Understanding North Korea, Part I (Propaganda)


It is vital to understand North Korea in order to effectively plan and prepare for unification. In doing so, this series will look at North Korean society in a variety of ways. Personally, I have always been fascinated by propaganda, specifically communist propaganda. It is absurd, but plainly fascinating at the same time. Given my fascination, this article aims to shed some light on North Korea through its use of propaganda.

Purity is of special importance in North Korean culture. Prior to an official meeting between South and North Korean generals in 2006, the former mentioned that farmers are increasingly marrying women from other countries – to which the latter replied “[o]ur nation has always considered its pure lineage to be of great importance, I am concerned that our singularity will disappear”. The South Korean general dismissed these marriages as a mere “drop of ink in the Han River” to which his Northern counterpart said “[s]ince ancient times our land has been one of abundant natural beauty. Not even one drop of ink must be allowed”1. This obsession with purity is reflected through the extensive use of white color in North Korean propaganda. It is therefore not surprising that Mount Baekdu and Pyongyang are commonly depicted as landscapes covered in snow.

“The snowstorm rendered Pyongyang – this city steeped in five-thousand year old, jade-like spirit of the race, imbued with the proudly lonely life-breath of the world’s cleanest, most civilized people – free of the slightest blemish… covering everything in a thick white veil of purity.2

It is also interesting to note that women are generally dressed in white – whether it is Kim Il Sung’s mother handing him a gun with which he would later start the war of liberation or the famous “Flower Girl” (The Flower Girl, 1972, is the country’s favorite movie2).

david3 Furthermore, it is also possible to understand how North Korea sees its place in the world via looking at the famous picture of Bill Clinton and Kim Jong Il.


The painting in the background is no coincidence because it symbolizes the world’s harassment of North Korea and how it literally stands as firm as a rock. This imagery has been commonly used, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union; indicating that North Korea sees itself as the last bastion of socialism.

Joseph Goebbels once proclaimed that “we have made the Reich by propaganda”, underlining that there is more to it than just plain imagery. Looking at the examples above, it is clear that this holds true especially for North Korea, where propaganda plays a vital part in society. Understanding it also means better understanding North Korea – a necessity when it comes to a prepared unification.

1 david name card


Photo Credit:

1: http://mancunion.com/2012/02/20/business-as-usual-for-north-korea/

2: http://old.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49806

3: http://www.wbur.org/2009/08/04/clinton-nkorea

Citation Credit:

1: “Two Koreas’ Top Brass Resort to Racist Mudslinging”. Chosun Ilbo (English Language Edition). May 17, 2006

2: B. R. Myers. (2011). “The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves – And Why It Matters”. New York: Melville House Publishing.



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