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Rituals of Decolonization: The Role of Inner-Migrant Intellectuals in North Korea, 1948-1967


This study is an attempt to break away from Juche sasang ("ideology of self-reliance") as the master framework to explain North Koran particularities, such as "ethnocentric nationalism," "authoritarianism," and "dynastic rule." Instead, I employ a historical framework of decolonization to examine how North Korean postcoloniality has been shaped within the multiple contexts of socialism, division, and the Cold War. While conceptualizing colonial-era intellectuals, who chose the North over the South after liberation as "inner-migrant" intellectuals within the larger context of the ideologically divided intellectual communities of the Cold War era, I define "inner-migrant" intellectuals as postcolonial socialist intelligentsias. They were at the heart of the state's decolonization project, which was to shape state policies and sociocultural articulations of national identity.

Each of the chapters strategically utilizes of the four key words--ritual, rationale, ambition, and allure--as tropes to demonstrate the universal and particular postcolonial features of North Korea. The introductory chapter metaphorically uses the term "ritual" to define decolonization as the attempts by North Korean intellectuals to discursively wash away colonial remnants and revive a national essence. The first chapter discusses the term "rational" as part of North Korea's postcolonial objectives to produce a decolonized knowledge of Choso−n minjok and to build a new socialist state with the ultimate goal of creating a unified Communist nation through examining the semiotic functions of Choso−n minsokhak (ethnography). The second chapter investigates North Korea's postcolonial ambition to become a leader anti-imperial internationalism while defining the North Korean travel ocherk (a Soviet style of literary sketch) in the 1950s as an anti-imperial internationalist praxis. More specifically, this chapter focuses on how North Korean intellectuals' creation of the imaginative geography of the socialist bloc generated anti-imperialism as the ideological norm of internationalism. The third and final chapter investigates how the postcolonial desire of former KAPF [Korean Artists Proletarian Federation] members to create a decolonized patriotic nation is reflected in the discourse of KAPF and Kim Il Sung anti-Japanese struggle. Through utilizing the term "allure" as North Korean intellectuals' desire to create a decolonized patriotic nation, this chapter delineates how their postcolonial allure led them to place great value on the narrative of Kim Il Sung's anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle, which later became the root of the Juche ideology.

In sum, "Rituals of Decolonization" offers three contributions. By historicizing the cultural activities of inner-migrant intellectuals from before and during decolonization, it introduces a new approach to the cultural-intellectual history of North Korea and expands upon Cold War cultural scholarship on the inter-cultural networks that shaped the socio-cultural identities of states in the former socialist bloc. At the same time, this study's emphasis on North Korea's postcolonial trajectory within the context of the socialist system broadens the scope of postcolonial studies, which has mainly focused on the continued links between colonies and empires after the end of formal colonial relationships.

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