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Open Access Publications from the University of California

North Korean Literature: Margins of Writing Memory, Gender, and Sexuality

  • Author(s): Kim, Immanuel J.
  • Advisor(s): Jeong, Kelly
  • et al.

This dissertation examines literary works from North Korea from the 1970s and 1980s, paying particular attention to the way writers express their creativity through the discussion in memory, gender, and sex. To think that North Korean writers are conditioned to produce works that only praise Kim Il Sung and the Party may a short-sighted assessment of their literary practices and culture. Ever since the Fifteenth Plenary Meeting of the Fourth Central Committee of the Worker's Party in 1967--where Juche ideology and the monolithic policy were instituted as the guiding principles of every aspect of North Korean life--literature, film, and artworks changed to adopt the new system of celebrating Kim Il Sung, the Party, and the nation. Indeed, the writing tradition and culture changed for the members of the Writer's Union. What was known as propagandist literature became even more tightly controlled under the new decree of the monolithic policy. This monolithic policy gave rise to a singular voice that dominates and eliminates all other voices that may contend the Kim Il Sung regime. Writers were expected to (and in some cases ordered to) comply with the singular voice that celebrates the nation. However, even amid this radical change in North Korea, writing has the power to subvert, satirize, and disrupt the teleology of the grand narrative of the nation-state. This dissertation engages in the power of writing found in moments where the writers discuss the topics of memory, gender, and sexuality.

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