North Korean Goddess – Myth of Kim Chŏng-suk in the DPRK Cinema

Conference: The Asian Conference on Arts & Humanities (ACAH2022)
Title: North Korean Goddess – Myth of Kim Chŏng-suk in the DPRK Cinema
Stream: Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Roman Husarski, Institute of Religious Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland


In the late 1970s, the cult of personality in North Korea went beyond the communist doctrine by venerating various members of the Kim Il Sung family. Among hagiographies of the so-called “bloodline of Mount Paektu” is Kim Chŏng-suk (1917-1949), the first wife of Kim Il Sung, and the mother of Kim Jong Il. The task of her immortalization was undertaken by the Paektusan Production Unit, created by Kim Jong Il himself. The article contains the analysis of three movies dedicated to the mother of the revolution; Far Away from the Headquarters (Saryŏngbu rŭl mŏlli ttŏnasŏ, 1979, director not credited), Love that Blossomed the Future (Mirae rŭl kkotp'iun sarang, 1982, Pak Hak), and A friendly worrior (Ch'inwi chŏnsa, 1982, Kim Tŏk-kyu, Chŏng Un-mo). Kim Chŏng-suk is a complex figure, portrayed both as a feminine ideal and as a ruthless warrior. Her selflessness gives her superpowers that exceed typical human capacities. In contrast to other positive heroes presented in the DPRK movies of the period, Kim Chŏng-suk should be understood by her special connection to the Great Leader. Her relationship with Kim Il-sung has nothing to do with romantic love, but is an emotional, sacred devotion. By paying special attention to the sociology and cognitive science of religion, I conclude that Kim Chŏng-suk should be read as a religious being. Although much was said about Kim Il Sung cult of personality, I am not aware of any study in English or Korean on the representation of Kim Chŏng-suk on the screen.

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