I've read a book on North Korea and watched a couple documentaries and this article doesn't jive with my understanding of North Korea. Which makes sense to me, by the way. I'm also not sure that the way to clarity about something you don't understand is through an overly-brief, overly-simplistic analogy to something else you don't understand.
Japanese imperialism was a reaction to Western imperialism and mercantilism. The Japanese looked around and noticed that you were either a peer of the European powers or a colony thereof. Japan mandated western dress and western culture in order to assimilate on their own terms; the drive to unite the Pacific rim under their banner was a (fascist, racist) attempt to thwart European dominance of Southeast Asia on Japanese terms. They were hardly alone; Ho Chi Minh worked as a waiter during the Versailles peace talks just to pick up pointers (having been resoundingly ignored by the Western powers as a representative of Vietnam).
Which doesn't really have anything to do with North Korea. North Korea was occupied by Japan and then the Soviets; China has long been more of an ally than the Soviet Union. Which would make you look at powers like Cuba for parallels, not Japan; Japan was never a vassal state of anyone. More importantly, North Korea fought off the greatest military force in the world and won on their home ground. That is at the heart of the North Korean philosophy - North Korea is a giant killer, alone in a world that wishes them harm. It's a siege mentality. Under siege, people align with leaders that get things done and the Kim dynasty provides those leaders. Kim Il-sung understood this and crafted a cult of personality around himself, same as Stalin, same as David Koresh, same as Jim Jones.
That is the key to understanding North Korea - it's a bastion of survivors constantly under siege by superior forces that it nonetheless keeps at bay through resolve, strength and superior attitude. North Korea's secret weapon is that it is led by the best human beings who ever lived, the leaders that preserve North Korea from destruction against all odds. Morale is the most important thing and any attempts to undermine that morale are a mortal threat to all free North Koreans.
Imperial Japan wasn't monolithic. It was a political party that took control and declared marshal law but its opposition was silent, not brainwashed out of existence. By contrast, North Korea is pretty much a country-wide cult at this point, and treats dissent in much the same way that any cult does.
And they have nukes.