North Korea Flag North Korea Emblem
The design of the flag dates from 1948.  Blue stripes indicate sovereignty and peace; red stands for the revolution and struggle for the establishment of socialism; white -- a traditional Korean symbolic color -- stands for purity and dignity of the nation and its ideals.  The star symbolizes the Korean Worker's Party and the building of socialism. Originally designed in 1948, the seal has undergone some revisions until this official version in 1993.  It shows the red star of the revolution shining over Mt. Paektu, the Sup'ung Dam, power lines and a hydroelectric plant, and sheaves of wheat.  The inscription is "Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

Definitions -- DPRK Terminology

Juche (DPRK) calendar:  Years are counted from 1911, when Kim Il-Sung was conceived.  2015 is Juche 104.  On North Korean news web sites for example, a sample date would be August 5, Juche 104.   (Although he was actually born in 1912, In Korea babies are considered to be 1 year old at birth.)  

Pyongyang time zone:  The DPRK decided to mark the 70th anniversary  in 2015 of the defeat of the Japanese in WWII by changing its time zone by 30 minutes.  According to news source Rodong Sinmun (8/8/15), "It was on August 15 when President Kim Il Sung, benefactor of national resurrection and peerless patriot, crushed the brigandish Japanese imperialists by making long journeys of anti-Japanese bloody battles and liberated Korea."  Japan had set Korea's time zone to coincide with theirs at 9 hours ahead of GMT; North Korea's would be 1/2 hour earlier.  However in 2018 North Korea reverted to the same time zone as South Korea (and Japan).

Juche/Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism (Kim Il-Sungs treatise on Juche.  See section 2).  North Korea's central ideology and official guiding principle, developed by Kim Il Sung and expanded by Kim Jong-Il, emphasizing self-reliance, independence, and the belief of the people in themselves (with the guidance of the leader) to determine their own destiny, with man rather than a supreme religious power as the center.  

Songun:    (scroll down to entry)   Political system based on military priority or military-first ideology.   Elucidated first by Kim Il Sung as armed struggle for independence and the revolution, then developed further by Kim Jong Il in his role as General of the KPA and expanded by Kim Jong Un. KPA (Korean People's Army) as top priority, KWP (Korean Workers' Party) as second priority.   August 25 is a national holiday, Day of Songun.

Byungjin (Byeongjin):  Originated with Kim Il-Sung in the 1960's, referring to the parallel development of the military and the economy.  Under Kim Jong Un, the plan supersedes the "songun"(military first) policy and involves the parallel development and growth of nuclear weapon technology and the economy. 

Chollima speed:   Chollima was an ancient mythical steed, the "thousand-ri horse"  who could rapidly cover great distances,1000K a day.  Begun in 1956 with Kim Il-Sung, the Chollima Movement -- "Chollima speed"-- became a byword for achieving the fastest possible construction and economic production. 

Mallima speed:   movement launched in 2016 by Kim Jong-Un at the party Congress, another  mythical steed that could fly10,000K a day. Refers to ambitious plans for economic development. 

Saenghwal Chonghwa   system of social control from the top ranks of government  to the village level where citizens, including school children, hold routinely scheduled self-criticism sessions. One's failings or shortcomings in work production or political ideology will be briefly stated, along with a plan to improve. Others may offer their criticism of the person. Then to end the self-criticism, one must accuse another person there of a fault (often a mild criticism to avoid ill-will and repercussion). The group leader can give warnings, advice or punishments. 

Songbun:  A social classification scheme developed by Kim Il Sung in the 1950's but continues to evolve.  It organized the populace into groups that determined where they could live and what type or level of housing they could have, their work or occupation classification, and what type of education they would receive.  Ancestry and [parents/grandparents] actions during the Japanese Occupation and the Korean War were very important. With generations becoming further removed from that era, other attributes can help or hinder one's songbun.  

Thrice-cursed:   Policy where a person who commits an ideological or political act against the state or its leaders is punished along with three generations of their family (children, grandchildren). .  


Library locations and Contact information

For information and reference help, please email  Asia Reference at,  or visit the office, room 180 Kroch Library, near the Asia Reading Room.

All books listed in this LibGuide are in Kroch Library Asia Collections unless otherwise noted. 

Kroch Library has two stack levels, 1 and B1. Level 1 (main level) has "oversize" books which have a plus or double plus  (+ or ++) in the call number. All regular size books are on the lower level,1B.

Books with REF in the call number are reference books, located in the Kroch Asia Reading Room and cannot be checked out.

Books with a location listed as Library Annex (off-site storage facility) can be requested online on the library catalog record, and delivered to a campus library (or campus office), usually within a couple of days. 






Background Info on North Korea

Other Reference Sources

Asia Information & Reference

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Carole Atkinson
Kroch Library 180
Ithaca, NY, 14853

Phone: 607-255-8199