Call for Papers: Special Issue on Pop Culture in North Korea

August 03, 2018

Kritika Kultura and the World Association for Hallyu Studies announce a call for papers for a special issue on “Pop Culture in North Korea.” Selected papers will be published in the Aug. 2019 issue of Kritika Kultura (ISSN: 1656-152X), an international peer-reviewed journal indexed in, among others, the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (Clarivate), EBSCO, and Scopus.

Please submit a title and abstract (200 to 250 words) together with a short bio, to by August 15, 2018 (cc: / subject heading: North Korea).

Description of the Special Issue

Jacques Attali reminds us how, “since noise is the source of power, power has always listened to it with fascination.” Commodified popular culture, as it has grown across the world with the rise of the mass media and the growth of capitalism, has often been resisted and, indeed, many texts explore pop culture as a strategy for resistance. However, socialist state apparatuses have long sought to entangle pop and politics, harnessing its power while controlling its expression. For this to be the case, pop culture in socialist states may carry different meanings and be used for different purposes than the meanings and uses of the cultural industries within capitalist systems.

Often it appears to be the case that, while sharing some of the characteristics of mass culture, pop culture within socialism is designed less for generating profits than to enhance the ideological armament of the masses. The notion of socialist pop culture as “ideological vanguard,” however, has been challenged within socialist states themselves, beginning in the 1960s and continuing until the “falls” of Eastern European states at the end of the 1980s. This has often been argued through perspectives that balance how, as states began to open, attempts were made for popular culture to accommodate internal needs for political and economic reform on one hand while seeking to satisfy demands from the masses for entertainment free of ideological rigor on the other.

How has this balance attempted or achieved beyond Europe? We seek to answer this question through examining the popular culture of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). Our theme is particularly pertinent given, first, the presence of North Korean artists and cheer leaders at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games and, second, the recent summits between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the US. We ask whether the recent uses of pop culture by North Korea have been or are anything more than a token of détente and camaraderie. Casting back into recent and not-so-recent history, we seek to clarify whether North Korean pop culture is ideologically rigid, and to what extent it has been, and still is, designed to strengthen propaganda around the leadership, the party, and the state.

We note that recent commentators have argued both that South Korean pop culture has infiltrated the isolated North, and that North Korea has begun to embrace South Korean, Chinese, and Western trends. To what extent is this the case? Pop culture in North Korea remains a puzzle, little studied and little profiled, and we invite contributions that will develop the discussions.

Under the theme of pop culture in North Korea, broadly defined, we are interested in receiving papers that address to following topics:

Theories of pop culture and its intersection with politics in North Korea and beyond
North Korean pop culture history
Analyses of recent reforms and developments in North Korean pop culture
Grounded projections of the future of North Korean pop culture
The elements of North Korean pop culture: music, TV dramas, films, cartoons/comics/animation, fashion, etc.
North Korean broadcasting and publication industries
Hallyu in North Korea (K-pop, K-drama, K-films)
Other relevant topics
 Background References

Adams, Laura. The Spectacular State: Culture and National Identity in Uzbekistan. Duke UP, 2010.

Adorno, Theodor W. and Max Horkheimer. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” Dialectic of Enlightenment, edited by Gunzelin Schid Noerr, translated by Edmund Jephcott, Stanford UP, 1972, pp. 94-136.

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus (Notes towards an Investigation).” Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, translated by Andy Blunden, Monthly Review P, 1971. At


Armstrong, Charles K, “The Cultural Cold War in Korea, 1945–1950.” Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 62, no. 1, 2003, pp. 71-99.  

Attali, Jacques. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Translated by Brian Massumi, U of Minnesota P, 1977.

Berdahl, Daphne. Where the World Ended: Re-unification and Identity in the German Borderland. U of California P, 1999.

Bonner, Nick. Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life in the DPRK. Phaidon, 2017.

Buck-Morss, Susan Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West. MIT P, 2002.

Cathcart, Adam, Robert Winstanley-Chesters, and Christopher Greeen, editors. Change and Continuity in North Korean Politics. Routledge, 2017.

Cloonan, Martin and Reebee Garofalo, editors. Policing Pop. Temple UP, 2003.

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Black and Red, 2010.

Debray, Régis. “Socialism: A Life Cycle.” New Left Review no. 46, July-Aug. 2007, pp. 5-28.

Frank, Rüdiger, editor. Exploring North Korean Arts. U of Vienna / MAK, 2011.

Gelézeau, Valérie, Koen De Ceuster, and Alain Delissen, editors. De-Bordering Korea: Tangible and Intangible Legacies of the Sunshine Policy: Routledge, 2013.

Golomstock, Igor. Totalitarian Art in the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy and the People’s Republic of China. Collins Harvill, 1990.

Hassig, Ralph, and Kongdan Oh. The Hidden People of North Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom. Rowman and Littlefield, 2015.

Hoare, James E. Critical Readings on North and South Korea. Brill, 2013.

Howard, Keith, editor. Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave. Global Oriental, 2006.

Korpe, Marie, editor. Shoot the Singer! Music Censorship Today. Zed, 2004.

Lee, Hyangjin, Contemporary Korean Cinema: Identity, Culture, Politics. U of Manchester P, 2000.

MacFadyen, David. Songs for Fat People: Affect, Emotion, and Celebrity in the Russian Popular Song, 1900-1955. McGill-Queen’s UP, 2002.

Oh, Ingyu. “After Unification: Preserving Pop Music from Former East Germany and North Korea.” Paper Presented at the 5th World Congress for Hallyu. Seoul: University of Seoul.

Sakolsky, Ron and Fred Wei-Han Ho, editors. Sounding Off! Music as Subversion/Resistance/Revolution. Autonomedia, 1995.

Slobin, Mark, editor. Retuning Culture: Musical Changes in Central and Eastern Europe. Duke UP, 1996.

Verdery, Katherine. National Ideology under Socialism: Identity and Cultural Politics in Ceauşescu’s Romania. U of California P, 1991.

Wedeen, Lisa. Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria. U of Chicago P, 1999.

Description of Journal

Kritika Kultura (ISSN: 1656-152X) is a semi-annual peer-reviewed international electronic journal on literary, language, and cultural studies of the Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines). It is is acknowledged by a host of Asian and Asian American Studies libraries and scholarly networks, and indexed in the MLA International Bibliography, Arts and Humanities Citation Index (Clarivate), Scopus, EBSCO, the Directory of Open Access Journals, and the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs (ICCTP). For inquiries about submission guidelines and future events, visit or email

Peer Review Policy

All articles in the “Pop Culture in North Korea” issue undergo double blind peer review: submissions undergo evaluation by the guest editors, followed by at least two anonymous referees.

Editorial Procedures

Submissions are reviewed anonymously by at least two reviewers. The review process usually takes 3-4 weeks. Papers accepted for publication will undergo an additional stage of copyediting and proofreading. Once the final version of the paper has been accepted, authors are requested not to make any further changes to the text. The Editor-in-Chief reserves the right to request the author to make any necessary changes to papers, or reject the paper submitted.

Information for Authors

The title and abstract (200 to 250 words) (including name[s] and affiliation[s]) should be submitted to by Aug. 15, 2018 (cc: / subject heading: North Korea).
After review, an invitation to write the manuscript will be sent to those who are accepted. The special issue will accept and publish up to 7 to 10 articles, contingent on the results of peer reviews.
The manuscript should be original and should not have been published previously. Please do not submit material that is currently being considered by another journal.
The manuscript should be in MS Word format, submitted as an email attachment to (cc: / subject heading: North Korea). Manuscripts must be 7,000 to 8,000 words; longer manuscripts are contingent on approval by the guest editors. Word count includes the abstract, body text, tables, footnotes, appendixes, and references.
The title should be on page 1 and not exceed 15 words, followed by an abstract of 200 to 250 words, 5 to 7 keywords or key phrases are required. 
The title of the paper should be on the cover sheet as well as at the top of the first page of the main text. Author names and affiliations should be on the cover sheet only.
 Guest Editors

Keith Howard (Professor Emeritus and Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow, SOAS, University of London)
Ingyu Oh (Professor, College of Foreign Studies, Kansai Gaidai University; President, World Association for Hallyu Studies)
Important Dates

Title and abstract submission: Aug. 15, 2018
Invitation to write manuscript: Sep. 15, 2018
Manuscript submission: Jan. 15, 2019
First review & decision: Feb. 15, 2019
Manuscript submission after revision: March 15, 2019
Second review & decision: April 15, 2019

For all inquiries, please contact Ingyu Oh at (cc: / subject heading: North Korea).


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