Alison Flood writes:
Researching his PhD, (Christopher) Richardson said he was surprised to discover “that children’s literature was so central to the DPRK’s conception of itself that its leaders had taken the time (even if only with the assistance of ghost writers) to pen treatises to its importance” – Kim Jong-il also wrote about how Children’s Literature Must Be Created in a Way Best Suited to Children’s Psychological Features – “and even to write stories for themselves”.
He was also, he told the Guardian, surprised to find the stories themselves were “quite enjoyable”. “I was astounded that children’s books (purportedly) written by Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were vastly more readable than one would expect from any political leader in the democratic west, still less a severe authoritarian,” he said. “North Korean children’s books and cartoons proved to be often entertaining, colourful, action-packed, and not so different to children’s books and cartoons anywhere.”
He said that when he has shown his collection of North Korean children’s books to defectors, “their response has usually been to recall that whilst enjoying the more colourful and adventurous tales as children, they were not so interested in overtly militaristic and political stories”.
But “nevertheless, despite the variety of genre and style” in the books, “there always remained that singular unity of intent, reinforcing a consistent political message, fostering revolutionary consciousness, national cohesion, ideological purity, and reverence for Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and now Kim Jong-un,” said Richardson.
So far, Kim Jong-un has not – as far as Richardson can tell – written his own children’s book, but he anticipates it won’t be long until North Korea’s latest leader steps into the children’s literature arena.