The Other Korea: North Korea since 1945

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 3, Year 3 of 4 or Year 4 of 4
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of a module, a student should be able to:

  1. demonstrate a knowledge of how North Korea came into existence and of its political, economic and social development after 1948;
  2. demonstrate an understanding of and assess critically the dynamics of North Korea’s external policies, including the Korean War (1950-53) and relations with South Korea and other major powers;
  3. identify the difficulties and constraints in studying North Korea.


This module is taught over 10 weeks with a 2 hour lecture per week.

Scope and syllabus

This module is designed to offer a critical introduction to the emergence and development of North Korea. Specific topics to be discussed and analysed include:

  • The emergence of the Korean communist movement and Kim Il Sung’s background
  • War, liberation and war – Korea 1945-53
  • Kim Il Sung’s post war consolidation of power and economic reconstruction
  • The emergence of the juche ideology and the consequences for North Korea of the post 1956 divisions in the communist world
  • The struggle with South Korea 1953-1972 and the beginning of contacts
  • Economic problems and the emergence of Kim Jong Il
  • The emerging nuclear issue
  • The hard years of the 1990s
  • North-South relations in 1997-2007
  • The second nuclear crisis and the future

The module is intended to complement modules such as ‘History and Culture of Korea to the Late 19th Century’ and ‘Culture and Society in 20th Century Korea’ (which focuses on South Korea) to provide BA Korean students with a more comprehensive overview and understanding of the Korean peninsula and how it has developed, especially since the Pacific War. While the module is designed for the BA Korean (single-subject and combined) degrees, it can also be taken as a floater by anyone with a general interest in North Korea.

Method of assessment

  • Commentary exercise of 1,000 words (30%)
  • Essay of 2,500 words (70%)

Suggested reading

  • Buzo, Adrian The Guerrilla Dynasty: Politics and Leadership in North Korea, London: I B Taurus, 1999.
  • Cumings, Bruce, North Korea: Another Country, New York: New Press, 2004.
  • Delisle, Guy, Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea, Montreal, Canada: Drawn & Quarterly Books, 2005. A cartoon account of working in the North Korean cartoon film studio.
  • French, Paul, North Korea: The Paranoid Peninsula, London: Zed Books, 2005.
  • Haggard, Stephan and Marcus Noland, Famine in North Korea: markets, aid, and reform, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
  • Hoare, J. E. and Susan Pares, Conflict in Korea: an encyclopedia, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1999
    _________________________, North Korea in the 21st Century: An Interpretative Guide, Folkestone, Kent: Global Oriental
  • Hunter, Helen-Louise, Kim Il-song's North Korea, Westport, CONN. Praeger, 1999. Originally a CIA classified publication.
  • Lankov, Andrei, North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea, Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland and Co., 2007
  • Lim, Jae-Cheon, Kin Jong Il’s Leadership of North Korea, London: Routledge, 2009.
  • Martin, Bradley K., Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2004.
  • Oh, Kongdan and Ralph C. Hassig, North Korea through the Looking Glass, Washington DC: Brookings Institute, 2000.
  • Quinones, Dr C. Kenneth and Joseph Tragert, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding North Korea, New York: Alpha, 2003.
  • Suh Dae-sook and Lee Chae-jin, eds., Political Leadership in Korea, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976.
  • Suh Dae-sook, Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader, New York: Columbia UP, 1988.
    Yang Sung Chul, The North and South Korean Political Systems: A Comparative Analysis, Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1994.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules