The Production of Everyday Life in Postwar North Korea


Thursday, September 26, 2013, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Porté Seminar Room (S250), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 01238

Korea Colloquium

Cheehyung Kim, ACLS New Faculty Fellow, Duke University

Cheeyung Kim is an ACLS New Faculty Fellow at Duke University, in both the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department and the History Department. Broadly, he is interested in how people live and work in the face of strong state and productive demands. He is writing his first book at the moment, on the everyday life of North Korea’s industrial workers in the 1950s and 60s.

Chaired by Carter J. Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Harvard University


Everyday life is a product. In this study, the production of everyday life in North Korea is approached from, first, the ideological dimension based on the notion of repetitive work; second, the mass movements that took place in the postwar period in all sectors of industry to increase production and productivity, with the Ch’ǒllima Work Team Movement of 1959 as its most representative campaign; and third, the totality between working and living where social needs and state needs are simultaneously satisfied. Repetitive work, mass movements, and the totality between work and life merged in the space of everyday life. Certain historical conditions contributed toward this formation: the monopoly of the political world by Kim Il Sung’s Manchurian partisan faction and the monopoly of production by the state. Conceptually speaking, the everyday life of North Koreans entailed a totality that brought together social needs and state needs through mass movements and the ideological workings of repetitive labor. This is not to paint a seamless image of everyday life. Lefebvre called the everyday the “irreducible residual deposit.” The everyday totality has an irreducible core of struggle, of antagonism. Thus all forms of everyday totality—the housing system, for example—also anticipated their disintegration, both discursively and as practice.

The Korea Colloquium is generously supported by the Min Young-Chul Memorial Fund at the Korea Institute.

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