A cultural question for the division and unification of the Korean Peninsula
North Korea, often described as a “hermit kingdom,” has been widely demonized as irrational and barbaric. On the other hand, North Koreans are portrayed as passive victims subject to state violence. Within this simplistic dichotomy, it is hard to grasp the complex reality of North Korea where lives are intertwined with the regime, but at the same time daily life operates in different spaces with completely different meanings and resistance to the regime. A lack of understanding on North Korea and people tackles the further development of peace building process and the possible integration among Koreans. Therefore, this special section aims to provide new perspectives on both North Korea in relation to the context of division and possible unification of the Korean Peninsula through the “question of culture”; in particular, the everyday cultural practices of North Koreans. The rise of the active agency, the widespread of technology, the increase of consumeristic desire and the reorganization of everyday life in North Korea are important aspects to be unpacked. By doing so, the papers in this section examine the potential changes that might happen in the future of North Korea and the division/unification of the North and South by inter-referencing comparable experiences of Vietnam, China, the Soviet Union and Germany.
KEYWORDS: Cultural question; inter-referencing; division system; inter-Korean relations; identity; unification
Sung Kyung Kim currently works as an Associate Professor at the University of North Korean Studies, Seoul, Korea. She obtained her Ph.D at the University of Essex, Department of Sociology. Her research interests are North Korean society and culture, North Korean mobility, cultural representation, and sociology of emotion and affect. Her recent publications appear in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Journal of Asian Anthropology, Journal of Korean Studies, and Journal of North Korean Studies.