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ERIC Number: EJ1003998
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0021-8510
North Korean Aesthetic Theory: Aesthetics, Beauty, and "Man"
David-West, Alzo
Journal of Aesthetic Education, v47 n1 p104-110 Spr 2013
Aesthetics is not a subject usually associated with North Korea in Western scholarship, the usual tropes being autocracy, counterfeiting, drugs, human-rights abuse, famine, nuclear weapons, party-military dictatorship, Stalinism, and totalitarianism. Where the arts are concerned, they are typically seen as crude political propaganda. One British museum specialist writes that North Korean visual art is an "art under control," and one Russian historian insists that North Korean literature is devoid of the "beauty of language." As the short turns of phrase and value judgments indicate, there has been no real attempt in English to engage the North Korean aesthetic on descriptive terms. Through a reading of "Art Treatise," a collaborative work officially credited to leader Kim Jong Il, this essay descriptively identifies special problems of aesthetics, beauty, and "man" in North Korean aesthetic doctrine, which is derived from the nationalist political program and anthropocentric political anthropology of the state "Juche" ideology. What has been observed is that North Korean aesthetics is primarily not about beauty, but about the sensate experience of a national community of human beings and the moral education of that community through skillfully crafted forms. In order to achieve the aim of moral education through aesthetic education, North Korean aesthetics enlists an apparently three-part theory of beauty: (1) "objective-subjective": beauty exists in objective nature; beauty is a quality that inheres in things; and beauty is grasped through human acts of cognition/emotion; (2) "communitarian-normative": beauty serves the social community; beauty is an expression of community morality; and beauty must be made a normal part of community life; (3) "nationalist-populist": beauty manifests itself nationally; beauty is people oriented; and beauty is ensured through mass party rule. "Art Treatise" claims this is all "scientific." North Korean aesthetics is national and engenders "ritualistic perceptions" based on a "singular self-referential interpretative framework" in culturally and historically conditioned circumstances. Consequently, the national perceptions cultivated among North Koreans "in" North Korea "are destined to clash with Western paradigms." Aesthetics, as coined by the Greeks, means to perceive with the senses, and in the North Korean case, one has the difficult task of learning how to perceive objective reality as it is reconstructed in North Korean aesthetic education and aesthetic experience. A descriptive method that suspends value judgments is necessary. (Contains 32 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: North Korea