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SOAS seminar: Socialist competition and class formation in DPRK, 1953-56

A seminar at SOAS tomorrow, just announced. Looks interesting.

Socialist competition and class formation in North Korea’s post-Korean War recovery, 1953-1956

Dr Owen Miller (SOAS)
Friday 6 December 2019, 5:15 – 7:00 pm
Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Alumni Lecture Theatre
Register on SOAS website


DPRK class formationHow did North Korea manage to recover relatively quickly from the Korean War and how did the country begin to create a new urban and industrial society from the rubble? These questions are at the core of this paper, which examines the period of the DPRK’s Three-Year Plan (1954-56) from an economic history perspective. Using the history of the Hŭngnam chemical complex as a case study, I will look at the first major production movement in the DPRK: the Socialist Competition Movement, modeled closely on earlier competition movements in the Soviet Union, both before and after WWII. This paper expands our understanding of production movements in East Asia beyond the more well known examples of the Chollima and Great Leap Forward movements, recognising that such movements, closely modelled on the Stakhanovite movement of the 1930s, were already playing an important role in China and North Korea in the immediate post-Korean War period. While on the surface this role was simply to produce more with less manpower and thus accumulate capital, I argue that the socialist competition movement had just as much of a role to play in forming a new and disciplined working class. By looking at the socialist competition movement at the Hŭngnam complex in the mid 1950s, the paper will show how the movement engaged in making workers as much as in making industry.

Speaker Biography

Dr Owen Miller initially studied East Asian history at SOAS as an undergraduate and subsequently lived in South Korea, where he studied Korean language at Yonsei University. He returned to SOAS in 2001 to study for an MA and then a PhD in Korean history, focusing on merchant guilds in late nineteenth century Seoul. Prior to coming to SOAS as a lecturer in Korean Studies, Owen worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at Robinson College, University of Cambridge.

Current research interests include: the social and economic history of 19th and 20th century Korea; urban history; Korean nationalist and Marxist historiographies; the economic history of North Korea; and state formation in Northeast Asia.

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