Together with the Foot Soldiers 步兵과 더부러 
Yu Ch’ihwan (1951)

The pen we carry to fight should, like grenades, field artillery, flame throwers and the atomic bomb become a new weapon

Ch’oe Sangdŏk (1901-1971)

“After WWII Korean writers searched for a new function for literature which would undo culture from the remnants of colonization, and simultaneously strengthen the nation. Some writers argued that socialist realist literature would suit the needs of postcolonial Korea, while others started to propagate their vision of a so-called “pure literature” (sunsu munhak).

In tandem with the political circumstances on the Korean peninsula, these two aesthetic doctrines would become the most dominant, and would eventually become directly linked to one of the two hegemonic political ideologies: Communism and Democracy…”

Source: Wit, Jerôme de. Writing under wartime conditions : North and South Korean writers during the Korean war (1950-1953).

For South Korean writers during the Korean War, nationalism and determining who represented the moral highground of the Korean nation formed an important battlefield. In their stories South Korean writers asserted that North Korean politicians and army officers had given up all rights to be part of the Korean nation by adhering to their “mistaken” (Communist) ideology. Meanwhile the common North Korean citizen (including the citizen soldier) was a victim of this group in power and was treated like a slave.

Source: 1950s | Korean Literature Blog


After the partition between north and south, North Korea’s subsequent literary tradition was shaped and controlled by the State. The “Guidelines for Juche Literature”, published by the official Choson Writers’ Alliance, emphasized that literature must extoll the country’s leader. Only members of the Writers’ Alliance are authorized to have their works published.

Reading is a popular pastime in North Korea, where literacy and books enjoy a high cultural standing, elevated by the regime’s efforts to disseminate propaganda as texts. Because of this, writers are held in high prestige.

Source: Wikipedia

North Korean literature is virtually nonexistent in English translation outside of North Korea.

In contrast, a substantial body of South Korean literature has been translated. Source: B. Fulton



North Korea

South Korea