North Korea Table of Contents

In terms of ethnicity, the population of the Korean Peninsula is one of the world's most homogeneous. Descended from migratory groups who entered the Korean Peninsula from Siberia, Manchuria, and Inner Asia several thousands of years ago, the Korean people are distinguished from the neighboring populations of mainland Asia and Japan in terms of ethnicity, culture, and language, even though they share many cultural elements with these peoples.

Since the establishment of the Han Chinese colonies in the northern Korean Peninsula 2,000 years ago, Koreans have been under the cultural influence of China. During the period of Japanese domination (1910-45), the colonial regime attempted to force Koreans to adopt the Japanese language and culture. Neither the long and pervasive Chinese influence nor the more coercive and short-lived Japanese attempts to make Koreans loyal subjects of the Japanese emperor, however, succeeded in eradicating their ethnic, cultural, and linguistic distinctiveness. The desire of the North Korean regime to preserve its version of Korean culture, including many traditional aspects such as food, dress, art, architecture, and folkways, is motivated in part by the historical experience of cultural domination by both the Chinese and the Japanese.

Chuch'e ideology asserts Korea's cultural distinctiveness and creativity as well as the productive powers of the working masses. The ways in which chuch'e rhetoric is used shows a razor-thin distinction between revolutionary themes of self-sufficient socialist construction and a virulent ethnocentrism. In the eyes of North Korea's leaders, the "occupation" of the southern half of the peninsula by "foreign imperialists" lends special urgency to the issue of culturalethnic identity. Not only must the people of South Korea be liberated from foreign imperialism, but also they must be given the opportunity to participate in the creation of a new, but still distinctively Korean, culture.

Contemporary Cultural Expression
Literature, Music, and Film
Architecture and City Planning
The Korean Language

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress