Skip to main content

Let's Go to the Moon: Science Fiction in the North Korean Children's Magazine Adong Munhak, 1956–1965


Science fiction narratives appeared in the North Korean children's magazine Adong munhak between 1956 and 1965, and they bear witness to the significant Soviet influence in this formative period of the DPRK. Moving beyond questions of authenticity and imitation, however, this article locates the science fiction narrative within North Korean discourses on children's literature preoccupied with the role of fiction as both a reflection of the real and a projection of the imminent, utopian future. Through a close reading of science fiction narratives from this period, this article underscores the way in which science, technology, and the environment are implicated in North Korean political discourses of development, and points to the way in which these works resolve the inherent tension between the desirable and seemingly contradictory qualities of the ideal scientist—obedient servant of the collective and indefatigable questioner—to establish the child-scientist as the new protagonist of the DPRK.

Hide All
Adong munhak. 1954. “Adong Munhak tokchahoe esŏ” [From the readers’ meeting of Adong munhak]. 1:68–70.
Andreas Joel. 2009. Rise of the Red Engineers: The Cultural Revolution and the Origins of China's New Class. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Banerjee Anindita. 2008. “Between Sputnik and Gagarin: Space Flight, Children's Periodicals, and the Circle of Imagination.” In Russian Children's Literature and Culture, eds. Balina Marina and Rudova Larissa, 6790. New York: Routledge.
Ch'a Yong Ku. 1959. “Hŭiyu kŭmsok ŭi wang” [King of rare metals]. Adong munhak 11:926.
Chang Hyŏng Chun. 1958. “Haebang hu adong munhak ŭi ch'anyŏnhanpalchŏn nojŏng” [The brilliant journey of post-liberation children's literature]. In Haebang hu uri munhak [Post-liberation literature], 271351. Pyongyang: Chosŏn Chakka Tongmaeng Ch'ulp'ansa.
Cho Sŏng-myŏn. 2002. Taejung munhak kwa chŏngjŏn e taehan panyŏk [Popular fiction in its revolt against the canon]. Seoul: Somyŏng Ch'ulp'ansa.
Chosŏn munhak. 1953. “Chŏnguk Chakka Yesulga taehoe kyŏlchŏngsŏ” [Decisions of the National Writer's Association]. 10:138–44.
Chosŏn munhak. 1954. “Chosŏn Chakka Tongmaeng chungang wiwŏnhoe che 5-ch'a sangmu wiwŏnhwe esŏ—adong munhak ch'angjak saŏp mit kojŏn kyesŭng saŏp ŭl kanghwa halte taehan taech'aek ŭl t'oŭi” [From the fifth meeting of the Chosŏn Writers’ Federation: Discussions over the task of strengthening the creative writing for children and the passing down of legacies of the past]. 1:146–49.
Csicsery-Ronay Istvan Jr. 2004. “Science Fiction and the Thaw.” Science Fiction Studies 31(3):337–44.
David-West Alzo. 2007a. “Marxism, Stalinism, and the Juche Speech of 1955: On the Theoretical De-Stalinization of North Korea.” Review of Korean Studies 10(3):127–52.
David-West Alzo. 2007b. “The North Korean Positive Hero in The People of the Fighting Village.” North Korean Review 3(2):101–18.
David-West Alzo. 2011. “Archetypal Themes in North Korean Literature: Working Notes on Problems and Possibilities.” Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche 5(1):6580.
Esler Dominic William. 2010. “Soviet Science Fiction of the 1920s: Explaining a Literary Genre in Its Political and Social Context.” Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction 39(109):2752.
Gabroussenko Tatiana. 2010. Soldiers on the Cultural Front: Developments in the Early History of North Korean Literature and Literary Policy. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Gerovitch Slava. 2011a. “The Human Inside a Propaganda Machine: The Public Image and Professional Identity of Soviet Cosmonauts.” In Into the Cosmos: Space Exploration and Soviet Culture, eds. Andres James and Siddiqui Asif, 77106. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Gerovitch Slava. 2011b. “‘Why Are We Telling Lies?’ The Creation of Soviet Space History Myths.” Russian Review 70(3):460–84.
Graham Loren R. 1993. The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the Soviet Union. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Hanscom Christopher P. 2013. The Real Modern: Literary Modernism and the Crisis of Representation in Colonial Korea. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center.
Hŏ Chin Kye. 1958. “Tal” [Moon]. Adong munhak 6:6263.
Hughes Theodore H. 2012. Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom's Frontier. New York: Columbia University Press.
Husband William B. 2006. “‘Correcting Nature's Mistakes’: Transforming the Environment and Soviet Children's Literature, 1928–1941.” Environmental History 11(2):300318.
Im T’ae-hun. 2012. Uae ŭi midiolloji [The mediology of friendship]. Seoul: Kalmuri. n.d. “Znanie-sila 1961.” (accessed March 26, 2014).
Kelly Catriona. 2001. Refining Russia: Advice Literature, Polite Culture, and Gender from Catherine to Yeltsin. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kelly Catriona. 2007. Children's World: Growing up in Russia, 1890–1991. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Kim Chae-yong. 1994. Pukhan munhak ŭi yŏksajŏk ihae [Historical understanding of North Korean literature]. Seoul: Munhak kwa Chisŏngsa.
Kim Myŏng Su. 1953. “Adong munhak ch'angjak e issŏsŏ ŭi myŏt kaji munje” [Several problems in the creative writing of children's literature]. Chosŏn munhak 12:97116.
Kim Myŏng Su. 1955. “Haebang hu adongmunhak ŭi palchŏn” [Post-liberation development of children's literature]. In Haebang hu 10-yŏn'gan ŭi chosŏnmunhak [Chosŏn literature ten years after liberation], 357410. Pyongyang: Chosŏn Chakka Tongmaeng Ch'ulp'ansa.
Kim To Pin. 1960. “Padasok ŭi changsup'ul” [Sea grass of longevity]. Adong munhak 1:3549.
Kim Tong Chŏn. 1959. “Tallara ro kaja” [Let's go to the Moon]. Adong munhak 10:510.
Kim Tong Sŏp. 1960. “Sonyŏn uju t'amhŏmdae” [Youth space expedition team]. Adong munhak 3:3951, 4:66–84, 5:90–100, 6:98–104, 7:87–100, 8:122–26, 9:82–90.
Kim Tong Sŏp. 1964. “Pada esŏ sosanan ttang” [The land surging from the sea]. Adong munhak 6:518, 7:78–88, 8:66–77, 9:60–67, 10:68–78, 11:62–70, 12:84–93.
Kim Tong Sŏp. 1965. “Pada esŏ sosanan ttang” [The land surging from the sea]. Adong munhak 2:8491, 3:28–51, 4:74–79.
Kim Yun-sik, and Yang Yoon Sun. 2006. “KAPF Literature in Modern Korean Literary History.” Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 14(2):405–25.
Krige John. 2006a. American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Krige John. 2006b. “Atoms for Peace, Scientific Internationalism, and Scientific Intelligence.” Osiris 21(1):161–81.
Lyapunov Boris. 1956. “Uridŭl ŭn hwasŏng e watta” [We landed on Mars]. Translated by Song Tong Kyu. Adong munhak 4:6979.
Major Patrick. 2003. “Future Perfect? Communist Science Fiction in the Cold War.” Cold War History 4(1):7196.
McCannon John. 2001. “Technological and Scientific Utopias in Soviet Children's Literature, 1921–1932.” Journal of Popular Culture 34(4):153–69.
Myers Brian. 1992. “Mother Russia: Soviet Characters in North Korean Fiction.” Korean Studies 16:8293.
Myers Brian. 1994. Han Soŏrya and North Korean Literature: The Failure of Socialist Realism in the DPRK. Ithaca, N.Y.: East Asia Program, Cornell University.
Nam Ŭng Son. 1957. “Hanŭl kwa ttang sok esŏ” [In the sky and earth]. Adong munhak 7:1839.
O'Dell Felicity Ann. 2010. Socialisation through Children's Literature: The Soviet Example. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Paek Sŏk. 1956a. “Maksim Korikki” [Maxim Gorki]. Adong munhak 3:6071.
Paek Sŏk. 1956b. “Na ŭi hangŭi, na ŭi cheŭi” [My protests, my suggestions]. Chosŏn munhak 9:4555.
Paek Sŏk. 1956c. “Tonghwa munhak ŭi palchŏn ŭl wihayŏ” [For the development of children's literature]. Chosŏn munhak 5:117–31.
Paek Sŏk. 1957. “Marŭsyak’ŭ ŭi seangae wa munhak” [Marshak's life and works]. Adong munhak 11:6772.
Park Sunyoung. 2006. “The Colonial Origin of Korean Realism and Its Contemporary Manifestation.” Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 14(1):165–92.
Pepper David. 1996. Modern Environmentalism: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
Pioner. 1954. Moscow: Prada, 5:58.
Prideaux Steve. 2012. “Kosmicheskiy reys (1936).” Say; Hello Spaceman. December 11. (accessed March 26, 2014).
Ri Wŏn U. 1956. Adong munhak ch'angjak ŭi kil [The path toward creative writing for children]. Pyŏngyang: Kungnip Ch'ulp'ansa.
Rüthers Monica. 2011. “Children and the Cosmos as Projects of the Future and Ambassadors of Soviet Leadership.” In Soviet Space Culture: Cosmic Enthusiasm in Socialist Societies, eds. Maurer Eva et al. , 206–25. Croydon, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan.
Shapiro Judith. 2001. Mao's War against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shin Haerin. 2013. “The Curious Case of South Korean Science Fiction: A Hyper-Technological Society's Call for Speculative Imagination.” Azalea 6:8185.
Sylvester Roshanna. 2011. “‘Let's Find Out Where the Cosmonaut School Is’: Soviet Girls and Cosmic Visions in the Aftermath of Tereshkova.” In Soviet Space Culture: Cosmic Enthusiasm in Socialist Societies, eds. Maurer Eva et al. , 121–38. Croydon, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wŏn Chong-ch'an. 2012. Pukhan ŭi adong munhak [Children's literature of North Korea]. Seoul: Chŏngdong Kŏul.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 11
Total number of PDF views: 74 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 331 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.