Hwang Sohee (Ph.D candidate in Political Science, Yonsei University) If you read the literature of North Korea, you often see the leader, ruling political party and people referred to as a family: the leader as a father, the party as a mother, and the people as their children. This family relationship framework of the leadership, the party and the people has been a key factor to maintain North Korea’s political system since Korea was divided. Even if one tried by propaganda and instigation to change the North Korean people’s idea of leader as father and party as mother, if the North Korean people felt resentment about it, then it would be difficult to sustain instilled consciousness over the long term. The North Korean family conception became actualized as policy over the course of sustaining the state system since the Korean War. During the war, all the infrastructure of the northern part of Korea was destroyed and countless children were orphaned. At the time, the North Korean leader, Chairman Kim Il Sung, regarded himself as a father to these children. He founded national childcare centers and supported them both physically and spiritually. A notable example is the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School, an organization which took responsibility for the descendants of those who performed meritorious deeds and died in the war. To this day it is a cradle for the North Korean elite. Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in the 1950sⓒThe Academy of Korean Studies The party is represented as caring for the people like a mother’s embrace, especially in order to revolutionize the role of women and families. The party build public kitchen in each neighborhood and provided meals for households, took care of toddlers in daycare centers, etc., reducing mothers’ housekeeping roles so that mothers could enter the workforce. Such policies demonstrate how the party involved care even in North Korea’s smallest unit of society- the family. Policy goal: maintain the system I explained the plan and enactment of North Korea’s social welfare policies according to the concept of the state’s parental role in order to explain how such slogans and policies have played a crucial role to maintain the North Korean system since the war. The family concept is a policy to bind together the North Korean leader, the party, and the people as one community and increase the loyalty of the individuals, but you could also say from the perspective of national strategy that it was a method to reduce the deviance rate of North Korean citizens. In a time when both South and North Korea were making immeasurable efforts to rebuilt from the ashes of the war, each regime chose a different path of state system. In case of North Korea, as I have just mentioned, the regime and the system had a big hand with policies that even regulated the sphere of family life, while in South Korea, although the government planned and engaged in the overall national economic development, it chose to leave the costs to the market and to the individuals. For instance, to the extent that the South Korean government would come to be criticized for “exporting children,” the government addressed the issue of war orphans through large-scale international adoption and drastically cut spending on social welfare, leaving household work entirely to the women. When, by chance, women engaged in economic activity, they had to make private arrangements, relying on their mothers (so-called 'chinjeong-chance') or other family and friends to care for their children at home. The end of ideological thinking Actually, government policies were frequently debated in South Korean society according to the frame of ‘communist thinking.’ A recent and representative example is the argue that universal basic income does not fit into a capitalist free-market economy. Though they are now considered to be universal, whether or not to implement free school meals was the subject of much debate. Before moving on, I’d like to point out that policies and ideas that were considered “commie-like” by our society have become present-day issues in which the state must take interest. Children graduating from preschool ⓒ Shutterstock Korea For instance, the thing that working moms nowadays consider most necessary is high quality public daycare. The need is so great that in order to register for a public daycare center, a reservation must be made as soon as a child is born. Working mothers are calling for the expansion of a collective childcare system, like the North Korean system, and their current insecurities are demonstrated by the low birth rate. Thus, in order to reverse the ever-decreasing birth rate of South Korea, the government has increased the number of public childcare facilities, and in areas where that is difficult, it is providing subsidies to private daycare centers to raise publicity. Already the national policy of South Korea is heading in the direction of increased spending on social welfare. Although the national economy is growing, there is no growth in employment. This is because the pie is not divided equally and there is increasing income disparity. It means that no matter which political party is in power, no matter which politician takes office, only the scale and timing are different, but the trend of increased spending on social welfare and government involvement in the private sphere will continue. This move by Korean society, which once criticized North Korean welfare policies and viewed them with ideological enmity, to gradually follow suit with such policies has many implications. Above all, South Korea has already surpassed the point where it must break free of ideological debate and establish a flexible policy stance. We have reached an era in which it is difficult for terms like ‘socialist thinking’, ‘communist thinking’, and ‘thinking that runs counter to market logic’ to be in common use. Even more interesting is that in North Korea too, the market, which has been criticized as the ‘yellow wind (corrupting influence) of capitalism’, has now established itself in everyday life. It has become difficult for the systems of both the South and the North to resolve real problems through the established method of ideology-driven systemic competition. After criticizing and vilifying the other’s policies, now the South Korean government must embrace them in order to stop population decline, and North Korea is able to develop its under-developed economy which has long been in crisis. Such a phenomenon suggests that we must consider inter-Korean relations with more flexible thinking and consider what policies are needed to meet the needs of contemporary South Korean society. Ideological thinking and arguing are no longer required on the Korean peninsula.