2010 after a 16-year-long hiatus that began as North Korea’s state-socialist economy collapsed in the mid-1990s. During his visit to the factory in February 2010 to provide ‘on-the-spot guidance’ (made famous by his father), Kim Jong II (Kim Chŏngil) called the factory the model of chuch’e kongŏp (industry of self-reliance) because its workers had ‘revived the dying factory with their indomitable will’.1 His visit made the front page of Rodong Sinmun, the main party newspaper, and in the newspaper’s multiday coverage, the word chuch’e is mentioned numerous times in reference to vinalon, the factory, and the workers. The word describes not only things but also people: the fabric of self-reliance can come only from the hands of indomitably willed workers.


Public Sphere Subject Position Private Sphere Socialist Revolution Black Panther Party 
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© Cheehyung Kim 2013

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  • Cheehyung Kim

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