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The Korea Now Podcast

Jul 28, 2020

This episode of the Korea Now podcast features an interview that Jed Lea-Henry conducted with Immanuel Kim. They speak about his translation and analysis of Nam-Nyong Paek’s Friend, the context in which the novel was first published in North Korea, the change that literature like this was trying to make away from the Socialist Realist tradition, the new subtleties and styles that this new wave of writing embodied, the important ways that the everyday was portrayed in the novel, the undercurrent of moral philosophy, the propaganda still present despite the understated nature of the work, how the novel is received by foreign audiences compared to North Korean audiences, and importantly a deep look at the structure, prose and composition of Friend in terms of its literary merit.

Immanuel Kim is Korea Foundation and Kim-Renaud Associate Professor of Korean Literature and Culture Studies. Prior to working at the George Washington University, he was Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at Binghamton University (SUNY). Immanuel is a specialist in North Korean literature and cinema. His research focuses on the changes and development, particularly in the representations of women, sexuality, and memory, of North Korean literature from the 1960s to present day. His book Rewriting Revolution: Women, Sexuality, and Memory in North Korean Fiction explores the complex and dynamic literary culture that has deeply impacted the society. His second book called Laughing North Koreans: Culture of the Film Industry is on North Korean comedy films and the ways in which humour has been an integral component of the everyday life. By exploring comedy films and comedians, Immanuel looks past the ostensible propaganda and examines the agency of laughter.

*** Immanuel Kim’s translation of Nam-Nyong Paek’s ‘Friend : A Novel from North Korea’ (

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