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The Politics of Culture in North Korea (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asia Studies (research) and: – Familiarity with the history of (North) Korea; – Knowledge of Korean is helpful; – Interest in art & culture; – Open mind.
Students who are not certain whether they meet the language level requirement are requested to contact Dr. K. de Ceuster before registration.
Students of the MA Asian Studies (60 EC) or the MA Asian Studies (120 EC), Korean track are kindly referred to the relevant course description


North Korea intrigues. This fascination is a result of the fact that standard approaches fail to make much sense of North Korea. This seminar zooms in on North Korea as a propaganda state where culture is subordinate to the revolution and the leadership. Propaganda is not reduced here to political agitation only, but it is treated as part and parcel of cultural production in North Korea. This seminar analyses verbal and visual narratives in North Korean literature and film, public art, and posters and paintings. The seminar also looks at North Korea’s art theory and pays attention to the organisation of cultural production under party control.

Course objectives

  • Analytical skills: analysing visual materials; – Critical analysis: contextualised interpretation of North Korean cultural products; – Presentation skills: present a review of a North Korean artwork; – Collabartive skills: group presentations; – Debating skills: engage in critical discussions about North Korean artwork; – Heuristic skills: locate and critically evaluate source materials on North Korean art.



Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • seminar participation: 2 hrs / week: 28 hrs; – tutorial with Research MA student: 5 hrs; – seminar preparation: 4.5 hrs / week: 65 hrs – writing assignments: 4× 1.5 hrs: 6 hrs – essay: 35 hrs

Assessment method

  • 4 assignments – critical reviews a North Korean cultural product (40%); – 1 presentation (10%); – 1 final essay (50%)

A new version of the final essay may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” or lower. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.
In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
The course is an integrated whole. All the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Blackboard will be intensively used.

Reading list

Reading list to be posted on blackboard.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.