Saturday, February 29, 2020

Forbidden Titles from Bureau 100: Nazis, First Ladies and Fidel

In an earlier post, I introduced Kim Ju-song's memoir on writing fiction for the North Korean Writer's Union. In his book, he described a secret stash of Western literature kept at the KWU offices where he worked for North Korean writers to reference.

I was recently able to contact Kim Ju-song and get more details on this mysterious "Bureau 100 Books" (100部図書). He sent me a few precious images that he had, showing cover art and a few preface pages. He writes, "These are some books from the Bureau 100 collection. These kinds of restricted materials are also available to Party officers and various Party organs such as State Security (FBI) and Public Security (police)... These images came from a certain party branch office."

According to Kim, most of these books are translations of existing books published in other countries; some are compilations of several books into one volume. The cover art seems to be original to North Korea. The authors and original titles are never mentioned, but with a little detective work it is often possible to determine what the original text likely was.

"The Nazi Conspiracy"

This appears to be a spy novel disguised as a true account of imperialist intrigue. The Korean preface to this book reads:

   In all of human history, there has never been a war that was not accompanied by a separate, secret war. Secret wars are constantly ongoing, even in so-called peaceful times.
   The secret war known as the 'dark gentlemen's world' is a conventional tool of imperialists, employing all kinds of espionage and intelligence actions enabled by modern technology, with various plots and cunning schemes involving murder, sabotage and arson.
   Through their secret war the imperialists gather information of all sorts – political, economic, military and so on – in order to uncover secrets and corrupt the popular will in pursuit of their military and political objectives.
   'The Nazi Conspiracy' is one such real-world example.
   Today the US-Japan imperialists' secret plots have reached an extreme point.
   In order to confront this, it is more vital than ever that we raise our revolutionary consciousness.
   The editorial division will continue to introduce real-world examples of espionage under the series title 'Secret Wars.' 
"White House Wives"
This book purports to tell about America's First Ladies. I only have the cover, but I like to imagine that perhaps this is where the author of "Enchantment" got the idea that Rosalynn Carter had "Spanish blood" and earned the nickname "ultra-political Rosalynn." It is unclear if it is a translation of a single book or a compilation of several sources.
"Fidel and Religion"
This appears to be a Korean translation of the book "Fidel and Religion," originally published in Spanish in 1986. Communist Cuba's approach to culture and religion offers important insights that would likely be of interest to North Korean Party cadres.

"The KGB and Power"
This is a translation of a KGB defector's memoir. From the Korean preface:

   This volume is a translated and edited version of a book published in Russia. The author was a long-serving member of the Cheka (State Security or KGB), formerly heading the 5th Directorate and serving as 1st deputy director before retiring in the Gorbachev era. In this memoir he looks back on his life in the Cheka organization and offers his own analysis of what caused the once-powerful Soviet Union to collapse and the Soviet Communist Party to fall apart.
   Due to the author's limited political understanding, the book is deficient in many areas, but it still has some value as a reference material.

"Sun Yat-sen"
I have no further information about this book, but it appears to be an autobiography of Sun Yat-sen, China's first modern president and nationalist leader. I can imagine many reasons why information about early China's pre-communist history would be restricted for average North Koreans.