North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has been broadcasting a
historical, three-part animated movie called ‘Gojumong.’
Following Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on the need to improve North-South relations in his 2017 New Year’s address, the country’s state-run media has been mobilized to execute a propaganda offensive. In line with these efforts, a new North Korean-produced animated feature called “Gojumong” is being broadcasted as part of a charm offensive directed at South Korea. The film features propaganda statements such as, “The separation and shameful infighting of the ethnic Korean people needs to end.”
A January 23 article published by North Korea’s internet propaganda website Echo of Unification, claims that the new historical animated film has become incredibly popular. Drawing a comparison between the film and contemporary Korea, the article states, “In order to put an end to the division of the ethnic Korean people, Hae Mosu will sacrifice everything. This heartfelt effort bears resemblance to the modern era, in which the will to achieve unification weighs heavily on our people’s hearts.” At one point in the film, Hae Mosu says, “Instead of a sword used for poking holes in my Korean brothers, make me a sword that can be used to behead outside invaders.”
Another North Korean media outlet stated, “Both the North and South are wishing for a swift end to this awful separation and infighting between the Korean people. Overseas Koreans should also see this film. Viewing the movie makes one’s blood warm with devotion to the country. It will no doubt inspire anyone to work even harder for the unification of our beloved motherland.”
The film was produced by a studio in North Korea called The Korea April 26 Animated Film Studio. North Korea began broadcasting the film from the beginning of January.
Analysts believe that the purpose for showing this Goguryeo-era animated film is rooted in a desire to link the present with the past to drum up support for unification. Some experts have also noted that this strategy may be related to North Korea’s efforts to emphasize the important role of the northern region of the peninsula in ancient Korean history. A number of historical developments and events in the Goguryeo period occurred in what is present-day North Korea and in contemporary China’s Dongbei region.
Because the film features North Korea at the height of its power, analysts also believe that it is an attempt by the regime to present the North in a favorable light while it faces crippling international sanctions for its weapons development programs. The Goguryeo period saw the Korean peninsula prevail against several instances of foreign aggression and invasion.
“North Korea has repeatedly emphasized this period of history in the past,” said Hyeon In Ae, guest member of the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU). “This is an attempt to stimulate patriotism by showing parallels, such as maintaining sovereignty in the face of external aggression.”
“North Korea has used other features similar to Gojumong to draw parallels with the Goguryeo example,” added Konkuk University Professor Kim Seung. “Gojumong’s release is part of the North’s plan to emphasize the historical background and traditions of the region.”
Other analysts believe the film is an attempt to consolidate idolization of Kim Jong Un. One North Korean expert said on condition of anonymity, “Showing the achievements of the determined and resilient characters from Goguryeo history is meant to be a reflection of Kim Jong Un’s ability to overcome the sanctions. The depiction of strong leadership is related to idolization efforts.”
In other words, North Korea uses animated films to produce propaganda because the authorities are proud of the production quality.
According to the 20th Century North Korean Art and Culture Dictionary (produced by the University of North Korean Studies), “The studio that produced the film changed its name in 2013 from The Korean April 26 Children’s Film Studio to The Korean April 26 Animated Film Studio. This highlights an attempt by the North Korean authorities to broaden the audience base from children to include adults.”
In regard to this, KINU’s Hyeon said, “North Korea experimented with animated movies using computer graphics and discovered that it was comparatively cheaper. These films used to be directed exclusively at children, but now the authorities are trying to make animations that adults can watch.”
“The country is yet to release an animated film targeted only at adults, but considering that Kim Jong Un is focused on science and education, there is a high probability that we will see more animations in the road ahead,” Professor Kim concluded.