Since its debut in 2012, the Moranbong Band has served as a key symbol for the Kim Jong-un-era ruling style, limited cosmopolitanism, and ultimately political conservatism. This article analyses the legitimacy strategies of North Korean official culture in the light of perceived internal needs for change, even as the foundations of the traditional personality cult remain intact and strengthened by the Band’s performances. Analysis of musical performances online and relevant comparative literature on North Korean music form the core of the article. Finally, the article shows the arc from the Band as an innovative symbol of possible liberalization into a far more conservative implement as time has gone on. Because North Korea remains staunchly fixed as both the target and agent of a classical war propaganda campaign, the country is far more renowned for missile tests, purges, and labor camps than for its music; this paper argues that culture is also a relevant aspect of North Korean life, and a significant carrier of political legitimacy.
A Chinese novel Sanguozhi pinghua, and a Korean novel Hwayongdo share striking similarities. Both are historical novels dealing with the Three Kingdoms Period in China. Both were written in contemporary vernacular Chinese and Korean respectively and have deep ties to oral literature of the time. Sanguozhi pinghua is the inspiration and the prototype of Hwayongdo and Sanguo yanyi, a work more widely-read than Sanguozhi pinghua itself, which provided Hwayongdo with its characters and narrative. This paper will analyze and address the characteristics and similarities visible in both novels, and I will argue that those similarities stem from the fact that they were composed in a similar context. Sanguozhi pinghua and Hwayongdo are the outcomes of convergent literary evolution, as they are written renditions of oral repertoire, re-created into novels.
Through the process of restoration of Changgyeong Palace from Changgyeong Park, this article aims to examine how demanding it was to restore the Korean cultural identity which had been distorted and modified by Japanese colonialism. Two important facts were discovered when Changgyeong Palace was transfigured into a “park” and then restored again into a “palace.” Firstly, the Japanese Empire’s cultural invasion under the pretext of modernization was deeply rooted into the colonized Joseon. Secondly, the cultural identity of Korea which needed to be restored by disposing of colonial vestiges was not purely Korean since it had already been entangled with another identity previously given by the “Empire.” After independence, there were not that many who considered the Changgyeong Park as a violation of Korean culture by Japan. This perception later impedes the restoration of Changgyeong Palace. Restoration of the palace was not only initiated due to the need to eradicate the colonial heritage but also due to other reasons. Demands to change its modified role as a park, advancement of the Korean economy, and establishment of Korean identity were the reasons that were driving the need to restore the Palace.
Cho Sok (1595-1668) remains an unmatched bird painter in ink of literati background from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Today, over 57 paintings in private and public collections around the world bear the seal of his penname, Changgang. This article focuses on two newly surfaced wagtail paintings in ink in San Francisco, arguing that such depictions of solitary birds in ink actually form the mainstream of his bird paintings. While positioning them within the stylistic and iconographic framework of his known works, it also explores their possible meaning through the psychological lens of the artist and the historical context of the period. A witness to the major historical events in seventeenth-century Korea, one of the most tumultuous times in Korean history noted for factional politics and foreign invasions under the shifting paradigms of the East Asian world order, his bird paintings encapsulate, as symbols of his unspoken words, the abiding ideals of a disheartened Neo-Confucian scholar.
This paper tries to explain some aspects and facts of ancient Korean society as a consequence of the cultural overlaps occurred over the course of the first millennium CE. In particular, foreign elements such as Confucianism and Buddhism thought are hypothesized to have exerted a deep influence upon traditional customs, within a historical process leading to social transformations similar to those occurred in the Mediterranean civilizations after the Indo-European invasions during the second millennium BCE. Relying on a suggestive hypothesis regarding the origin of the Greek tragedy in relation with the social clashes due to cultural conflicts, the author believes to individuate a similar anthropological structure in some events and characters of Korean folklore, as they have been reported by historical and literary sources.
Stature has been a widely used measure in the recent debate on Korean living standards under Japanese colonial rule. Past studies tended to focus on presenting novel data or calculation methods and insufficiently accounted for the divergence of arguments in the literature. This paper attempts the task of critically reviewing past research on Korean height during the colonial period and suggesting a reasonable interpretation with regard to living standards. A careful review supports the previously influential claim that average height decreased from the birth cohorts of the 1920s until around 1950. Other indicators of living standards closely related to the biological living standards of the general populace such as unskilled wage, food consumption, and inequality are consistent with height trends from the 1920s onwards, lending plausibility to the traditionally prevalent thesis that Koreans experienced a decrease in living standards as the colonial economic system took root in earnest. Recent revisionist claims that the colonial period was a boon for Korean well-being must be reconsidered.
Unlike second-generation Koreans in the USA or other developed countries, who generally rejected the small-business preferences of their parents, pursued professional careers and achieved mainstream-oriented mobility, succeeding generations of Korean Argentines have continued to choose work within the garment industry. Based on ethnographic research conducted in Argentina in 2014, this study discusses why young Korean Argentines opt for these career paths and how such a choice reflects the particular migration experiences and settlement history of Koreans in Argentina. While the economic and practical merits of inheriting family-owned businesses have been major drivers in the career decisions of younger Korean Argentines, their settlement and lives are also structurally shaped, as they are embedded in and subject to shifting socio-economic variables stemming from the wider social, economic, and political conditions of the host society.