May 25, 2024

Heaven and Hell: South Korea in North Korean propaganda of the ’70s

In these films, North Korea is an idealistic heaven on earth - and the South is corrupt and backward

The early narrative in North Korean culture about South Korea was formed around the belief that the separation of the Korean peninsula was merely a historical aberration which would soon be corrected. Following this idea, North Korean authors portrayed Koreans on both sides of the peninsula as virtually the same fervent Communists, longing for unification under the auspices of Great Leader. Any other inhabitants of Korea were either omitted or dismissed as “Seoul puppets.”

However, by the 1960s it became clear that unification under Pyongyang was to be delayed for an indefinite time. North Korean propaganda did not profoundly change this line, but added more vivid color to its depiction of their Southern brothers. In the renewed discourse, Southerners were weak and victimized, in comparison to their robust Northern brothers thriving under the protection of the Great Leader. The embodiment of this idea came in a popular feature film: "Fate of Kum Hui and Un Hui" (1975).

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