Science-Fiction in North Korea: Houston, we may have an ‘over-technical’ problem (but cool covers)!

Another great article from the folks over at SinoNK. This time it’s From Pyongyang to Mars: Sci-fi, Genre, and Literary Value in North Korea. It’s by by Benoit Berthelier, and it begins with 3 paragraphs of rather theoretical stuff, but gets to the really interesting stuff in the 5th paragraph:

After a speech delivered by Kim Jong-Il in October 1988 called for the development of science fiction on a larger scale,[2] the number of sci-fi works grew significantly. From space travel to immortality or underwater exploration, sci-fi stories cover a wide range of subjects within settings that usually exceed the national boundaries of North Korea. If the country remains the central point of most plots, foreign characters–both positive and negative–are much more common than in traditional fiction.

Who knew?

The covers of some books(I don’t know, maybe these look flashy in North Korea?) look  kind of 1950-ish:

North Korean Science Fiction Covers

But this one is awesome in any language:


NK SF Cover

Berthelier notes that, just as in South Korea, Science Fiction is given a quite secondary literary status, but he also notes that because ALL literature can be at least partially judged on how it supports the country and leader worship, there actually is a hierarchy of ‘status’ in Science Fiction in North Korea. This seems (I need to look more) like a difference from South Korea, where most if not all Science Fiction is ghettoized, and the majority of it is ‘published’ online.

Anyway, if you want to see some more cool artwork of Science Fiction from the DPRK, take a look at the article, and those inclined to a more theoretical approach can also appreciate the analysis that Berthelier offers.

10 thoughts on “Science-Fiction in North Korea: Houston, we may have an ‘over-technical’ problem (but cool covers)!

  1. Kuiwon,

    I have several theories (#1 — CONFUCIANISM!!!!^^), but they need developing. It’s just not considered literature quite yet, and I’m not sure it existed as a genre until relatively recently..

  2. Everyone’s favorite punching bag is probably not one of the causes here (or most of the other things that it is supposedly associated with). Minor Learning, one of the most influential books in Korean Confucianism, for instance, recommends children start learning numbers at the age of 6 and arithmetic, before learning Confucian classics. From what short research I’ve done, it seems that modern Science Fiction did not start in China, which was less Confucian than Korea, nor in Japan, which was not Confucian, until the late 19th century, when translations of Western science fiction novels were first made.

  3. LOL.. perhaps the all-caps and multiple exclamation points and “^^” was not enough to indicate a joke?

  4. Charles…

    Finally took a look at that.. quite interesting and I will likely post on it tomorrow.. thanks!

  5. Something like STAR WARS is only popular during it run in the theaters…

    But, that’s cool.

    There is plenty of other things to talk about with the folks here. 🙂

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