February 25, 2024

Just war? How North Korea portrayed the Korean War

Early depictions of the conflict emphasized stoic bravery in the face of the "Yankee" invaders

One of the biggest shocks North Korean defectors receive when undergoing their post-arrival training in Hanawon center is the news that the Korean War (1950-1953) was started by the North Korean side, not by the American warmongers. This information may sound trivial to outsiders, yet it blows apart the very foundation of the officially endorsed picture of the world which North Koreans are taught from birth.

Along with the theme of liberation, the Korean War is a cornerstone of North Korean nation-building mythology. It is notable, however, that the patterns of this mythology have not been immutable: they experienced some significant alterations in the course of the development of North Korean ideology.