North Korea’s official history emphasizes the indigenousness and autonomy of the North’s state formation process. Meanwhile, scholars from outside present the North as a satellite or a puppet. This article takes the middle ground and argues that the North’s regime formation is best understood as the outcome of the interactions between Kim Il Sung (Kim Ilsŏng)–led communists and the Soviet occupation forces. The North Korean government of the mid- to late-1950s criticized Soviet interference as “modern revisionism” and set a principle of “let’s do things our way.” The Soviet Union criticized the North Korean measures as “anti-Soviet” and as “promotion of nationalism, ” but the North Korean government was finding its own ideology, theory, and methods. North Korea decided to “not live today for today, but to live today for tomorrow. ” North Korea also diverged significantly from the USSR and China, especially in its party structure and its leadership system. As a result, North Korea developed a unique system, different from those of other Eastern European socialist states. The historical process of the North’s state formation sheds light on why it did not collapse with Eastern European communist states or the Soviet Union.

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