Academic journal article Hemispheres

North Korean Intellectuals and Artists: From Antagonism to Forced Cooperation with the Workers' Party of Korea

Academic journal article Hemispheres

North Korean Intellectuals and Artists: From Antagonism to Forced Cooperation with the Workers' Party of Korea

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)


Looking at the Chinese or Soviet flag, there is no pen or writing instrument on their symbols. Instead there is a hammer, which signifies priority for the working class. Thus the intellectual class is totally excluded. However, on the North Korean flag, there is a writing brush on the emblem of the Workers' Party of Korea (choson rodongdang), which represents artists and intellectuals. When the Workers Party of Korea was inaugurated on the 9th October 1946, preferential treatment for intellectuals was initially expressed, but this was largely because the Party wanted to bring the intellectuals on side. Nevertheless, starting from the 1950s, in the years immediately following Kim Il Sung's accession to power, the North Korean leader took measures to prevent challenges to his new regime, beginning with eliminating political opposition. There are not many research articles devoted to intellectuals in North Korea in non-Korean languages.1 The most famous paper related to this topic, which was written in Korean, is entitled Kimjongilsidae Pukhanui Jisikinjeongchaek ... - The policy of Kim Jong-il towards intellectuals. It was published by the Sogang University and prepared by researchers of the ... Sahoekwahakyong;uso - Institute of Social Sciences) and published in the vol. 16, no. 2 in 2009. Before the 1970s, anyone with a secondary school-education could be considered an intellectual in North Korea. The objective of the article is to place the role of intellectuals within contemporary North Korean society. The first part of the article is related to a theoretical- definitions framework. The second part, third and fourth parts are respectively related to the place and role of intellectuals during the Kim Il Sung (1945-1994), Kim Jong-il (1997-2010), and Kim Jong-un's eras (2010-...). The purpose of the article is twofold. Firstly, to redefine the status and role of intellectuals in North Korean political life. Secondly, to define the relationship between North Korean intellectuals and the WPK. The article focused on the hypothesis that North Korean intellectuals were forced by the WPK to create a logical worldview based on the Juche ideology.


I used archival research and interviews for the purpose of the preparation of this article. I utilized materials available at European and South Korean research centers. I also considered propaganda materials distributed by various North Korean embassies, however the scientific approach of these documents is limited. I split my research into different historical periods, the Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un eras. The Kim Jong-il era crosses over with the Kim Il Sung era as Kim Jong-il was the leader of North Korea starting from 1967.

The concept of the intellectual

Intellectuals represent a social class of people engaged in mental labour aimed at guiding or critiquing, or otherwise playing a leadership role in shaping a society's culture and politics. For the purpose of this article, we will classify intellectuals as people who are connected to the arts, literature, medicine and technologies.

There are two main contemporary contributions to a theory of intellectuals. The first contribution is derived from the Italian sociologist Antonio Gramsci, who distinguished two categories of intellectuals: organic and traditional. The latter is related to intellectuals who are disinterested and bound to the former regime. The organic one is defending the interests of a specific class, and is related to political organizations ruling over any given entity. In the North Korean case, we may consider intellectuals with a Japanese background as traditional, and "organic intellectuals" as those who were educated and totally reformed by the ruling organization (the Workers' Party of Korea). A second theory was developed by the French sociologist Michel Foucault. He identified intellectuals as experts in specific areas, who reveal truth. …

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