Novel Leader: State Fiction and the Legend of Kim Jong Un
State Fiction and the Legend of Kim Jong Un
state-approved propaganda tales tell of his strategic prowess, achievements and place at historic events he likely did not attend.
He is respectful of his elders, a brilliant military tactician, a bold thinker, a man of the people and much more. This is the backstory created for North Korea leader Kim Jong Un by the best fiction writers in his country.
With virtually no public profile when he was named to succeed his father in 2010, stateapproved propaganda tales tell of his strategic prowess, many achievements and important place at historic events he likely did not attend, writes Meredith Shaw, who discerns clues to the concerns of the Korean Workers’ Party in these works of fiction. OVER The Past TWO Years, I have been translating and analyzing fiction for the “North Korean literature in english” project (see it at https://dprklit.blogspot.com/). This is a particularly interesting time to study North Korea’s internal propaganda, as the literary production apparatus managed by the ruling Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) has been tasked with hurriedly building a hagiography for a new leader whose very existence was a closely guarded secret until shortly before he inherited power.
Kim Jong un was officially elevated to successor status at the KWP conference in september 2010, two years after his father Kim Jong Il suffered a debilitating stroke. It was the first time the North Korean media had mentioned him by name. simultaneously, he was promoted to fourstar general and given an important position on the Central Military Commission, despite being only in his late twenties with no significant military experience. Just over a year later, in December 2011, the elder Kim passed away suddenly, and the “Young General” inherited top positions in the party and military hierarchies, making him the de facto head of state and government.
This rapid ascent presented an unprecedented challenge for state propaganda. The first leader, Kim Il sung, was a well-known guerrilla fighter before taking power in 1945 and spent decades constructing his personality cult; Kim Jong Il served for 14 years as his father’s anointed successor prior to inheriting power and his personality cult could draw from his decades of faithful