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Title: Religion and cultural policy in North Korea : the significance of Protestantism in politics, culture and international relations from the 1970s to the early 1990s
Author: Noh, Seong Lim
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 9745
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis explores the significance of Protestantism in North Korean politics, culture and international relations from the 1970s to the early 1990s. It focuses on the activities of the Korean Christian Federation (KCF), against the background of inter-Korean and international relations as well as domestic changes in the Protestant sphere. In the early 1970s, in pursuit of an advantageous position over the South Korean government on issues surrounding inter-Korean relations, the North Korean government began to demonstrate a certain degree of flexibility in foreign policy. However, in the mid-1970s, long-running disputes on inter-Korean issues in the UN General Assembly ended in stalemate, with no clear plan for achieving a generally acceptable compromise. At this point, the DPRK regime turned its attention towards international non-governmental organisations. In order to form a united front against the South Korean government, the DPRK government established several non-governmental organisations, of which the KCF was an example, in order to make contact with these external groups. Two main findings emerged from my analysis of the KCF’s policies. First, the revival of the KCF and Protestant community in North Korea was based on political necessity. In other words, the KCF’s exchange activities with Protestants outside North Korea were political despite their religious identity. Through examining the exchanges between the KCF, overseas Korean Protestants, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the National Council of Churches in [South] Korea (NCCK), this thesis provides evidence that the DPRK government revived the KCF for the political purpose of gaining the upper hand over the South Korean government in dealing with inter-Korean issues. In particular, what the North Korean regime expected to gain from the KCF’s exchanges with Protestant organisations outside North Korea was moral ascendancy over the South Korean government. Second, from an ecumenical standpoint, the thesis also argued that the political association between the KCF and other Protestant organisations outside North Korea was made possible thanks to their common Protestant identity. In order to associate the KCF with Protestant organisations outside North Korea, the DPRK regime understood that the authenticity of North Korean Protestantism must first be acknowledged by the outside world. To establish the ties of religious kinship, the DPRK not only revived a proper ecclesiastical form, including the establishment of two churches in western style, but also made changes to its legal regulations and even to the national Juche culture, in order to accommodate Protestant activities in North Korea. In this thesis, Gramsci’s theory of hegemony was employed as a research framework to reveal how the DPRK’s policies towards Protestantism were confined not only to the religious sphere, but were often intertwined with politics. Religious policies are therefore considered as a form of implicit cultural policy; that is, an intangible political strategy that produces relevant normative values for stabilising a political regime.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BR Christianity