December 07, 2023

A kinder, gentler North Korea? How the DPRK’s popular culture embraced humanism

Amid unprecedented hardships, several films and dramas promoted a surprising spirit of acceptance and forgiveness

Recent years have seen a tightening of ideological control in North Korea, from propaganda campaigns warning of harsh penalties for possession of foreign media to a crackdown on “abuse of power.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and related economic hardships appear to have driven North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to demand ever-greater shows of loyalty and purity. Interestingly, however, another period of intense suffering in the DPRK led to a different message, at least as delivered through cultural works.