While searching for more records to add to my collection, I sometimes encounter some very odd records, either rare, strange, or sometimes coming from unexpected places.
This time, I’ve managed to find a boxset coming from North Korea. Moreover, they’re pretty old (around 1980-81), so this places them during the reign of the Eternal Leader Kim Il-sung. I’m not going to talk too much about the political side of these records, as Romania had its fair share of patriotic songs that glorified the party or the leader, as it was the Communist way at the time (there’s even a belief that Nicolae Ceausescu was inspired by the personality cult of Kim Il-sung during the Ceausescu’s visit to North Korea in 1971). However, apart of a few songs specifically dedicated to Kim Il-sung himself ("My Country Overflows With The Leader’s Love", “수령님이 주신 새교복 – New school uniform given by the leader"), there isn’t any aggressive propaganda, so rather than focusing on their leader, the records focus on the country and its people.
The box itself yells “80s” from the top of its lungs with its transparent indigo hue. The records, four 10” and one 7", are in very good condition, given the fact that they’re 40+ years old. I’ve searched for them on discogs and while some are there, and I added them to the collection, some ar missing or have a different cover.
The music on the discs themselves seems to be very varied, at least judging from the titles (as my understanding of Korean is crap), the themes that are tackled by the songs range from folklore tales about life ("Going Rice Harvesting", “We’re Driving with Joy of Bumper Crop”, “I’ll Live a Meaningful Life"), the beauty of the country ("Mangyong Flower”, “Potong River Flows with Song of Paradise”) and to straight up leader worship ("We’ll Be Loyal Like Eternal Stars", “My Country under Kim Il Sung”, “Our Happiness Blossoms out under the Leader’s Care")
The style of the songs has a bit of variation, but it’s mostly orchestral and choral music, either by male or female choral groups, or sometimes performed by a woman solo voice with some instruments around.
The 7” is sung by what appears to be some children, and one of the songs is performed by 긴홍고등중학교, which Google translates it as “Ginhong High School”, which I assume is that school’s choir. The cover is meme-material, the girl hidden behind the huge accordion and the young boy striking a Psy-like pose probably still get bullied for that picture.
All in all, these records are very interesting, both in verses and style, and they show us that DPRK is not a hell hole stuck somewhere in 12th century, with no electricity. Upon a bit of research it seems that in the early 90’s, the Korean Gramophone Record stopped pressing vinyl (similar to Romania’s Electrecord) and they switched to CDs. However, because access to current information is pretty limited and the language barrier is hard to surpass, I wasn’t able to find more about their newer products, if and how they glorify their current leader (not that he needs glorification).
Instead of conclusion, here are some more photos of the box. It’s fucking glorious.