Paul Gravett explores the contrasts and connections between the comics of a divided Korea, in the context of our current Made in North Korea exhibition.
In 1991, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il declared that the nation should ‘develop the comic-strip genre’. This official endorsement led to increased production of kurimch’aek or ‘picture books’, many in comics form and several adapted from the writings of the ‘Great Leader’, his first wife or their son and successor.
During and since the Korean War, North and South Korea have harnessed the cartoon medium for propaganda, while they also share historical folk heroes who live on in both sides of the demilitarised zone.
On the other hand, modern manhwa, or comics made in South Korea, survived censorship and public burnings to earn government support and compete directly with manga from Japan. Today, South Korea's searing graphic novels can confront the traumas of history. Their phenomenally popular digital comics or webtoons can also give a voice to critical cartoon journalists and North Korean defectors.
Important to know:
- £15 tickets include entry to our Made in North Korea exhibition
- £40 tickets include exhibition entry and a discounted copy of MANGASIA (RRP £29.95)
- Latecomers will not be admitted past 7.15pm