N.Korean Poetry Reveals Depths of Regime's Paranoia

  • By Lee Yong-soo, Kim Myong-song

    May 16, 2019 12:59

    The arts continue to languish in North Korea, which has little to offer except horrific monumental statuary and queasy mass games in which thousands of performers are press-ganged into hopping about in unison and waving colored flags.

    Music is largely derivative and focused on yowling about the greatness of the regime, and even poetry, traditionally a quieter form of expression, is mostly alarming propaganda.

    One poetry collection published to some fanfare last year boasts about the North's intercontinental ballistic missiles and claims it has a hydrogen bomb, while denouncing the U.S. and South Korea as "dogs."

    The publication is a depressing display of how all individual expression in the North is stifled, at least in the public realm, and only the worst hacks rise to the top.

    Kang Dong-wan of Donga University, the director of the Busan Hanawon that helps North Korean defectors settle in South Korea, unveiled the 190-page volume containing around 130 poems on Wednesday.

    It was published by Kumsong Youth Publishing House, which oversees ideological education of North Korean students. Despite the dismal quality of the literary efforts, the South Korean government has banned its dissemination here under the decades-old National Security Law, and Kang got his copy from his own source.

    The volume brims with references to the North's long-range missiles and nuclear weapons that can "obliterate the U.S." It also shows that the regime's anti-American and anti-South Korean rhetoric is much more pronounced in forums that are unlikely to reach an international audience.

    Even as North Korea refrained from too blatantly criticizing the U.S., the poems are often mere litanies of abuse. One poem refers to President Moon Jae-in as a "lapdog of the U.S." even though Kim held three summits with the South Korean leader last year.

    Kang said, "We need to pay attention to the fact that such a book was published last year, when inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korean relations appeared to have improved. We need to find out what the regime is really thinking even if it is smiling on the outside."

    One researcher at a state-run think tank here said, "Kumsong Youth Publishing House is vetted by the Workers Party's propaganda department and its books reflect the policies of leader Kim Jong-un."

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