• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Gender Studies, History, Asian Studies, International Affairs, Politics
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Leonid Petrov
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Offered in Summer Session 2023
    See Future Offerings

North Korea is widely regarded as one of the world's most enigmatic countries, and as the greatest security threat to our region. The Australian and global media depict it as a country of missiles, phalanxes of marching soldiers, all-powerful leaders and bizarre political ideologies. This course goes beyond the media images to explore the political history, culture and everyday life of North Korea. Drawing upon unparalleled expertise in history, politics, cultural studies and gender politics at the ANU, this course will evaluate key events in North East Asian history to more fully account for the current social and political crisis in North Korea. We will investigate pivotal events of the Cold War in Northeast Asia and consider issues such as changing lifestyles, environmental challenges, the rise of the informal market and migration to and from North Korea, and will end with some reflections on possible futures. As well as conventional sources the course will also make use of North Korean music, literature and film to give further insight into the country's past, present and future.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Formulate an understanding of the Northern Region before the emergence of the North Korean state.
  2. Explain the origins of communism in Korea.
  3. Develop an understanding of the international history that has shaped North Korean state and society.
  4. Understand social and political changes that have taken place since the end of the Cold War.
  5. Evaluate the gender politics of the regime and society.
  6. Develop critical conceptual tools and historical understanding to evaluate current issues facing North Korea today.

Other Information

The course has pre-class readings accessible from 2 January. Students may select one of the following four books to review:

Sunjoo Kim (ed), The Northern Region of Korea: history, identity and culture

Sandra Fahy, Dying for rights: Putting North Korea's human rights abuses on the record

Suzy Kim, Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution 1945-50

Hyun-ok Park, The Capitalist Unconscious: from Korean Unification to Transnational Korea

The intensive portion of the course runs from 9-20 January, 10am-4pm with a break from 12pm-1pm.

The first three hours is class time, and the remaining two includes other student activities, such as film viewing, group and individual work on assignments, Quiz, Final Exam etc. 

The course will end on 20 January when the Final Exam will be undertaken. 

For a detailed breakdown of the course structure and pre-class reading information, please refer to the course wattle page.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Book Review Essay (1000 words) (20) [LO 2,3,4]
  2. Research Essay (2000 words) (30) [LO 1,2,3,6]
  3. Class presentation (10) [LO 3,4,5,6]
  4. Class participation (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  5. Final Exam (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


This course requires a total of 130 hours of work on the following activities: Students will be expected to read some course materials posted to Wattle, prior to the start of the face-to-face component. 

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed at least 24 units of university courses.

Prescribed Texts

Andre Schmid, ‘A Melting Border: Surviving on the Margin Between China and North Korea’, Literary Review of Canada, January 2015.

Kyung Moon Hwang, 'From the Dirt to Heaven: Northern Koreans in the Choson and Early Modern Eras,' Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 62.1 (June 2002): 135-78

Donald Clark, ‘The Missionary Presence in North Korea Before World War 11’, in Sunjoo Kim (ed.), The Northern Region of Korea: History, Identity, Culture, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010.

Suh Dae Sook, Kim Il Sung: the North Korean Leader, New York: Columbia University Press, 1988, chapters one and two.

Ruth Barraclough, Red Love and Betrayal in the Making of North Korea: Comrade Ho Jong-suk, History Workshop Journal, 77, 2014.

Andre Schmid, ‘My Turn to Speak’: Criticism Culture and the Multiple Uses of Class in Postwar North Korea’, International Journal of Korean History 21:2, 2016.

Tessa Morris-Suzuki, 'Freedom and Homecoming: Narratives of Migration in the Repatriation of Zainichi Koreans to North Korea' in Sonia Ryang ed. Diaspora without a Homeland (2009)

Preliminary Reading

Sunjoo Kim (ed), The Northern Region of Korea: history, identity and culture

Sandra Fahy, Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea

Suzy Kim, Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution 1945-50

Hyun-ok Park, The Capitalist Unconscious: from Korean Unification to Transnational Korea

Heonik Kwon and Byung-Ho Chung, North Korea: Beyond Charismatic Politics, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012.




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $3960
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5100
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Summer Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
1560 02 Jan 2023 07 Jan 2023 13 Jan 2023 20 Jan 2023 In-Person and Online View

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