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Jang Jin-sung discusses the role of propaganda in North Korea

Guests of The Institute of World Politics received an insider’s view of how a totalitarian state uses propaganda as an instrument of psychological control in a lecture by Mr. Jang Jin-sung, a former North Korean propaganda poet, on February 4, 2015. The event was co-sponsored by the Committee on Human Rights in North Korea.

Mr. Jang explained how the cultural propaganda of the North Korean government is based upon a premise of ‘realist socialism’ in which the ideas of any art forms should be settled by the state in order to be published to the public. In that sense, all forms of art are based on the ideology of ‘Ju-che’ (self-reliance) and related directly to the regime, which reinforces the power of the Kim family and the central government. He gave examples from his own experience of how North Korea’s autocracy promoted restrictive control of artists with a high level of surveillance over their art production. Artists in North Korea are able to produce their works only under a governmental organization authorized by the regime. North Korean artists, therefore, are only able to create artwork when they have a license and order from their government.

Under this severe cultural surveillance, North Korean artists, without freedom in their creation, are forced to put the divinity of the country’s supreme leader at the center of every work of art. Thus, through cultural propaganda and psychological control of civilians, the North Korean government has idealized its ideologies and regime. However, under this fabricated utopianism, there are millions of North Korean people starving to death and suffering from a great amount of repression from the state.

Mr. Jang is the author of Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea. His remarks were interpreted by the translator of his book, Shirley Lee.