While there is an increasing interest in the economic and political relationships of North Koreans in exile to the homeland, little has been said on the significance of North Koreans' everyday cultural practices in the places they resettle. Based on a year of interviews and participant observation, this article examines an often-overlooked aspect of North Korean spiritual life: the performance of Confucian commemorative practices in North Korea and in the homes of North Koreans now living in South Korea and in Japan. Specifically, this article asks what North Koreans' commemorative practices tell us about the seismic economic, political, and social changes that have occurred in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) since the collapse of the bi-polar cold war world order. How has the political economy of the DPRK, established with the Kim family at its heart, shaped the relationship of the living to the dead? And how do individuals who survived traumatic experiences, such as the North Korean famine, draw on ritual practices to make sense of the experience of living in exile? I suggest that acts of remembrance help divided families negotiate feelings of guilt and sorrow and enable members of the growing North Korean diaspora to foster a collective sense of self and reconnect to the country they were forced to leave.


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pp. 141-164
Launched on MUSE
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