California Literary Review

Photo Essay: North Korean Propaganda Posters


August 19th, 2008 at 10:43 am

  • Print Print

North Korean Propaganda Poster: Bombing US Calital

“When provoking a war of aggression, we will hit back, beginning with the US!”

North Korean Posters: The David Heather Collection
by David Heather and Koen De Ceuster
Prestel USA, 288 pp.

North Korean Propaganda Poster: US as dog barking

“Though the dog barks, the procession moves on!”

North Korean Propaganda Poster: US Imperialists

“Death to US imperialists, our sworn enemy!”

The images in the background of this poster are depictions of what can be called the classical instances of US imperialism in North Korean propaganda. From top to bottom: Kim Il Sung’s great-grandfather is said to have been involved in the torching of the USS General Sherman which had run aground off Pyongyang in 1866: the 1950 Sinch’on massacre that left over 30,000 men, women and children dead is attributed to US troops. The other examples are the 1953 armistice treaty ending the Korean War: the 1968 USS Pueblo spying incident: and the 1994 downing of a US helicopter which had inadvertently strayed over the military demarcation line.

David Heather

North Korean Propaganda Poster: prevent epidemics

“Prevention and more prevention. Let’s fully establish a veterinary system for the prevention of epidemics!”

Stylistically, North Korean art is far more than a mere copy of Soviet Russian socialist realism. As was the case with the revolution itself, North Korean socialist realist art had to accord with Korea’s specific historical conditions and cultural traditions. Kim Il Sung pronounced that “Korean Painting” [Chosonhwa], the indigenous post-revolutionary development of traditional ink painting, was the best representative of Korean styles and emotions. He made the essential features of Korean painting the model for all fine arts. Kim Jong Il in his Treatise on Art (Misullon, 1992) described the qualities of Korean Painting as clarity, compactness, and delicacy. These characteristics have become the standard applied to all art produced in North Korea. As such, they also form the basis and model for poster art. On the latter, Kim Jong Il had more to say in his treatise on art. As important tools in the mobilization of the masses, posters have to have an instantaneous impact on the viewers’ understanding and their desire to act upon this understanding. Their message has to be accessible, clear and direct; informative and explanatory, as well as exhortative. The link between contemplation and action is crucial. A poster artist is ultimately an agitator, who, familiar with the party line and endowed with a sharp analysis and judgment of reality produces a rousing depiction of policies and initiatives that stimulate the people into action. Only if the poster appeals to the ideological and aesthetic sentiments of the people will it succeed in truly rousing the people. Kim Jong Il refers to poster painters as standard bearers of their times, submerged in the overwhelming reality and in touch with the revolutionary zeal and creative power of the people, leading the way from a position among the people.

Posters are visual illustrations of the slogans that surround the people of North Korea constantly. North Korean society is in a permanent mobilization. Party and government declarations are stripped down to single-line catchphrases. Through their endless repetition in banners, newspaper headlines, and media reports, these compact slogans become self-explanatory, simultaneously interpreting and constructing reality.

Koen de Ceuster

North Korean Propaganda Poster: reunite fatherland

“Let’s drive the US imperialists out and reunite the fatherland!”

North Korean Propaganda Poster: raise goats

“Let’s extensively raise goats in all families!”

North Korean Propaganda Poster: US axis of evil

“The US is truly an Axis of Evil.”

North Korean Propaganda Poster: We will

“When we say we will, we will. We do not talk idly!”

North Korean Propaganda Poster: boot  print

“Wicked Man.”

North Korean Propaganda Poster: US imperialist wolves

“Do not forget the US imperialist wolves!”

From “North Korean Posters” by David Heather and Koen de Ceuster, with the permission of Prestel.

  • Robbie

    Canadian I see the statement you are trying to make and strongly disagree. The U.S. has made it’s mistakes as any other country but they are not in any sense of the word imperialistic. Many Americans wish to leave Iraq and let the Iraqi officials take control over there own country but the country is very unstable and terrorists could very well over run the country once more. The notion of going into Iraq in the first place was most likely a mistake but we must live with it.Obama has announced his plan to withdraw from Iraq and hit the Taliban in more logical areas. As for the depression you could not understand it unless you are living through it from an American point of view I am a Middle class American and I am continueing to prosper in this economy as are many of my friends, no doubt it is a bit more stressful. I am not denying its existence and it gives us a chance to take a step back and realize in which direction are country is going. Resentment towards America is on the rise due to lackluster foreign policy recently and bad decision making but we will overcome. No doubt jobs are far more scarce and many people are forclosing but I am confident in my nation’s resolve to find a solution.

  • White Male


    That drug manufacturer that Clinton destroyed in Sudan was probably using the majoritity of their facility to make ephedrin, and selling it to super meth labs in Mexico which intern are poisoning millions of Americans. “Biological Weapons”

    We should bomb the rest of them.

  • Jimmy Trinket

    Wow, these are great! They remind me of the American Propaganda posters that were going around during the cold war. Thanks for putting them up. It’s great to see that there are other nutty countries out there.


    Is that Telly Savalas holding the baby over the well?

  • Chris

    Clearly the N. Koreans are really dumb and idiotic about their posters. America can just walk in there and annihilate their army.

  • Pat

    Chris, don’t talk dry. We wait for your action.

  • Grape Soda

    This reminds me of something Michael Moore would produce, I can tell by some of the America hating progressive/Marxist remarks here I’m right about this.

  • http://na RedWhiteBlue

    Any country that eats dogs as part of their diet, well, I’m a little skeptical of anything that is produced from their brains. Plus, they’re about as advanced as a stone age power.

  • ahansen

    The comments here are as interesting as the topic–even at this late date.

    But I am compelled to respond to the vilification of GMAN, who stated that the Taliban offered up bin Ladin in exchange for calling off hostilities and the embargo of Iraq. This is true, and in the weeks following 9-11, Bill Clinton was roundly and extensively excoriated in the Fox News outlets for having done so.

    Osama bin Ladin WAS a US “asset” who was paid nearly $350M USD to build the Tora Bora cave complex back in the days when Bush the First et al were trying to tweak the Soviets in Afghanistan. His involvement in US “security” matters were extensive and well documented. Moreover, the Taliban (as well as the Madrassas system,) were CREATED by the US State Department as a force to counter Soviet control over the region. Also extensively documented if you care to search out this really cool interweb application called “Google.”

    Recall newsman, Dan Rather’s, and US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s extensive involvement with the leadership and fighters of this group. Generally the State Department frowns on fraternization with the “enemy.”

    Osama bin Ladin’s business manager was GWB’s roomie and fellow expellee in the Texas Air National Guard scandal, and you may recall, that the extended bin Ladin family living in the US were the ONLY persons allowed to leave the country–even to fly– in the days after 9-11.

    This stuff is not theory, it is fact. Whether or not it qualifies as conspiracy is another matter entirely.

    For more info and extensive documentation (92 pages of end notes,) see the Center for International Studies publication, “The War on Truth.” ISBN 1-56656-595-0, as well as innumerable other studies and critiques of the official 911 Report.

  • bob1234

    First off ” GMAN” you need to be educated better. All you’re facts seem to be straight out of you’re parents opinions. Form you’re own. Secondly, you need to stop hating on the US because you’re jealous we made our country better than everyone else’s except for some in Europe. Plus we (US) is smart. We are being the hammer and not the nail. We fight for freedom of citizens. Communism needs to be erased. Just look up what’s happening to north Korea’s citizens under communism. It pisses me off when I see videos on how manipulated they are.


    I bet those POSTERS are made in SOUTH KOREA Psychological warfare departments (PSYOP/PSYWAR)- not in NORTH KOREA – only to create ‘they hate us’ illusion for American people…and there can ba very real possibility that US PSYOP groups are also involved for creating that disinformation….

    (PNAC and Wolfowitz Doctrine goals)

  • RP

    @Psyop – No, the posters are made in NK. Check out the video “Crossing the line” and you will see parade floats made depicting their posters.
    @Bulgasari – Yes, literacy is near 100 percent. It takes three to five days to learn the alphabet. I teach Korean.
    @Katy – I lived there from ’83-86, 88-90, and 94-96 while in the Air Force.

  • http://goole ooijed

    yeah not good

  • Dice

    Keh Keh… More Republicans trying to believe everything is fine, I suppose. I can almost guarantee you that those who say that they prefer America for the food and Television have not been poor a day in their lives~
    Look closely at the world. Things are breaking and dying, and the US is at the top of that list. Countries all over are slowly becoming Communist because they realize how much of a disease upon the people US capitalism is.
    With the CIA Jackals, Corrupted Congress, and more and more people becoming poor because the US is waging war for resources that the corporations need, it’s no Surprise the Socialist movements in America are growing. And the Republicans will talk out their asses in every which way to try and make you believe that Socialism is a bad thing, because it means that they will have to work like the rest of us, and get off their high and mighty thrones.
    I saw at the top of the list, many were picking on GMAN because he tried to give a very quick defense, and he got chewed out for it. Well, it’s not easy giving a defense when most of the comments flood from the ignorant, who have not seen what goes on.
    You can look for the pictures of US soldiers posing with dead civilians, if you want.
    Those smart enough don’t watch the US censored news anyways. Watch RT for a few hours online. Maybe you’ll learn something about the world.
    To finish, the US has been notorious for trying to kill anyone who has a nuclear program, or anything else that would make a country a rival to it.
    I believe, VERY MUCH, that the United States of America died around the 50’s-60’s.
    What’s left now is just a husk of corporations and blood money.

  • jj

    Good post dice.


    “And Afghanistan and Iraq? One harbored terrrorist training cells, and the other a madman who gassed his own people.”

    Of course, you are referring to Winston Churchill gassing the Kurds, right?

    “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.”

    It’s sad to see all the imperialist mentality on the interwebs and here, personally, like one of our great founders, Tom Paine, I truly believe “the world is my country and to do good my religion”. If more people had (read) Common Sense, perhaps you would know what Paine et al envisioned for America, because you are sure misrepresenting it if you think it was to go after “foreign monsters”…

    Seems some people on this thread don’t really know their history…

  • jj

    Don’t forget, Afghanistan is widely known as the Graveyard of Empires….

    Just ask his tory…

  • T.O. Cunuck

    People who hate the USA are likely to suffer from an inferiority complex and blind, sheeplike ignorance. I’ll bet anything that most of the USA bashers on this thread are Canadian or Europeans, who, live decent lives because of the economic support that their countries receive through commerce that the USA provides them, as well as the sacrifices made by the USA military to keep peace and stability around the world. I, myself, am Canadian, but thankfully not a brain dead one. Viva le USA!

  • steve

    If anyone thinks that this is what the US truely is, then you must be seriously gullable. I mean, at least the people of the DPRK have the excuse that if they don’t believe it, they’ll get throw in the labor camps and worked until they die. North Korea has a lot of nerve saying these things about us, when most of the time it’s what they do TO THEIR OWN PEOPLE. Do you know what happens to people when they defect to the South? Their FAMILIES, completely innocent families, are sent to interment camps and TORTURED. Gee, aren’t they just a beacon of Human rights. The day China stops covering for their asses is the day the Korea Unites under democracy.

  • steve

    Not that china is a threat to the US, but it would be in our best interest to not start a war with China, because there would be a great chance that it would be a nuclear war, thus provoking WWIII, and bringing on the end of the world… yeahhh not so much a great idea.

  • TeenageThoughts

    No country has a clean past when it comes to the wars of the past and present… Most are just good at hiding what they did and making themselves look clean towards their people…

    These posters make you think quite a bit, don’t they? ^^
    Many interesting opinions on this page..

  • The Stoic

    A lot of interesting opinions in the comments.
    First, however, a comment about the art: Regardless of the content, it’s absolutely beautiful, in the way Nazi propaganda was. Direct, effective and passionate.
    Now, about the ongoing debate in the comments section:
    I am American and European. I have lived half my life at the States and am currently living in Europe. So I’ve seen both sides of the fence.
    My opinion is this: you cannot be a dominant world power without developing the element of ruthlessness. The United States of America are such a player. It would be naive to cry foul for them having adopted imperialism as their status quo.
    But, come on.
    Remember Athens in 5th century BC?
    Remember Rome? Byzantium?
    Remember the Vatican?
    Maybe England?
    Things could be so much worse for everyday people like you and me.
    And they’re not.
    Yes, US has some ridiculous laws. Yes, they are imperialists and all of its wars fought have been for influence, money or oil. Yes, power corrupts.
    And it is natural that it would be so.
    United States helped Europe recover after WWII. It created a system that was based on, yet eventually surpassed, the Roman Republic model, based itself on Athens’ direct democracy.
    Some of the world’s greatest thinkers, innovators, inventors and humanitarians are American.
    So, to recap: I absolutely agree the United States has destroyed many people’s lives (vast majority of which being non-American). However: do not judge this country based solely on doe-eyed idealism or blind hate propaganda. See it for what it is: A great power that has earned its right in the annals of history, like it or not, and as such, demands respect.
    North Korea’s propaganda posters fall in line with the country’s political system, alliances and history. However: I have no respect for its cult of personality, perpetuated by the tyrannical family that has dominated their fellow countrymen for DECADES.
    Do you realize that most North Koreans don’t remember a time they did not worship this or that Dear Leader?
    Let’s hope a solution for the North Korean problem will be found. Those poor people deserve a chance at living, not merely surviving-barely.

  • ?

    The one poster with the foot does not read “wicked man” it says “sword of the new four”

  • ..

    The ,ajor problem in most comments is the lack of American support. Some call it PYSOP propoganda, others say we are imperialists. Ill have you know this situation is world war 2 flipped. South Korea is invaded, japan is invaded. The US sends a small force to fail for us to defend hawaii, and we loose it. They invade the US, and use our resources, kill all who oppose, and blind us with propoganda and oppresion. False ” US” officials tell us to join the NORTH KOREAN INASION OF EUROPE. This invasion is backed by millions of resources and practically slave labor which north korea exploited us by, as well as the use of american scientists to create bombs the Koreans are too primitive to make and Europe falls in a couple of years. Maybe thats what it takes to make Europeans finally supports us, maybe they just have to see their world killed and destroyed, an annexed state of the korean empire, whose new objective is africa and south america, who fall in days.

  • Jin SIm

    Hey, I’m a Korean, so I know a lot of Korea. Of course, I’m not a North Korean. In North Korea, a lot of Korean are die because of starvation. Their leader is Kim Jung ill, but he’s dead. They made Nuclear weapon, but they can’t shoot it, because if they shoot missile to others, that means nuclear war began, so the leaders will die. Is here anyone who knows President of Korea? His name is Meong Bak Lee (MB) and he became very frightened to North Korea. However, some ridiculous politicians in Korea always give opposite opinions to MB’s project without appropriate evidences and reasons. You know what, Koreans want Annuity, but of course if government gives Annuity to people, it’s good to people, because they can earn money without work, so that is kind of socialism, so people get lazy. People don’t work, so there is no development. Actually, most of MB’s enemies are 20~40 years old, because they want their own benefit not as 50years old. They always swear to MB, and they swear to U.S. They hate FTA between U.S. and Korea. But they don’t say anything about European FTA. I hate them.

  • http://naver ricky kim

    hey i am a south korean.North koreans hate US so they make wierd posters like that.They tried to launch missiles to US and it failed.

  • Marybeth Reihe

    Bummer! It drives me even more insane to admit this.

  • Q&A

    To whom supported for America,America/UncleDan,Fern/007 etc

    Everyside of this world contained goods and bads but since you all tried to say good things about how American has done to the rest of the world…

    Do you know who or which country on this planet has been called/shouted “get out of here” or “get the f*** out of here” the most? – Answer this will realise it in general

    Traveling to countries around the worlds, looking at every gunning – cannoning fields nowadays, no need to find out their reasons, just to see faces and nationalities…we can easily regconise who they are.

    How many US bombs and US mines are still remaining in Vietnam after the war? which continues to kill innocent people who were born years after the war’s end? Moreover, orange agent freely sprayed out with after-effect up to now…What to be done to save people or to clean them up? NOTHING! please read books to know how this war’s end

    Swedish! I like ABBA’s song with “the loser’s standing small…”.

    A fair/righteous one will not forget the bads you have done instead try to teach other people.

    No matter N. Korea is good or not…leave them alone. N. Korea has their people and their leaders

  • Stars And Stripes Are Forever

    My God! Communist aggression still standing before me? You Take Your Communist Aggression Someplace Else! Try To Propaganda Me, But I Say Stay Away! For Of You All, America Has Done This World Better Then Anyone Of You. The Men And Women Who Claimed America’s Independence Will Achieve More In One Historical Moment Then Communist Scum Will EVER Achieve. Anyone Who Can Truly Claim That America Striving Be False, Whilst Trying To Say North Korea Is Any Better? They Have The Audacity To Commit Even Worse Crimes And Un-Ethical Procedures, America May Have Done Some Wrong Previously, However America Has Done Alot More Good, Brave And Noble Things To Make Up For It. So Before You Compare America With North Korea, Maybe Look At Who Has Done More Good, Who Looks After Its Citizens.

    North Korea Is Scum! And The Artist (if at all) Of This Fowl Propaganda Deserves To Live In North Korea, For Supporting Such. But Not As A VIP Either, This Composer Should Experience The Starvation, Raiding Parties, Massacre And Methods Of The Fascist Secret Police, Who’s Methods Have No Contrast To Those Of Nazi.

    Burn In Hell North Korea, If Your Country Is So Great Why Is Everyone Migrating Away From You?

    – Do Not Get Me Wrong. North Korea Is The Enemy, I Have Respect For The South.

  • Anonimouse

    North Korea Can Guard The Gates Of Hell! They Are An Offense To Humanity! The Sooner They Either Pick Up Their Game Or Be Obliterated The Better!

  • Juanito

    Shin sa means gentleman in Korea. The word shin can also mean new and sa is the Sinicized number four, but in this poster shin sa does not mean “new four”

  • Tom

    North Korea isn’t the enemy, but whomever rules it. The people who live there live under oppression, and don’t know any better. This is the mindset that got us into so many nasty wars. America isn’t the greatest country in the world. Sure, it was the greatest at one time, but look at our economy. Look at our politics. Do you really think we’re prospering as much as other countries?



  • Pingback: Propaganda posters |

  • Pingback: | The Friday Shirk Report – February 5, 2010 | Volume 43()

  • creamyfurburger

    north korea is hella ghey


    How could anyone think that life in a totalitarian state is security? Apparently thinking has nothing to do with it!

  • Pingback: Manu Contreras()

  • sc

    To the people who are unaware, the Korean War, in a way, was instigated by the U.S. due to political interests. After WWII and the Japanese Occupation, Korea was divided by an agreement made the by USSR and the U.S. One side would be socialist, and the other would be a “democracy.” Koreans barely had any say and had no political interests. They just wanted independence. Several decades later, we see the same happening in the Middle East.

    The U.S. helps other nations with political and economic interests in mind.

  • Pingback: 1998 Redux: Korean Missile ‘Five Years’ from Hitting U.S. | Danger Room | Wired()

  • Pingback: North Korea’s Satellite Launch: Fail? | Danger Room | Wired()

  • Pingback: North Korean Propoganda Posters | Frog in a Well()

  • Richard Rain

    Cool I Like It

  • Pingback: North Korea’s internal propaganda – Personality cult and purity of race – Sapardanis Kostas()

Get The Latest California Literary Review Updates Delivered Free To Your Inbox!

Powered by FeedBlitz

Recent Comments