A North Korean history without Kim Il Sung? Towards a history of socialist consumption
How to consume properly? In the postwar years (1953-1965) as the North Korean economy recovered from devastation, this was a key question facing the Party and the entire population. When the state famously made the decision to prioritize heavy over light industries, the question of popular consumption was left in an ambivalent position: minimally necessary as part of the socialist promise for mass utopia, but suspect as an activity that rested uneasily with visions of the ideal socialist subject. This paper traces the rise of consumption over these years, discussing the material life of shoes, radios, sewing machines and skis. It seeks to show how urban populations, working within the ambivalent position of consumption, used state categories such as the "New Living" to push the bounds of what constituted proper socialist consumption.