December 06, 2023

Why North Korean history fixates on wars, invasions and peasant rebellions

Textbooks depict Joseon-era Korea as a feudal society in need of revolution that nonetheless repelled foreign invaders

It’s well-established that North Korean propaganda seeks to draw a straight line from the ancient Korean kingdoms of Koryo and Goguryeo to the modern Kim family. Pyongyang believes presenting Kim Jong Un as the present-day heir of a millennia-old dynasty helps establish his legitimacy to rule over the entire Korean Peninsula.

But North Korean propagandists are more reticent about the connective tissue of unified Korea’s longest-lasting dynasty, Joseon (1392-1910). A typical middle school history textbook published in 2017 and devoted entirely to the Joseon era presents a good snapshot of the way the country sees this era.