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Kafkaesque, Orwellian, eerie, surreal, bizarre, grotesque, alien, wacky, fascinating, dystopian, illusive, theatrical, antic, haunting, apocalyptic: these are just a few of the vaguely science-fictional adjectives that are now associated with North Korea. At the same time, North Korea has become an oddly convenient trope for a certain aesthetic – an uncanny opacity; an ominous mystique – that many writers and artists have exploited to generate striking science-fictional effects in texts with little or no connection to North Korean reality. (The 2002 Bond film Die another Day, for example, draws from North Korea’s science-fictional aura to animate North Korean super-villains who undergo spectacular DNA transplants that replace their original Asian bodies with deeply uncanny “Caucasian” avatars.) How did this aesthetic phenomenon originate? What are the factors behind its evolution? I explore such questions in the chronology below.



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