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Books on DPRK

A list of all sorts of publications on North Korean history, culture and society, including fiction by North Koreans. Work in progress

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Language and Truth in North Korea
Sonia Ryang
University of Hawai'i Press, 2021

From the publisher’s website: In this innovative and persuasive volume, Sonia Ryang offers new ways to think about North Korea and how truth emerges over decades from within a dominant discourse. It explores four discrete yet mutually related domains of discourse: North Korea’s literary purge of the 1950s–1960s; its state-initiated linguistic reforms of the 1960s–1980s; […] (Link to online store)

Laughing North Koreans: The Culture of Comedy Films
Immanuel Kim
Lexington Books, 2020

Publisher description: This study analyzes North Korean comedy films from the late 1960s to present day. It examines the most iconic comedy films and comedians to show how North Koreans have enjoyed themselves and have established a culture of humor that challenges, subverts, and, at times, reinforces the dominant political ideology. The author argues that […] (Link to online store)

Paek Nam-nyong tr Immanuel Kim
Columbia University Press, 2020

Publisher description: Paek Nam-nyong’s Friend is a tale of marital intrigue, abuse, and divorce in North Korea. A woman in her thirties comes to a courthouse petitioning for a divorce. As the judge who hears her statement begins to investigate the case, the story unfolds into a broader consideration of love and marriage. The novel […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Songs for “Great Leaders”: Ideology and Creativity in North Korean Music and Dance
Keith Howard
Oxford University Press, 2020

Publisher description: Famously reclusive and secretive, North Korea can be seen as a theatre that projects itself through music and performance. The first book-length account of North Korean music and dance in any language other than Korean, Songs for “Great Leaders” pulls back the curtain on this theatre for the first time. Renowned ethnomusicologist Keith Howard moves […] (Link to online store)

The Red Years: Forbidden Poems from Inside North Korea
Bandi tr Heinz Insu Fenkl
Zed Books, 2019

From the publisher’s website: Though North Korea holds the attention of the world, it is still rare for us to hear North Korean voices, beyond those few who have escaped. Known only by his pen name, the poet and author ‘Bandi’ stands as one of the most distinctive and original dissident writers to emerge from […] (Link to online store)

See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey into Kim Jong Un’s North Korea
Travis Jeppesen
Hachette Books, 2018

From ballistic missile tests to stranger-than-fiction stories of purges and assassinations, news from North Korea never fails to dominate the global headlines. But what is life there actually like? In See You Again in Pyongyang, Jeppesen culls from his experiences living, traveling, and studying in North Korea to create a multi-faceted portrait of the country […] (Link to online store)

Rewriting Revolution: Women, Sexuality, and Memory in North Korean Fiction
Immanuel Kim
University of Hawai'i Press, 2018

Publisher description: North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is firmly fixed in the Western imagination as a barbaric vestige of the Cold War, a “rogue” nation that refuses to abide by international norms. It is seen as belligerent and oppressive, a poor nation bent on depriving its citizens of their basic human […] (Link to online store)

Poems of the North
Baek Seok tr Peter Liptak
Exile Press, 2018

From the publisher’s website: Treasured in both Koreas, Baek Seok: Poems of the North opens an intriguing gateway into the spirit of the North Koreans of the 1930’s-50’s. In a land struggling for freedom and short of food, he treats his readers to the dishes they craved, exhibiting a Korea not in mired in the […] (Link to online store)

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea
Bandi tr Deborah Smith
Serpent's Tail, 2017

In 1989, a North Korean dissident writer, known to us only by the pseudonym Bandi, began to write a series of stories about life under Kim Il-sung’s totalitarian regime. Smuggled out of North Korea and set for publication around the world in 2017, The Accusation provides a unique and shocking window on this most secretive […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

North Korean Writers in Exile PEN Literature (VOLUME Book 4)
Ed North Korean Writers in Exile PEN Center tr David Carruth, Elizabeth Black, Gary Rector, Martin Bax, Neil Armstrong, Seongbak Jamie Jin
PEN Center, 2017

North Korean Writers in Exile PEN Center is the 144th member of PEN International. Since defecting from North Korea because of their opposition to the dynastic dictatorship, the members of the center have been creating literature that depicts the harsh reality of North Korea and engaging in various activities to improve conditions there. The single […] (Link to online store)

Routledge Handbook of Modern Korean History
Ed Michael J Seth
Routledge, 2016

From the publisher’s website: Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century when Korea became entangled in the world of modern imperialism and the old social, economic and political order began to change; this handbook brings together cutting edge scholarship on major themes in Korean History. Contributions by experts in the field cover the Late Choson and Colonial […] (Link to online store)

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power
Paul Fischer
Penguin, 2015

Publisher description: It opens with a double kidnapping . . . Madame Choi, South Korea’s most famous actress, is lured to Hong Kong, drugged and smuggled out on a ship. When her ex-husband, Shin Sang-Ok, Korea’s most acclaimed director, goes to look for her, he vanishes too. The pair wake to find themselves in North […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Dear Leader
Jang Jin-sung tr Shirley Lee
Penguin, 2014

Publisher description: Dear Leader contains astonishing new insights about North Korea which could only be revealed by someone working high up in the regime. It is also the gripping story of how a member of the inner circle of this enigmatic country became its most courageous, outspoken critic. Jang Jin-sung held one of the most senior […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Split Screen Korea: Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema
Steven Chung
University of Minnesota Press, 2014

Publisher description: Shin Sang-ok (1926–2006) was arguably the most important Korean filmmaker of the postwar era. Over seven decades, he directed or produced nearly 200 films, including A Flower in Hell (1958) and Pulgasari (1985) and his career took him from late-colonial Korea to postwar South and North Korea to Hollywood. Notoriously crossing over to the North in 1978, […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Reading North Korea: An Ethnological Inquiry
Sonia Ryang
Harvard, 2012

Often depicted as one of the world’s most strictly isolationist and relentlessly authoritarian regimes, North Korea has remained terra incognita to foreign researchers as a site for anthropological fieldwork. Given the difficulty of gaining access to the country and its people, is it possible to examine the cultural logic and social dynamics of the Democratic […] (Link to online store)

Exploring North Korean Arts
Ed Rüdiger Frank
Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2011

Publisher description: This book is a cooperation between the MAK and the University of Vienna and contains a number of in-depth essays by international writers on a wide spectrum of issues, and with much detailed background information. The relationship between art and ideology is examined, how modern and traditional values are dealt with, as well as […] (Link to online store)

Illusive Utopia: Theater, Film, and Everyday Performance in North Korea
Kim Suk-young
University of Michigan Press, 2010

Publisher description: No nation stages massive parades and collective performances on the scale of North Korea. Even amid a series of intense political/economic crises and international conflicts, the financially troubled country continues to invest massive amounts of resources to sponsor unflinching displays of patriotism, glorifying its leaders and revolutionary history through state rituals that can […] (Link to online store)

Life on the Edge of the DMZ
Lee Si-woo tr Kim Myung-hee
Global Oriental, 2008

Publisher’s description: The author’s celebrated quest to capture today’s built and natural environment and way of life along the DMZ, separating the two Koreas, is both a stunning literary and photographic achievement. Supported by 150 colour photographs, the book by one of Korea’s renowned photographers takes the reader from Chulwon in the east to Kosung […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Inspector O series
James Church
Minotaur Books, 2006

Publisher description: James Church introduces readers to one of the most unique detectives to appear on page in years—the elusive Inspector O. This mystery series brings readers into the enigmatic world of North Korea, as Inspector O finds himself tangled in conspiracies and cover-ups. The series includes the novels A Corpse in the Koryo, Hidden Moon, Bamboo and […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Guy Delisle
Jonathan Cape, 2006

Publisher description: Famously referred to as one of the “Axis of Evil” countries, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. In early 2001 cartoonist Guy Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country. While living in the nation’s capital for […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Art Under Control in North Korea
Jane Portal
Reaktion Books, 2005

Publisher description: Nuclear bombs and geopolitical controversy are often the first things associated with the isolated Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea and its volatile leader Kim Jong-il. Yet behind the secretive curtain also lies a little known and slowly expanding world of art. This is the first book to be published in the West which […] (Link to online store)

Korean Short Stories: A Collection from North Korea
Chon Se Bong, Kim Byong Hun, Ko Byong Sam, Om Dan Ung, Pyon Hui Gun, Sok Yun Gi
Fredonia, 2003

A collection of short stories from North Korea, originally published in Pyongyang in 1986: History of Iron (1967) – Pyon Hui Gun Happiness (1963) – Sok Yun Gi Ogi (1961) – Chon Se Bong Fellow Travellers (1960) – Kim Byong Hun Everyone in Position! (1974) – Om Dan Ung Unfinished Sculpture (post 1980) – Ko […] (Link to online store)

Han Sorya and North Korean Literature (+ Jackals)
Han Seol-ya tr Brian Myers
Cornell East Asia Series, 1994

This first and only study of North Korean literary history by a Western scholar deals with the crucial role played by Han Sōrya, chairman of the DPRK’s Federation of Literature and Art from 1948 to his purge in 1962, both in devising the iconography of Kim Il Sung’s personality cult and in defining the early […] (Link to online store)

To Dream of Pigs: Travels in South and North Korea
Clive Leatherdale
Desert Island Books, 1994

Publisher description: The scariest place on earth.’ So said President Bill Clinton on his visit to the no-man’s land between South and North Korea in 1993. With the end of the Cold War in Europe, the minefields and barbed wire that divide the two Koreas constitute the jagged edge of world peace. If the world […] (Link to online store)