North Korea is famous for its intense isolation and enthusiasm for propaganda, with the populace being exposed to little that doesn’t extol the virtues of whatever dictator is in power at the moment. So it probably won’t surprise you to learn that literature is pretty tightly controlled. Any Before publication, North Korean books have to go through the Choson Writers’ Alliance, which requires that new works show support for the policies of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Literature from abroad is pretty hard to get ahold of. And yet, according to The Korea Herald, the country is embracing the Harry Potter series, of all things. Literature Newspaper, a mouthpiece of the Joseon Writers’ Alliance, recently put out a statement in praise of J.K. Rowling’s seven-book fantasy series:
Readers are showing a great interest in the full-length children’s book Harry Potter. The series has been published in various countries and has become popular among children as well as adults.
Harry Potter shows the idea that children should pioneer their way with their own strength and ability, while it also unfolds a story about a fantasy and magic world that is far from reality.
That all sounds fair enough, although the country’s support for the series comes at an odd time. Not long ago, J.K. Rowling came under major fire for writing a manifesto where she declared her commitment to transphobia, resulting in blowback from the stars of the movies, fans getting their Harry Potter tattoos removed, and more. An endorsement from a dystopian nightmare of a country like North Korea probably isn’t something you want at the best of times, and this is not the best of times for the Harry Potter series.
I’m unclear on whether this means the Harry Potter series will be published in North Korea, and if so, what things might be changed. Again, the government keeps a very close watch on what its citizens are exposed to. In 2015, a a Korean-American writer and journalist talked about her experience teaching English in North Korea, where she was shocked when authorities allowed her to show on the Harry Potter movies to her class.
So maybe interest in Harry Potter has been growing for awhile; it’s hard to tell with a country so closed off from the rest of the world.