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Now Online: North Korean Serials Digital Collection at the Library of Congress

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(The following is a post by Sonya Lee, Reference Specialist, Korean Collection, Asian Division)

How much do you know about North Korea, and where can you go to find out more? With details on everyday life in the country particularly difficult to come by, how can you learn more about the kind of books children read, women’s and men’s fashion, films, home environments, family relations, education, or ethics? These topics and many more can be explored in detail by using the extensive resources available in the Asian Division at the Library of Congress, one of the world’s largest repositories of publications from North Korea.

“About this Collection” page for the North Korean Serials digital collection.

Periodicals offer researchers an especially rich look at various aspects of daily life among North Korean men, women, and children that might not be found so easily in other types of materials. Now, with the launch of the North Korean Serials digital collection, some of the most sought-after materials in the Library’s North Korean collection have been made freely available online.

Cover of Ch’ŏllima (the title refers to a mythical winged horse that is an important national symbol in North Korea) May 1, 1962. Asian Division.

The digital collection’s first release covers 8 titles and 340 issues published between the years 1948, when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was established, and 1964, the latest date for which public domain status is clear. Available titles include: Ch’ŏllima, Kyŏngje yŏn’guKodŭng kyoyukChosŏn misulChosŏn susan, and Tang kanbu dŭl ege chunŭn ch’amgo charyo, Inmin kyoyuk, and Sŏnjŏnwŏndŭl ege chunuŭn tamhwa charyo. Over the next two years, the scope of the digital collection will expand to encompass 146 serials titles comprising some 4,038 issues published through 1964.

Print holdings in North Korean periodicals at the Library of Congress are particularly strong and include a total of 300 serial titles, that span the entire period from the DPRK’s founding in 1948 down to the present day. In addition to providing a historical glimpse at the everyday lives of North Koreans, the wide-ranging content of these periodicals covers such topics as economics, law, politics, military affairs, history, agriculture, and education. The collection’s particularly strong coverage of the DPRK’s early decades is both rare and noteworthy and especially valuable for providing historical context to contemporary North Korean studies. The launch of the North Korean Serials digital collection makes these critical materials freely accessible to a diverse international community of readers and researchers around the world.

Cover of Chosŏn misul (Korean art) October 1, 1959. Asian Division.
Cover of Tang kanbu dŭl ege chunŭn ch’amgo charyo (Reference for party officials) June 1, 1959. Asian Division.

In addition to the North Korean Serials digital collection, librarians in the Asian Division at the Library of Congress have developed a unique online research tool, the North Korean Serials Indexing Database (NKSIP). Prior to creation of the NKSIP, there were no indexing resources available in any country to guide researchers in locating specific articles found in North Korean periodicals. The indexed data stored in the NKSIP thus serves a crucial function by allowing users to search for articles of interest by author, article title, LC subject heading, keyword, publisher, and publication date. At present the NKSIP has indexed 34,000 articles in 21 of the most frequently requested North Korean serial titles, including seven of the eight titles that have been recently digitized. To learn more about this database, whose coverage will expand as it receives periodic updates, take a look at this blog post detailing its launch in 2018.

In addition to serial publications, the Asian Division hold numerous monographs from North Korea. These and all other print resources described above are available for use by registered readers in the Asian Reading Room. To learn more or ask a question about North Korean collection, please use the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian.

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