Comics Made in North Korea

Ahead of our talk this month with comics expert Paul Gravett, we get up close to a North Korean comic.


  • Exhibitions

Ahead of next week's talk on the Secrets of North and South Korean Comics, we take a closer look at one of the comics featured in our Made in North Korea exhibition. Underwater Struggle, published in 2004, is a comic book action-adventure story set during the Korean War. It follows the activities of a group of North Korean commandos.

In this scene, North Korean navy commandos are training to shoot from a motorbike and perfecting the useful, if not rather bizarre, technique of rolling off on to the road and continuing shooting. After the conclusion to their training, they head off by speedboat to infiltrate the enemy.

Here, the commandos are behind enemy lines and have arrived just in time to save a young Korean girl from being attacked by US soldiers. Violation of Korea and its people, both literally and metaphorically, by outside forces, is a common trope in the North Korean media.

In this scene, the DPRK commandos infiltrate enemy headquarters to listen in on their secret plans. They learn of an audacious plan to launch an underwater rocket and try to destroy it. With the help of the local South Koreans, they survive and return to headquarters.

Find out more about the contrasts and connections between the comics of a divided Korea at our talk on Thursday 19 April. Book tickets.

You can buy Phaidon's book (from which the above images are taken) – Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life in the DPRK – from our online shop