Academiegebouw, klein auditorium

Rapenburg 73, Leiden


The Asian Library, International Institute for Asian Studies, LeidenAsiaCentre, Leiden University Institute for Area Studies

15 June - Reading North Korean Posters: Medium and Message

UPDATE: due to the overwhelming interest for this lecture afternoon, the location has been changed to the Academy Buidling on Rapenburg 73. The name of the room is ‘Klein Auditorium’.

The drinks after the lecture will be held in the University library, which is a 3 min. walk from the Academy building. We hope to see you there on Thursday! If you haven’t registered yet through the ticket link, please do not forget to do so!


The Asian Library at Leiden University hosts a unique (online) annotated database of over 1,000 printed North Korean posters (1952-2011) from a private collection. On occasion of the launch of this database, three speakers will engage the posters from three different disciplinary angles, addressing the posters consecutively as visual art, as propaganda tools and as historical documents. In doing so, they will demonstrate how with the right set of questions and the proper methodological toolbox, something as mundane as a poster turns out to be a surprisingly rich, complex and versatile source of information.


These lectures show that sustained and informed scientific engagement with the available data goes a long way to lift the vail of unknowability that is often draped over North Korea. Through a deep reading of these printed posters, North Korea stops being nothing but a political headache, but also appears as a historical entity with a specific social, political, ideological and cultural identity.

Time: 14.00 – 17.00 h

Everyone is welcome to attend. Please register online by clicking this link.


Programme & Speakers:

Mary Ginsberg (Curator at the British Museum, editor of “Communist Posters”, Reaktion books, 2017)
Presentation: ‘Mixed Metaphors: North Korean Posters in an International Context.’

Suzy Kim (historian, assistant professor at Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, author of “Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution, 1945–1950”, 2013)
Presentation: ‘Aesthetics of High Socialism in North Korean Posters, 1950s-1970s.’

Koen de Ceuster (University Lecturer at Leiden University, co-author of “De-bordering Korea: Tangible and Intangible legacies of the Sunshine Policy”, 2013)
Presentation: ‘Pointing Fingers: The Visual Rhetorics of North Korean Posters.’

Credits Poster:

Ch’oe Ŭn-sŏk, Let us carry out the construction of cities and farming villages as an all-people movement! (1957).
In the years following the Korean War (1950-53), a great effort went into rebuilding the country. Mass mobilisation of manual labour has been an ideologically motivated feature of economic policy throughout North Korea’s history. The poster design makes the effort palatable by drawing the eye to the promotional images of a city and countryside idyll.