Post-socialist Utopias – North Korean Media Depictions of Progress and the Future

© RUB, Marquard

North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is stereotypically described as a relic of a bygone era or a state stuck in time. These labels carry ideas about its backwardness economically, but also about its stagnation in terms of ideological development: a Stalinist curiosity. In reality, North Korea has seen major changes both in its economic structure and in its ideology during the first decades of the 21st century. As ideology changes, so change the visions about the future. Promises given about the times ahead are a key factor in ensuring regime legitimacy, and as such have to be adjusted with the changing conditions to remain attractive and believable: this is true in North Korea as much as anywhere else.

This research focuses on the North Korean conceptions of progress and future. My understanding of North Korea highlights its origins as a part of the wider global socialist bloc, with a Marxist worldview that was initially largely inherited from the Soviet Union and China. At the same time, I want to focus on the unique changes that have been built on top of those foundations ever since the 1950s, and especially after the crisis experienced in the 1990s. In other words, I see North Korea as a post-socialist state, both in its economy and its ideology: the original socialist worldview has had a large influence on its development over the years, but it has since gone beyond it.