Monday, September 05, 2011

North Korean Comics

This sounds like an interesting RAS lecture tomorrow (Tuesday):
Spy Hunting, Re-writing the Korean War and Sowing Fear of the World: North Korea has “manhwa” too!

Date: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - 7:30pm
Lecturer: Jacco Zwetsloot
Venue: 2nd floor, Residents’ Lounge Somerset Palace, Seoul (north of Jonggak Station, behind Jogyesa Temple)
Admission: 5,000 won (non-member); free for members

Who said that Communist literature was all drab and boring? Certainly, most didactic texts out of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea seem designed to give headaches, not understanding, with their interminably long sentences and repetitive passages about juche this and seongun that, and the Great and/or Dear Leader intoned such-and-such.

But there are comic books (in South Korea called “manhwa”) made by and for North Koreans too. They have been in publication since at least the early 1980s, despite paper shortages at times. Some of them are barely more than illustrated storybooks for children, others are caricature-filled horror stories, while still others are finely crafted graphic novels – with barely believable plotlines. The content of these “manhwa” varies, but many seem to fall into three broad categories:

1. Warnings against spies and how to spot them
2. Cautionary tales about the evils of the world
3. Heroic tales set during the Korean War or pre-1910 Korean history

Most North Korean manhwa are written with children of varying ages in mind as the primary audience, while others clearly target well-educated adults. They are hard to get hold of outside the DPRK, but they are also not always easy to find within it.

In this lecture, Jacco Zwetsloot will give an overview of the North Korean comic book world, and introduce some extracts from a couple of his favorite volumes, exemplifying each of the three categories above.
As I have one of the comics I believe he'll be covering ('Rotten and sick world'), I imagine it should be fun.


Anonymous said...

North Korean Economy Watch has an entry about North Korean comics, including links to some translated comics.

Anonymous said...

The presentation was great. Nice work Mr. Zwetsloot. Hopefully there's a follow up since there's so much material.

Speaking of which @davidfrazer that's a veritable treasure trove you've linked to there. My favorite is "General Loser and the Gnats," which is a hell of a name for a band. Surprisingly the link doesn't come with a big KCSC warning.