Korea

Organized Panel Session

4 - Adorning Our Country with Beauty: Thematic Shifts in North Korean Fiction since the Third Generation Leadership Transition

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Park Tower 8216, Lobby Level

This paper analyzes changing trends in North Korea’s state-produced fiction publishing since the third-generation successor was announced in 2010. While many enduring themes from the established model of suryŏng hyŏngsanghwa (leadership idolization) continue, newer stories show an increased emphasis on themes of youthful potential, creativity, flexibility, modernity, beautification of cityscapes, leisure and sports for the people, and the advent of the “age of art and beauty.” This represents a subtle shift from the songun-era emphases on traditional wisdom, cultural purity, stoicism, military heroism, and personal morality reform. There is also evidence of a gradual shift in settings, both temporally (away from revolutionary history and toward the modern era) and spatially (away from the hinterland and toward the capital). North Korean fiction is the product of one of the most elaborate state-controlled mechanisms of creative production in the world today, the true successor of Zhdanovism. As such, it can provide no insight into domestic popular demands or attitudes, but it does provides a window into the regime’s changing priorities and concerns, as well as the messages and lessons it wishes to impart to the domestic audience. The selection of short stories from literary magazines is supported by survey research of North Korean refugees living in Seoul, which provides some insight into changing patterns in literary consumption over time.

Meredith Shaw

University of Southern California, California

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4 - Adorning Our Country with Beauty: Thematic Shifts in North Korean Fiction since the Third Generation Leadership Transition



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