Virtuous and Sexy: Making National Subjects in 1960s North Korea (date changed)

David Shuster
Wednesday, July 18, 2018 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
10,000 won for non-members and 5,000 won for students (with student ID); free for members


Throughout the 1950s, North Korean propaganda was actively engaged in constructing a concept of a so-called “sexual deviant” as part of the ongoing process of political othering of the state’s real and imagined enemies both within its own tightly sealed borders, as well as on the other side of the Bamboo Curtain. At the same time, the state increasingly felt the need to educate its population in what it came to regard as healthy and appropriate forms of sexuality free of any tinge of undesired social and political perversity.

By the mid-1960s, this new discourse on innocent sexuality—termed euphemistically yukch’emi, or “physical beauty,” in Korean—helped make the eroticized body a public spectacle. This talk introduces current discourses on sexuality in North Korea during this period that sought to conflate sexual immorality with political disloyalty allowed the North Korean state to exercise biopower over its population in accordance with the principles of political sovereignty, ideological independence, and economic autarky promoted by the new political philosophy of juche.

David Shuster is an historian of modern Korea. His research focuses on cultural politics, film and visual culture, and everyday history of the two Koreas during the Cold War period. His current book project, Laughing Angels, Crying Devils: Making Comedy in Postwar North Korea, examines the role of comedy and circus in North Korea's domestic politics and its relations with the outside world. David graduated with a B.A. in International Relations in 2005 from MGIMO University in Moscow. As an undergraduate student, he spent a semester attending Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea. He later received both his A.M. (‘07) and Ph.D. (‘14) from Harvard University in Modern Korean History. His recent publications include “North Koreans at the Movies: Cinema of Fits and Starts and the Rise of Chameleon Spectatorship” published in the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinemain 2016.


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