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North Korean Collection: Asian Collections at the Library of Congress

Rare Books and Manuscripts

Rare Books and Manuscripts

The North Korean collection contains some materials that are only accessible in the Asian Reading Room by advance appointment. To schedule an appointment to view materials described on this page, contact reference staff through Ask a Librarian. Researchers should review the Asian Division's Rare Book Policy prior to their appointment. Links to titles of rare books and manuscripts on this page will retrieve fuller bibliographic information from the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

Archive of a North Korean Corporation

Worn cover page of a company document from a North Korean Corporation showing numbers and Korean writing in black ink and a red stamp.
Page from Sinuiju Branch Inspection Report. 1949. View the catalog record for the Chosŏn Sangsa Chusik Hoesa collection. Library of Congress Asian Division.

The Archive of a North Korean Corporation, or Chosŏn Sangsa Chusik Hoesa collection (조선상사주식회사), contains over 3,400 pieces of items in Korean, Korean (in Chinese script), Chinese, Japanese, and English. It was the first international trading company established by the North Korean government, and it was based in Pyongyang, North Korea. Heretofore, there was little known about Chosŏn Sangsa Chusik Hoesa. The collection’s materials date from 1947 to 1950, with the majority from 1948 and 1949.

This collection provides insight into the inner workings, organizational history, and administration of a semi-state run, private company during a turbulent time in Korean history. Many documents show communication between Chosŏn Sangsa Chusik Hoesa and the North Korean government. Correspondence, reports, invoices, meeting and planning notes, personnel records, resumes, invoices, guidelines for trade practices, statistical tables, and other organizational records chronicle the activities of the Chosŏn Sangsa Chusik Hoesa. Records reveal that the company’s main exports were chemicals, seafood, medicine, soybeans, and construction materials. When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, the company began to provide war supplies. These documents bring to light the economic conditions and policies, history of commerce, foreign economic relationships, and politics of the North Korean government in the years before the Korean War.

For more information, please see the collection's finding aid.

Biographies of Soviet Korean Leaders

Page from the biography of Soviet-Korean leaders showing a picture of a man wearing glasses in a tie and suit followed by writing in Korean.
Page from biography of Sang-jin Chong, former vice minister of North Korea’s Ministry of Cultural Promotion. Pʻi wa nunmul rossŏ ssiyŏjin [i.e. ssŭyŏjin] uridŭl ŭi yŏksa. [1995-2001]. North Korean collection. Library of Congress Asian Division.

This digital collection features handwritten biographies of 80 Soviet-Korean (Koryŏ saram or Koryŏin) leaders who were sent to North Korea by the Soviet Communist Party in the mid-1940s to help establish and administer the North Korean government and North Korean institutions.They became government officials, commanders of military and political units, teachers, administrators, judges, deans and other professionals in leadership positions in North Korean society. Many Soviet Koreans were well-educated and considered “politically and morally reliable” by the Soviet and North Korean governments.

Most remained there until the late 1950s and early 1960s, when they were purged by Kim Il-sŏng. These materials shed light on the role played by Soviet Koreans in the creation of the North Korean state. The biographies have the collective title, History Written by Our Blood and Tears, or Pʻi wa nunmul rossŏ ssiyŏjin [i.e. ssŭyŏjin] uridŭl ŭi yŏksa 피 와 눈물 로써 씨여진 [i.e. 쓰여진] 우리들 의 력사.

Read the blog post,"Forced Migration: Biographies of the Soviet Koreans Who Helped to Establish the North Korean State," written by Suhyoung Son, Korean Foundation Junior Librarian, Asian Division (4 Corners of the World blog: January 22, 2021).

Korean War Propaganda Leaflet Collection

Illustration from a Korean War Propaganda Leaflet showing Koreans in heavy clothing shivering from the cold in winter with writing in Korean at top.
Sample image from the Korean War Propaganda Leaflet Collection, which reads: “Communists force you into a third winter of war!” North Korean Collection. Library of Congress Asian Division.

The Korean War Propaganda Leaflet Collection provides a unique look into psychological warfare during the Korean War (1950-1953). The production of propaganda leaflets, or ppira (삐라), was a primary means of influencing troops and civilians on both sides. During the Korean War, ppira, loudspeakers, and radio operations were deployed to meet three main military objectives, namely, weaken the effectiveness and resistance of the North Korean and the Communist Chinese People’s Army; provide more detailed information about the war to the people of North Korea, including warnings to civilians about imminent bombings; and bolster the morale of the South Korean forces.

This collection, which was donated to the Library of Congress in 1994, is divided into four groups:

  • Part 1: Leaflets produced by South Korea and UN allies that targeted the North Korean Army and Communist Chinese forces
  • Part 2: Leaflets produced by the North Korean Army and the Communist Chinese forces targeting UN troops and South Korean civilians
  • Part 3: Examples of the Safe Conduct Pass (안전보장 증명서), a typical form of ppira produced by both sides, designed to urge the enemy to surrender with promises of favorable treatment
  • Part 4: Free World (자유세계) newspaper leaflets, produced by US-led forces, which served as a major source of news regarding the war and world events for civilians caught in the war zone

Read the blog post, "Korean War Propaganda Leaflet Collection at the Library of Congress," written by Sonya Lee, Reference Specialist, Korean Collection, Asian Division (4 Corners of the World blog: January 22, 2021).