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The Politics of Culture in North Korea


Admission requirements

  • Familiarity with the history of (North) Korea;

  • Knowledge of Korean is helpful;

  • Interest in art & culture;

  • Open mind.


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.


The timetable is available on the Asianstudies website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • seminar participation: 2hrs/week: 28hrs;

  • seminar preparation: 5hrs/week: 70hrs

  • writing assignments: 4× 1.5hrs: 6hrs

  • essay: 35hrs

Assessment method

  • 4 assignments – critical review (750 words) of a North Korean cultural product (40%);

  • 1 presentation (paper proposal) (10%);

  • 1 final essay (4,500 words) (50%)

The final grade is the weighted average of all components. To pass the course students must receive an overall mark of 5.5 (=6) or higher and a passing grade for the paper assignment (5.5 or higher).

Resit: revised and expanded (6,000 words) version of the final paper to be handed in by February 1.

Exam Review

Students may request an oral elucidation of the assessment within 30 days after publication of the grade.


Blackboard will be intensively used.

Reading list

Reading list to be posted on Blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch


Dr.Koen de Ceuster