The North Korean leadership cult is a consequence of decades of state efforts to idealize the state founder Kim Il Sung and his successors Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. It is evident that the cult has been developed in a way that reflects the wishes of the North Korean leaders. Kim Il Sung’s desire for absolute power, Kim Jong Il’s desire to succeed his father, and Kim Jong Un’s hopes of maintaining the system of dynastic rule have been the main driving forces behind the leadership cult. The leaders have not only been the main guardians of the cult, but also have become the priests presiding over the cult’s activities. This leadership cult has played a pivotal role in making North Korea a

“leader state.” Leader symbols have been at the center of the cult, while other symbols are found at the periphery. This chapter examines the historical development of the leadership cult, the use of cult symbols, and the cult activities undertaken. It also analyzes how the cults of Kim Il Sung and his family members have affected North Korea’s leadership succession, revealing how the state’s underlying succession logic was generated at the very institutionalization of the cult. Intensive cult activities on the part of its leaders have strengthened the

religious character of North Korean society, which can be defined as religious if the term is characterized from a broad perspective. Emile Durkheim argues that the existence of an immortal god is not critical in defining whether something is or is not a religion. He maintains:

The only characteristic that all religious ideas and sentiments share equally seems to be that they are common to a certain number of people living together, and that they are also normally very intense. It is, indeed, a universal fact that, when a conviction of any strength is held by the same community of men, it inevitably takes on a religious character. It inspires in men’s minds the same reverential respect as beliefs which are properly religious. It is, thus, very probable – this brief exposition, of course, is not rigorous proof – that religion corresponds to an equally very central area of the conscience collective.