Mothers and Maidens: Gendered Formation of Revolutionary Heroes in North Korea
Abstract

Abstract:

North Korean political discourse is distinctive in its application of maternalism across genders in which motherhood is depicted as an ideal model for men as well as women. This article seeks to explain how motherhood has been redefined in the process of North Korean nation building, and what influences this process has had on the formation of gendered identities as part of modern subjectivity. The following research examines two of the three so-called great classics of anti-Japanese revolutionary works, Sea of Blood (P’ibada) and The Flower Girl (Kkot p’anŭn ch’ŏnyŏ), to compare the two female heroines and their roles as consummate revolutionaries. Reported to have originated as stage plays during the 1930s anticolonial guerrilla struggle in Manchuria, throughout the 1970s the plays developed into films, live operatic performances, and finally novels. While the works may officially serve to project images of national unity against imperialism, they raise interesting questions about the role of gender in postcolonial state formation. By comparing the mother in Sea of Blood and the maiden in The Flower Girl, this article explores the significance of gender in the construction of modern militarized citizenship in North Korea.