From the early 1950s to the Sino-Soviet split in the mid-1960s a salient type of North Korean literature was the "friendship story"—a work that cast individual Soviet men and women as mentors and saviors of Koreans. That most of these characters were women in the medical profession suggests that North Korean writers perceived the relationship between the USSR and their country as a political version of the mother-child bond. The selflessness and courage of the Soviet heroines contrasts with the childlike helplessness and passivity of their (usually male) patients. The depiction of these patients, however, violates the traditional emphasis of socialist realism on the ability of the human will to transcend all. The explanation seems to lie in the propensity for reform-minded Korean intellectuals to denigrate the backwardness of the homeland in contrast with the "advances" of foreign countries. It is likely that cultural policy makers in the North, such as Han Sŏr-ya, decided to wholeheartedly adopt the mother-and-child motif upon its first appearance in Yi Ch'un-jin's 1948 story "Anna."


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pp. 82-93
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