Andre Schmid, "North Korea's Mundane Revolution: Socialist Living and the Rise of Kim Il Sung, 1953-1965" (U California Press, 2024)


Histories of North Korea typically focus on one man — Kim Il Sung — and one narrative — his grand rise to absolute power. Andre Schmid’s new book, North Korea's Mundane Revolution: Socialist Living and the Rise of Kim Il Sung, 1953-1965 (University of California Press, 2024), tells a much more complex and richly textured story. Moving away from the focus on Kim Il Sung, Schmid looks at how the Korean population participated in party-state projects to create “New Living”: a quest for a better life, realized through socialism. Each part of North Korea’s Mundane Revolution focuses on a question that was central to a different aspect of New Living: How to self-improve? How to build more efficiently? How to make a happy family home? How to consume properly? In exploring these questions, Schmid looks at a wide range of overlooked sources, especially North Korean magazines and journals, complete with tongue-in-cheek cartoons and photographs. Wonderfully nuanced, empirically rich, and utterly compelling, this book not only sheds light on the origins of North Korea's durability, but it does so through a fascinating history of unhappy housewives and prefabricated apartments. 

North Korea’s Mundane Revolution is sure to appeal to those interested in Korean history and global histories of gender, socialist revolution, and print culture, as well as anyone who has ever wondered "How do you do North Korean history?"

And if you want to read more about this book before diving in, you should check out how it fares at the ‘The Page 99 Test,’ here.

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Sarah Bramao-Ramos

Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a Research Assistant Professor at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong. She is a cultural historian of Qing China (1644–1911), with a particular interest in Manchu studies. She can be reached at
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