Tropes of Victimization in North Korean Textbooks of the Late 1950s

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Kim Hui Il, "Mijaenun Chosun Inminui Huonssu" / 美帝是朝鲜人民的仇人 / Title: "American Imperialism is the Foe of the North Korean (Chosun) People, Vol. 2" ---- The red board reads "Guksa Bunk_ Sa" /国际愤慨线/"Parallel of International Resentment", a play on the 38th parallel, for which the US can be blamed, and the notion of global witnesses to American atrocities, as if at the 38th parallel, an international tribunal awaits the American imperialist.

Just a few scans from a single Korean source I picked up last year in Yanbian, published in Pyongyang in 1959, the year after the Chinese People’s Volunteers left North Korea and filed back into the maelstrom of Great Leap Forward-afflicted China through Dandong, Ji’an, and Tumen.

Relevant manuscripts:

Adam Cathcart and Charles Kraus, “The Bonds of Brotherhood: New Evidence of Sino-North Korean Exchanges, 1950-1954,” revised resubmission to Journal of Cold War Studies. (E.g., unpublished manuscript in the pipeline, based upon Zhou Enlai’s newly published papers and archival research in the PRC Foreign Ministry Archives, Beijing).

Adam Cathcart and Elizabeth Campbell, “’Every Action for Korea Aids Our German National Struggle’: East German Local Mobilization in Support of North Korea in War and Reconstruction, 1950-1962,” unpublished manuscript based upon East German archival sources. (E.g., it’s in that exciting forge of post-archival creation category that is known as  “in preparation” ).

Note on language: 愤慨fen4 kai3 is the word the North Korean artists/editors used to describe, in the cover illustration, their feelings toward the U.S.  it roughly translates to “indignation” or “resentment.”  Either way, it’s quite a loaded concept that we can safely assume is still around and would need to be unpacked a bit.  Or we could just lecture the North Koreans instead.

Brian Myers Says Kim Il Sung Imitates Hirohito, Not Stalin -- Perhaps a Historian of Clothing Could Discuss This Assertion Sometime
Brian Myers Says Kim Il Sung (seated, left) Imitates Hirohito, Not Stalin -- Perhaps a Historian of Clothing Could Discuss This Assertion Sometime
"These Are the Things the Americans Dropped On Us, Plus a Few Hundred Thousand Leaflets Describing How Dead We Would Be For Supporting Kim Il Sung, his Puppetmaster Mao, and his Puppetmaster Stalin"
"These Are the Things the Americans Dropped On Us, Plus a Few Hundred Thousand Leaflets Stressing How Dead We Would Be For Supporting Kim Il Sung, his Puppetmaster Mao, and his Puppetmaster Stalin"
Title Page -- No Chinese or Soviet Assistance Necessary -- We Know What We Want to Convey
Title Page -- No Chinese or Soviet Assistance Necessary -- We Know What We Want to Convey (Red stamp indicates this book is a discard from the Yanbian City Library Stacks)
Destroyed Cultural Heritage
Destroyed Cultural Heritage
Bloodthirsty Americans -- Actually, these are probably modelled after the Soviet caricature periodical Krokodil; they seem hardly to have changed over the years, unlike our thoughtful updating of Kim Jong Il as "Dr. Evil" (sometimes I think that no anti-DPRK propaganda would be more devastating than a full-length revolutionary opera, completely in their idiom, that refutes the origin myth of their state.  It would be as difficult to swallow as a North Korean-spawned version of Bon Jovi singing songs about American debt or represing "The American imperialists started the Korean War," an actual book published by Pyongyang Foreign Languages Press which I recommend to everyone.
Bloodthirsty Americans -- Actually, these are probably modelled after the Soviet caricature periodical Krokodil; they seem hardly to have changed over the years, unlike our thoughtful updating of Kim Jong Il as "Dr. Evil" (sometimes I think that no anti-DPRK propaganda would be more devastating than a full-length revolutionary opera, completely in their idiom, that refutes the origin myth of their state. It would be as difficult to swallow as a North Korean-spawned version of Bon Jovi singing songs about American debt or reprising "The American imperialists started the Korean War," an actual book published by Pyongyang Foreign Languages Press which I recommend to everyone.)
Back cover -- No sops to their socialist allies here, no triumphalism -- just a miserable country with a questionable and somewhat counterfactual narrative of victory that desperately needs reconstruction
Back cover -- No sops to their socialist allies here, no triumphalism -- just a miserable country with a questionable and somewhat counterfactual narrative of victory that desperately needs reconstruction

4 thoughts on “Tropes of Victimization in North Korean Textbooks of the Late 1950s

  1. What’s interesting is how every country’s propaganda is no more ridiculous than the other. If you think about Spike Lee’s Army ads or even the “Keep America Shopping” campaign by Bush Jr Post 9-11, it’s all very telling of governments that prefer blissful ignorance and blind nationalism over historical fact. Still, I have to say, I did thoroughly enjoy the caricature of Americans in your book.

    What a great find, though. I hope you frame it!

  2. Since you mentioned our own manuscript and the MOFA, reminded of some statistics I recently read in Xia Yafeng, “The Study of Cold War International History in China: A Review of the Last Twenty Years,” Journal of Cold War Studies 10, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 81-115.

    – As of 2007, there were 41,962 records available in the MFA Archive. (91)
    – Only 30% of files from 1949-55 have been declassified, where as the number is closer to 60% for the period 1956-1960. (91n)
    – The MFA Archive has already published a few volumes of documents, and are working on others. Jiemi waijiao wenxian: Zhonghua renmin gongheguo jianjiao dang’an, 1949-1955 was published in 2006. They are currently working on a multi-volume series called Zhonghua renmin gongheguo waijiao dang’an xuanbian. Each edition will focus on a specific historical event. They have already published volumes on the Geneva Conference and the Bandung conference. (92) Where is the Korean War edition?!

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