Mānoa: Insight into North Korea’s past could forge future relations with U.S.

UH News

University of Hawaiʻi at MānoaContact:Posted: Dec 6, 2018Cheehyung Harrison KimA recently released book sheds new light on life and labor in North Korea during the decade following the Korean War. Authored by Cheehyung Harrison Kim, assistant professor of history at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Heroes and Toilers: Work as Life in Postwar North Korea, 1953-1961, offers an account of postwar North Korea that brings together the roles of governance and resistance. Kim traces the state’s pursuit of progress through industrialism and examines how ordinary people challenged it every step of the way.“I wanted to find out how North Korea became this fascinating place in the 1960s, the beginning of its Golden Period,” said Kim. “What we think of North Korea and how it is portrayed in the media have been misguided for decades. History shows us that North Korea went through a process similar to many developing countries, including an authoritarian government, which was also present in South Korea.”In search of national unity and state control, North Korea turned to labor. Mandating rapid industrial growth, the government stressed order and consistency in everyday life at both work and home.Kim delves into how ordinary people lived and worked during this demanding time, balancing career, duty and happiness. He found that labor was a driving force in society. In addition, how North Koreans lived following the Korean War is similar to how people live today in the U.S.Even more than coercion or violence, Kim argues, work was crucial to state control. Industrial labor was both a mode of production and a mode of governance, characterized by repetitive work, mass mobilization, labor heroes and the insistence on convergence between living and working.“There was a major effort by government to change class hierarchy, empower the once downtrodden people while excluding the …

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