February 21, 2024

How North Korea uses, abuses history

N. Korean historical hagiography puts even S. Korean nationalists to shame

One of the major features of North Korea’s official attitude toward history and, broadly speaking, all humanities is a very high level of politicization. In Medieval Europe, philosophy was frequently described as the “maidservant of theology.” In North Korea, history is, first and foremost, the maidservant of ideology – or, to be more frank, the perceived ideological needs of the current regime.

Politicization is not unknown to history studies worldwide, but in most cases even the most fervent politician-cum-historians usually focuses their zeal on more recent events. This is not the case in North Korea, where ancient history is also politicized to a remarkable degree, which probably is without parallel in the modern world.