North Korea, concrete utopia: Architecture as a propaganda weapon in North Korea

Authors: Jelena Prokopljevic and Roger Mateos

“North Korea, concrete utopia” (Muñoz Moya Publishers) is a new book which focuses on the use of architecture as a propaganda weapon in North Korea.

Architect Jelena Prokopljevic (Belgrade, 1972) and journalist of EFE News Agency Roger Mateos (Barcelona, ​​1977) discuss the role of the architectural monumentality in North Korea as a propaganda tool, both to the outside, to give an image of power, such as inward, to convince citizens living in a “socialist paradise”.

With its huge palaces and public places, giant blocks of flats and large avenues, Pyongyang tries to radiate a splendor that is contradicted by the dire reputation of a regime repeatedly condemned by the United Nations by the systematic violation of human rights.

Hence, it is in Pyongyang where there are, for example, the officially biggest stadium in the world, the highest triumphal arch, a library of greater capacity or one of the highest obelisks. This is one of the objectives of architectural art in communist Korea, according to the authors: creating an urban setting to live up to the utopian ideals of the regime. A showcase city, Pyongyang, completely disproportionate for a country that has received big amounts of humanitarian aid since in the 90’s suffered a devastating famine.

Throughout its nearly 70 year history, the regime has given high priority to the construction sector, both to satisfy their megalomaniac fantasies and to improve the housing of the millions of people who saw their homes destroyed in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953.

Mateos and Prokopljevic divide the book into four sections: the first reviews the historical development of the construction, the second seeks the connections between architecture and the Juche idea, the Korean version of Marxism-Leninism, and investigates the role of architects and Leader, the third part describes the styles and influences detected and the fourth analyzes the most important works of the North’s architectural heritage.

Here is the English-language web page for the book.

My friends have pointed out a couple of other architecture publications:
1.  Architekturführer Pjöngjang by Philipp Meuser

2.  Kim’s Pyongyang (via Choson Exchange)


2 Responses to “North Korea, concrete utopia: Architecture as a propaganda weapon in North Korea”

  1. Guest says:

    “‘North Korea, concrete utopia’ (Muñoz Moya Publishers) is the title of
    the first essay published outside the Korean border on the use of
    architecture as a propaganda weapon in North Korea.”

    -> No it’s not. The highly recommendable “Architekturführer Pjöngjang” by Philipp Meuser (only a german version available until now) released in 2011 is focussing on exactly the same issue and provides hundreds of excellent pictures. See here:

  2. NK econWatch says:

    Yes, I am aware of Mr. Meuser’s book and have posted links to it on several occasions. I have not seen a copy, however.