Upcoming York University conference explores translation and propaganda in North Korea

Featured image for conference on North Korea shows a building set in the mountains in North Korea
Featured image for conference on North Korea shows a building set in the mountains in North Korea

York University Professor Thomas Klassen, who teaches in the School of Public Policy and Administration in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), in consultation with Professor Theresa Hyun of the Department of Humanities (LA&PS), has organized a conference that will take place Monday, Jan. 25. The conference, “Translation and Propaganda in North Korea,” investigates current scholarly issues in the translation and interpretation of official texts in North Korea.

Klassen, who travelled to North Korea in 2016, notes that “translation of foreign official texts, and the translation of domestic official texts for foreign consumption, is important for governments in all nations.” Hyun adds: “The conference focuses on the relevance of translation, from Korean and into Korean, of official documents – speeches, news releases, treaties and others – in contemporary North Korea and how translation is influenced by ideology.”

A choir rehearsing in Korea
A choir rehearsing before performance in Pyongyang, North Korea. Image by Thomas Klassen

The conference features presenters from North America and Asia. Opening remarks will be given by Michael Harrold who worked in North Korea for seven years copyediting English translations of the speeches and writings of the country’s leaders. Harrold is the author Comrades and Strangers: Behind the Closed Doors of North Korea.

The conference on Jan. 25 is free. The proceedings start at 9:30 a.m. and will be made available through Zoom. The full program is posted here. Those wishing to join the conference can register here.

For those who are interested in learning more about life in North Korea, Klassen has posted an online collection of photos that he took during his travels in the country here.

Klassen views this as a particularly timely and important conference given that the Joe Biden administration in Washington is expected to engage North Korea in a new round of negotiations regarding peace on the Korean peninsula.

Street scene in Pyongyang Korea by Professor Tom Klassen
A street scene in Pyongyang, North Korea. Image by Thomas Klassen

The conference is presented by the Korean Office for Research and Education at York University, which is funded by the Academy of Korean Studies.