The presentation will examine the complicated relation of the North Korean state to its cultural heritage, in particular folklore, which is an important – yet still largely neglected – field within North Korean studies. Like other spheres of culture, the reception of and attitude to cultural heritage is closely related to socio-political and ideological developments in the North Korean state. Evaluation of the country’s heritage has undergone significant changes in various historical periods, sometimes mirroring and sometimes setting the trend for general changes in North Korean cultural policy.

The focus of the presentation will be on discussing a number of folklore phenomena that were reintroduced or newly invented in the 1980s and came to constitute major components of cultural life over the following decades. Based on personal observations as a foreign exchange student, as well as later research on North Korean literature and cultural heritage policy, the lecturer will describe the process of gradual changes in the study and promotion of folklore and try to look into the background and reasons for the transformation of North Korean cultural policy in the 1980s.

Sonja Häussler is Professor of Korean Language and Culture at Stockholm University. She studied Asian Philology with a focus on Korean Philology at Leningrad State University. Her main fields of research are Korean literature, Korean intellectual history and the cultural policies of North and South Korea. Her publications on North Korean cultural policy include: “Revived Interest in Literary Heritage: Changes in DPRK Cultural Policy”, in Exploring North Korean Arts, edited by Rüdiger Frank, Nürnberg: Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2011, pp. 88–112. (Please contact the lecturer for a copy: sonja.haeussler@su.se.)