Andrei Lankov: What South Koreans Learn About the North





Professor Andrei Lankov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and now teaches at Kookmin University in Seoul.

What are South Korean children told about North Korea? How has the North been presented in South Korean education? These are important issues since in many ― if not most ― cases one’s worldview is determined by what he or she learned at school.
 
Education in South Korea is dominated by the state, perhaps to a somewhat greater degree than in many other developed countries. From the end of the Korean War until the collapse of the military dictatorships in the late 1980s, the state attitude towards the North was highly negative. 
 
Suffice to say that until 1972, North Korea could not be described as  "North Korea" (북한) in South Korean official documents and media. The only proper description was "Bukgui" (북괴), literally meaning "Northern puppets." 
 
Many Koreans in their 40s and 50s might occasionally tell you that in their childhood they believed that the northern half of the Korean Peninsula is actually populated by demons ― real demons, that is, complete with tails and horns. Sometimes one can come across statements that such stories were part of obligatory, anti-communist education during the rule of the military dictators.
 
Frankly, I am slightly skeptical of such statements... 


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