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  • Human Remolding in North Korea: A Social History of Education
  • Sheena Choi (bio)
Human Remolding in North Korea: A Social History of Education, by Hyung-chan Kim with Dong-kyu Kim. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2005. viii, 285 pp. Bibliography, index. $69.95 cloth, $39.95 paper.

When we consider the record of North Korea over the past several decades, our thoughts turn to a volatile regime, virtually owned and led by a succession of bizarre leaders and their obscure coterie of militarists who have acquired a considerable nuclear weapons capability. Internationally, North Korea remains a pariah state among the international community, engaging in deplorable activities such as exporting weapons, counterfeiting American currency, selling illegal drugs, and kidnapping foreign civilians, among other things. Domestically, North Korea poses a multitude of human rights and humanitarian challenges, including well-documented abuses of the most fundamental rights and civil liberties, the maintenance of an elaborate Soviet-style gulag, the suppression of religion, and persistent famine caused by natural disaster as well as government action of hoarding food supplies for military purpose, resulting in tens of thousands refugees. The tragic state of North Korea is a stark contrast to its ultimate "Other" since the partition at the end of World War II. South Korea, the poorer "Other" at the beginning of the national division, even well within the 1960s, and its natural competitor since the division, transformed itself into a wealthy democratic nation and a respectable member of the Organization for Economic [End Page 103] Cooperation and Development (OECD), striving for leadership in the international community.

Human Remolding in North Korea: A History of Education by Hyung-chan Kim with Dong-kyu Kim is a welcome addition to the field of North Korea studies providing descriptions of the North Korean educational system that sustains this enigmatic regime. The book is loaded with information about the North Korean educational system since 1945. At the same time, the book is easily accessible to a lay person. The book is organized into nine chapters. The themes of the chapters include social and political theories on education, a brief history of Korea, the North Korean educational system, and the evolution of politically motivated Juche ideology—a self-styled North Korean communism. The book contains a lengthy discussion of its main theme: how the North Korean educational system is employed in "human remolding" (ingan gaejo) through socialization and indoctrination. The last two chapters of the book are devoted to a discussion of pre-school, primary, secondary, and higher education focusing on the purpose of education, organization and administration, curriculum and instruction, teaching methods.

This book provides a plethora of descriptive information and statistics. I was disappointed, however, that the book lacks content analysis of the North Korean curriculum throughout the formal schooling process and theorization of a link between education and the "human remolding" process. Furthermore, the potential worth of the book could have been greatly expanded by comparing North Korean education with that of other regimes in which schools were and are enlisted to support political and economic ideologies that resulted in the degradation of the human condition (unfortunately there are too many such examples). Nevertheless, the book provides a wealth of information on the North Korean educational system, thus rendering it a useful reference for studies on North Korea. The authors should be commended for their contribution to the field.

Sheena Choi
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
Sheena Choi

Sheena Choi (, School of Education, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, 2101 East Coliseum Boulevard, Fort Wayne, IN 46805.



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pp. 103-104
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