North Korean Poster Collection

North Korea, a closed nation that was created during a tumultuous time post World War II and the Korean Civil War of the early 1950s, has been in the news a lot lately. Primary source materials, including evidence, artifacts or other items created within the boundaries of North Korea, are hard to find. Very little information is allowed to flow over the country’s two borders with South Korea and China. The UC San Diego Library has one window available into this corner of the world, a collection of 66 North Korean propaganda posters. The original posters are held in the Library’s Special Collections & Archives, and digital copies are available through the Library’s Digital Collections website.  

The posters are high-quality hand painted reproductions of printed posters that exclaim slogans and sayings to bolster the morale of the North Korean populace. From protecting the Supreme Commander to reuniting the Asian continent the posters are a way to guide the thoughts and actions of the North Korean people and make them proud of the actions of their government. They use bright colors to attract the eye and most are large in size to overwhelm and consume the viewer. The posters, with catchy slogans and cartoon-like images attempt to persuade the North Korean people to work hard, be loyal to the government and be proud of their heritage.

This collection of posters, created between 1985 and 2002, is unique in Calisphere and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). These two online treasure troves collect images from a wide variety of organizations, including UC San Diego. Calisphere collects digital material from educational and cultural heritage institutions throughout California, while DPLA has a broader scope that includes all fifty states and institutions like Harvard University, ARTstor and Library of Congress. While other institutions may have collections of North Korean propaganda posters in their physical collections, UC San Diego Library is unique in making these resources accessible through these two popular online portals.

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