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ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)
S/N Korean Humanities Vol.5 No.2 pp.59-86

Hapkak and Curtain Wall: Imaginaries of Tradition and Technology in the Three Kims’ North Korean Modern Architecture

Jelena Prokopljević
International University of Catalonia/Pompeu Fabra University


The architecture developed in North Korea since its foundation in 1948 but especially since the proclamation of the Juche thought as the unique state ideology in the early 1960s, has included two major referential imaginaries: the Korean traditional architecture and the expression of the economic and technological progress. The presence of these imaginaries, mediated by the architectural language but also by the production policies, have oscillated throughout decades with varying intensity under the rule of each of the three Kims. The paper analyses different elements of traditionally and technologically inspired architecture, resumed in the title in two significative elements, the hapkak roof and the glass curtain wall, and looks into their transformation and modern interpretation in different times. The aim is to link the dominance of either of those imaginaries with the epoch and political discourses of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, as tools for establishing the periodicity of contemporary North Korean architecture despite the omnipresent discourse of the national character of North Korean architecture. All three leaders have had strong influence on the architectural creation, understood as regimes’ most valuable propaganda device and have preferred one over another imaginary. It will also be interesting to link these variations with changes in the international architectural scene.