Death and Transfiguration : The Late Kim Jong-il Aesthetic in North Korean Cultural Production
Cathcart, A., & Korhonen, P. (2017). Death and Transfiguration : The Late Kim Jong-il Aesthetic in North Korean Cultural Production. Popular Music and Society, 40 (4), 390-405. doi:10.1080/03007766.2016.1158987
Published inPopular Music and Society
© 2017 Informa UK Limited. This is a final draft version of an article whose final and definitive form has been published by Taylor & Francis. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.
This article assesses the official music scene in Pyongyang over a span of five dramatic years, surveying how changes in the field of music from 2009 to 2014 mirrored and in some cases presaged North Korean dynastic succession and political consolidation. The article draws upon a new abundance of performance data on North Korean musical groups, data which we argue is important but has largely been ignored or mischaracterized heretofore. The central crisis dealt with in the article is the decline and demise of Kim Jong-il, the architect of North Korea’s musical culture. In his final years, Kim Jong-il assented to the creation of a new leading musical group known as the Unhasu Orchestra, promoted a song (“Footsteps”) about his son’s succession, and was commemorated as a passing figure even while still alive (in the film Wish). This article reads the transition of power to the young Kim Jong-un in musical terms, revealing churn in the cultural sector. The text therefore advances questions about the role of music in the North Korean society generally, and will appeal to readers interested in North Korean culture, as well as to scholars of music and politics in general. ...