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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Specters of War in Pyongyang: The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in North Korea


While North Korea accused South Korea of starting a “civil war” (naeran) during the Korean War, it has now moved away from such depictions to paint the war as an American war of imperialist aggression against Korea that was victoriously thwarted under the leadership of Kim Il Sung. In this regard, it may be more than a coincidence that the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang was built in the early 1970s, just as the Vietnam War drew to a close with a Vietnamese victory. This article examines the memorialization of the Korean War in North Korea at two pivotal historical points—the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s and the end of the Cold War in the 1990s—with a particular focus on contemporary exhibitions at the war museum in Pyongyang. Rather than offering a simple comparison of divergent narratives about the war, the article seeks to illustrate that North Korea’s conception of history and its account of the war are staunchly modernist, with tragic consequences. Keywords: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea, Korean War, Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

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