North and South Korea; an in-depth study


Anti-communist culture

Question: What were unique features of division society in the south?

As particularized in the lecture, the ‘era of division’ from high anti-communism (1948-1988) lasted around 40 years and continues to influence circulation of North Korean texts in the wider world. The above illustration goes on to emphasize that North Koreans were considered outcasts with little or no regard for community or culture. The South consisted of aristocrats and members of high social standing. These people practiced social segregation tendencies which offered no opportunity to people born from low-class families. Northern literature was avoided due to influence from the South and only recently have they become appreciated and published.

The era of Syngman Rhee Regime (1948-1960) was considered as the period of the culture of despair. He was the first President of post-colonial Korea and seemed to be the perfect statesman since he had studied in the North and abroad. His regime is termed as a time of dashed expectations. Syngman Rhee depicts authoritarianism in his rule and people who attempted to go against him are executed. The institution of the National Security law which suppressed criticism or reform from anyone also shows his dictatorship in South Korea. He advocated for anti-communism which resembled fascism of wartime Japan. Syngman Rhee’s rule clearly depicts the key features of division society in the south.

The division society was marked by the absence of the North – division society, division literature and division culture. During this period, North Korea assimilates to popular culture and this poses a ubiquitous threat to the culture and societal structure of the South. South Korea which was predominantly inhabited by the aristocrats, enters an age of seclusion. In order for them to maintain the authenticity of indigenous Korean culture they avoid all external influence, even from the North. In essence, there is a division in society, culture and literature, which translated to avoidance of Northern literature by the outside world.

At this point in history, there is also an emergence of monolingualism. The Japanese language and literature is phased off which paves way for indigenous Korean language texts, publications and even films. The educational system is also in such a manner as to advocate for increased usage of the Korean language. Most students during this era struggle to keep us with these directives since they were initially used to different languages and modes of learning. Despite the fact that the division society in the South had problems and challenges, it still promoted the Korean language and culture. The appreciation of which made their literally works appeal to the outside world.


Question: explain what factors made North receptive to Christianity?

Christianity in the North, flourished between the 1400s to early 20th century. There are several factors that brought about this receptiveness to Christianity, which will be discussed here. First and foremost, the northerners were uniquely equipped to take advantage of modern era conditions. Being a society of intellectuals that had been cast aside by the ruling regime, they adopted modern ways of living. The people in the North participated in trade with other countries so there was interaction between them and the outside world. Such circumstances enabled them to form a liberal perspective and they were therefore able to embrace progressive beliefs in the form of Christianity.

The North had little loyalty to the old Chosᴕn Dynasty and hierarchies. According to the lecture, the Southern aristocrats had decided to implement a forced migration policy to Hamgyᴕng and P’yᴕngan provinces in the North. This action was known as Samin – moving the people, and began in 1446 to continue for the next 100 years. Most of the people who were migrated were primarily freed slaves and prisoners. As such, they were happy to adopt new ways of living since the old ways had subjected them to more harm than good.

What important role did Christianity play in social, culture and education life in the 1920’s?

In the 1920s, missionaries who visited the North offered modern education and modern schools exemplifying progress and an alternative to the old ways. The northerners who were primarily intellectual progressives and liberal persons appreciated the missionaries who established schools and offered education to them, unlike the South which had put stringent measure to bar the Northern students from enrolling in their schools. Missionary schools helped in the reduction of illiteracy levels offering better opportunities for the people.

Many nationalist leaders who would come to make an impact in the 20th century were from the North and had emerged from protestant schools. These included: Yi Tonghwi – who went to Russia and participated in the Russian revolution, An Changho – who became a peace and independence activist, having initially studied in the USA, Syngman Rhee and Kim Ku. These major players in the history of Korea were taught and trained by missionary schools in the North. Therefore, the introduction of Christianity in North Korea had a major influence in the society, culture and education in the 1920s as well as the proceeding years.

Explain the openness of northern to Christianity.

The North as we have seen were majorly interested in: opportunities being offered, modern education and economic development via trade with neighboring countries, all of which were not being offered to them by the South. Their aptness to embrace the new Christian ways was majorly out of frustration by the Chosᴕn Dynasty and hierarchies as well as finding a means to improve their financial and social status. The Northern people were primarily traders and therefore, the migration of missionaries offered them better business prospects. Their seclusion from institutions of higher learning in the South, prompted them to welcome missionaries who offered to open schools and educate them. The migration also brought about a thriving economy which improved their standards of living. In essence, the quick assimilation of the North into Christianity, proved to be advantageous to them socially, culturally and economically.

Juche diplomacy

Question: What do its successes and failures tell us about Cold War world and beyond?

The Juche idea was based on the concept of industrialization without the dependence on Western capital. It was primarily intended to act as a model for emulation by the less industrialized 3rd world countries. The use of Juche self-reliance concepts was expected to translate to post-colonial development. As articulated in the lecture, North Korea opened diplomatic ties between 1971-1980 with 27 African countries, 13 Asia-Pacific, 3 Middle Eastern, 10 Latin America and Caribbean and 11 European countries. The diplomatic relations created were on a steady rise during this period until the mid-1970s when they plateaued. Their resumption occurred in the mid- 1990s under very different circumstances.

In the period of the Cold War there were associations of North Korea and other groups all around the world. For instance, the Black Panther movement of the United States of America found alliance with the DPRK on the shared criticism of US Imperialism. The Black Panther movement borrowed the Juche idea of North Korea to sensitize black people living in the USA of the need for self-reliance. Black determination was considered to be part of a global project to empower black people. As alluded to in the lecture, DPRK’s stance on US imperialism took a major forefront in the agenda of the Black Panther movement. An image is shown of Kim Il Sung on an issue of the BP magazine with the quote, “US Imperialism is the most heinous common enemy of the Peoples of the world and target No. 1 in their struggle.”

The Black Panthers sought 3rd world allies as they considered urban Black America as part of the 3rd world. Such actions made them sought after and deported from the USA. Some of the countries that they were welcomed to included: China, Algeria, Cuba and DPRK. The Anti-Imperialist Diplomacy was welcomed and gained the BP traction and a foothold in the world. Their agenda made youth organizations in Germany, France and Sweden to raise money and invite them for talks. During this time, there was a lot of backlash on the Vietnam War. Some key players in the Communist world also used the BP for propaganda.

The Pyongyang World Festival of Youth and Students that occurred in the summer of 1989, was one of the events where North Korea and Pyongyang invested in their own form of propaganda. The festival originated in Europe and had been hosted in several other countries all over Europe and Pyongyang was the first Asian city to host the festival. Over the decades, these festivals advocated for peace and this had a bearing on the end of the Cold war in 1991. Students who attended these events were invited from all over the world and they had fun.

University students in South Korea were deemed to be the most powerful and influential group in the 1980s. They had brought an end to military dictatorship and had the strongest voices in the Society of South Korea. When the South Korean students’ application to go to the Pyongyang World Festival of Youth and Students was rejected, they sent one of their innocuous students discreetly – Im Su-kyᴕng, to represent them at the event. She received a huge reception and went on to address those who attended on the essence of peace between countries. She led a march to the border between the North and South Korea and made an attempt to cross over to the North. Im Su-kyᴕng was arrested and served a 2-year jail sentence in South Korea. Four months after Im Su-kyᴕng’s defection to the north, the Cold War ended.

North Korea sends numerous laborers to several countries all around the world. The process to acquire such jobs is said to be competitive but the circumstances surrounding the working conditions, suggest that North Koreans are being subjected to forced labour. Provision of this labour help in mitigating the economic effects of sanctions that have been imposed on them. The total revenue income from migrant labour is estimated at around 1.8-2.4 billion dollars per year extra income for the North Korean government. The most important question that we are left to muse over is, “Is North Korea the world’s largest forced labour agency?”

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