New goddess on Mount Paektu: myth and transformation in North Korean landscape

Winstanley-Chesters, R (2020) New goddess on Mount Paektu: myth and transformation in North Korean landscape. Black Halo, Sheffield. ISBN 9781838070205

Abstract

North Korea’s 2015 New Year’s Address was replete with references to Mt Paektu, the highest mountain on the Korean peninsula, and to 2015 being the seventieth anniversary of the Liberation of the Korean peninsula from Japanese occupation. Two years later, 2017 saw the centennial anniversary of the birth of Kim Jong Suk, first wife of Kim Il Sung, mother of Kim Jong Il and grandmother of Kim Jong Un. It is perhaps not surprising that at these celebratory moments the landscapes central to Korean mountain cults, ancient and modern, come to the fore. This book suggests considering contemporary North Korean ideology and the importance of the Kim dynasty as having evolved from traditional Korean mountain beliefs and practices, centred on Mt Paektu. It examines the common cultural roots of modern North and South Korean mountain legend and suggests a certain methodological grid for its analysis. While much of the legend surrounding Kim Il Sung’s guerrilla resistance in the forests and valleys around Mt Paektu is determinedly masculine, Kim Jong Suk constitutes an authoritative female presence. As a bodyguard of Kim Il Sung and a champion of revolutionary struggle, Kim Jong Suk transcends both her defined gender role and her human nature. In order to transform from the young peasant girl into a great Revolutionary Mother and a symbol of the charismatic power of the Kim dynasty, Kim Jong Suk has to undergo difficult and painful trials and toils. In this recounting of her struggle Kim Jong Suk is both transfigured by and herself transfigures the terrain of the mountain, becoming a key player in the transformation of its slopes into the charismatic mythography of the North Korean present.

Item Type: Book
Divisions: School of Sciences
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2020 14:35
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2020 12:22
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