Sunday, February 28, 2010

Understanding North Korea through its comics

An academic believes he has found a way to understanding the communist state of North Korea: by reading its comic books.

Heinz Insu Fenkl, a literature professor at the State University of New York produces English translations of the hard-to-find graphic novels, which are called "gruim-chaek" in North Korea.

Fenkl aims to put together a web archive of all the comics he has translated, a sort of Korean marxist cross between Japanese manga or British commando comics. The plots usually pin blame on loud-mouthed Americans and opportunist Japanese for cursing their promised land with vice. "The cartoonists establish the storylines strictly as moralistic good-versus-evil tales.”

The books are designed to instill juche – self-reliance of the state, Kim Il-Sung's philosophy of state – said Nick Bonner, founder of Koryo Tours, an English-language tour company in Beijing that takes visitors to North Korea.

He added: "They're much like the themes I read when I was a kid, on the British Army fighting the 'Nazis and Japs'.

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