Kim Jong-un and “Masik Speed” in new North Korean literature

The Man in the Mirror

Another excellent article from SinoNK (tip of the hat to reader Charles!) on some aspects in North Korean literature that probably won’t come as much of a surprise. The article is titled Sino-NK 2013 Rewind: North Korean Literature at Masik Speed by Benoit Berthelier. It begins with something regular watchers of NK would expect:

Both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il have been the subject of many a North Korean novel, and Kim Jong-un was quick to follow in their footsteps. The Young Marshall made his debut as a literary character last year, appearing in several paeans, epics, and a couple of short stories

Berthelier notes that perhaps the most famous genre of these books is the “Comrade Kim travels somewhere and demonstrates his care for the people” genre. This, of course, is also true of photography of Kim Jong-un, which is cliche enough that it has started an online meme celebrated by the Kim Jong-un Looking at Things tumblr account. North Korean press, also, loves these Comrade Kim makes a visit stories. Berthelier calls these “Transmission” stories, and summarizes several of them.

However, he also goes on to note that, ” a closer look at these texts can reveal some interesting facts about the way the new Leader is presented to the North Korean people.”


  1. Although Jong-un physically resembles his grandfather, the literature about him stresses his similarity to his father.
  2. The Army is frequently at the center of the stories – supporting the “Army First” (선군정치) version of Juche.
  3. Jong-un is portrayed as adding circuses to the bread (which is, semi-randomly, rendered in the article in Latin: panem et circenses)

The latter point, Berthelier neatly ties in to recent kinds of construction in North Korea and, in a take on the traditional Korean value of “palli-palli” (빨리-빨리, or “Fast! Fast!) which the North Koreans have mutated to “Masik Speed,” named after a ski-resort that is currently under construction.

It’s a fascinating piece on many levels, so check it out.