Home   Work   Skills   About  

Propaganda through North Korean Comics

Through The Secret of Frequency A, 1994, North Korea successfully uses the narrative formula, Juche ideological theme and character design to psychologically train the kids for future propaganda.

Read Comic though link: The secret of Frequency A

In 1953, a worldwide agreement was signed for all musical instruments to be tuned to 440 Hz, Frequency A, so that all orchestras would sound the same worldwide. The conspiracy theory that this global standard tone turned music into a military weapon because they believed it made people think and feel in specific ways, which would be used to control the crowd (Alan Cross, 2018). “The Secret of Frequency: A, An Incredible Disaster” (1994) is a North Korean comic for kids. The comic was bought from Geoffrey K., a Yale graduate student who visited North Korea in a Chinese bookstore. It is translated from Korean by Heinz Insu Fenkl  (author, editor, translator, folklorist, and professor of creative writing) and Jungbin Yoon (a script translator, student of art, psychology, and international relations).

The storyline has the “North Korea as world savior” message. It takes place in an unknown African country where three young “elite” North Korean students and a North Korean professor save the world from the use of Frequency A, created by the evil American and Japanese Scientists, and a nazi which the Americans hired.

In North Korea all forms of artwork are controlled by the state, including the principles of Juche developed by Dear Leader Kim Jong-i, with principles of composition and content, similar to the Socialist Realism of the Stalinist era (Sebastian Strango, 2011).  The comic uses connotations of Juche ideology such as  Juche, comrade, American imperialist, and connects the word American with ”nazi war criminal,” “horrible war incidents, “ and “devil’s weapon.”

The “devil” inventors of frequency A have a cross drawn on them since Christianity (or any religion) is prohibited in North Korea and is an enemy of the Juche ideology.The comic narrative is presented without a logical train, assumptions are thrown in the story without reasoning, but always becoming the right decision in the end. This way of storytelling affects one’s psychological perception or arguments, where conspiracy theories sound legit even though they are not based on proof. This prepares them to listen to the Kim leaders without questioning their propaganda and decision. In Ethnocentrism, social knowledge is knowledge made unquestionable and thus sacred through societal leaders' proclamations (John H. Stanfield, 1985). The resulting social knowledge is defined by the social order, becoming the official way of interpreting realities through a privileged subset of the population to exert its will on others through its control of such significant institutions and resources like the media (in our case, comics). Ideological  ethnocentrism produces group cohesion by emphasizing the population's successes, explaining the great prestige and power given to storytellers in traditional societies to help societal and institutional elites keep their power (John H. Stanfield, 1985). With the economic stagnation of 1980 and the world's isolation, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe allies, North Korea turned into an economic crisis with famine. Comics started to be only monochrome, instead of colorful as they were before the 90s. This may be seen as a sign of crisis (Martin Petersen, 2019).

The first page of the comic presents the characters.The North Korean elite kids are portrayed as very smart, good at martial arts, google looking, well dressed, Juche Ideology followers, and sparkling eyes. The African character is on the same page, assuming he is an ally (North Korea has been very active in Africa by selling weapons and other military equipment (Kevin Sieff, 2017)). The other page has the American, Japanese, and German Nazi characters, with exgagerated body features. A hypnotic pattern is drawn in the background, implying that they are the world's manipulative countries.

The Americans are shown to have control over the Japanese and Nazi characters (enemies of humanity at the time from World War II), foreshadowing that the US controls all the “evil” countries in the world and wants to control all the world.

Blizzard in the Jungle (2001) has a similar theme, but for older readers. The chronology makes sense since it suggests that the same thematic issues were sustained over time, and the North Korean kids of 1994 that read  The Secret of Frequency A grew up and are continuing to read comics even in 2001.North Korean society grows up being fed propaganda and twisted historical facts, having a different perception of global history, creating a global impact since North Korea has become a global threat with its nuclear weaponry and unpredicted decisions.

Fig 1.The Secret of Frequency A, 1994. Eom Jeong Hui and Ko Im Hong.

Fig 3. The Secret of Frequency A, 1994. Eom Jeong Hui and Ko Im Hon. 20.

Fig 4.  The Secret of Frequency A, 1994. Eom Jeong Hui and Ko Im Hon. 9.

Fig 5.  The Secret of Frequency A, 1994. Eom Jeong Hui and Ko Im Hon. 66.

Fig 6.  The Secret of Frequency A, 1 994. Eom Jeong Hui and Ko Im Hon. 20.

Fig 7.  The Secret of Frequency A, 1994. Eom Jeong Hui and Ko Im Hon. 17.

Fig 3-4. The Secret of Frequency A, 1994. Eom Jeong

Hui and Ko Im Hong.

Fig 7.  The Secret of Frequency A, 1994. Eom Jeong Hui and Ko Im Hon. 26. The  American scientist in the comic is having a conversation about Africa.

Fig. Blizzard in the Jungle, 2001.  Ri Chol-Geun and Jo Hak-Rae. Translated by Heinz Insu Fenkl and Geesu Lee.


Fenkl, Heinz Insu, trans. “The Secret of Frequency A: An Incredible Disaster, Part Two.” Words Without Borders, 2011. https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/graphic-lit/the-secret-of-frequency-a-an-incredible-disaster-part-two.

Cross, Alan. “The Great 440 Hz Conspiracy, and Why All of Our Music Is Wrong: Alan Cross.” Global News. Global News, May 13, 2018. https://globalnews.ca/news/4194106/440-hz-conspiracy-music/#:~:text=Here%27s%20where%20the%20conspiracy%20comes,to%20%E2%80%9Cmusical%20cult%20control.%E2%80%9D.

Fenkl , Heinz Insu, and Yoon Jungbin, trans. “The Secret of Frequency A: An Incredible Disaster.” Words Without Borders, February 2011. https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/graphic-lit/the-secret-of-frequency-a-an-incredible-disaster/.

Fenkl, Heinz Insu, and Lee Geesu, trans. “Blizzard in the Jungle.” Words Without Borders, 2009. https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/graphic-lit/blizzard-in-the-jungle/?_ga=2.26820539.769247274.1612448409-650767734.1612328733.

Fenkl, Heinz Insu, trans. “The Secret of Frequency A: An Incredible Disaster, Part Three.” Words Without Borders, 2011. https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/graphic-lit/the-secret-of-frequency-a-an-incredible-disaster-part-three.

Fenkl, Heinz Insu. North Korean Manhwa - Reports for Students, Truckers, and Avid Readers. Accessed February 6, 2021. http://heinzinsufenkl.net/dprk_manhwa.html.

Ford, Glyn, and Soyoung Kwon. “Picturing North Korean Propaganda.” The Japan Times, August 27, 2006. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2006/08/27/books/book-reviews/picturing-north-korean-propaganda/.

Peterson, Martin. “North Korean Graphic Novels.” Google µµ¼­. Google, 2019. https://books.google.co.kr/books?id=XkpnDwAAQBAJ.