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Subject guide

North Korea

Welcome to the Sub-guide for North Korea. This Sub-guide is designed for students looking to locate, access and use a wide variety of scholarly and non-scholarly sources which are either (1) published or produced in North Korea or (2) about North Korea. This Sub-guide is a part of the General Subject Guide for Korean Studies. You can find several sub-guides and contacts in the 'quick links' in the tab on the right.

A. Locating North Korean materials

North Korean materials in Leiden University libraries are catalogued the same way as books from South Korea, despite the facts that both countries use a different romanization system for Korean. Please refer to the Korean Studies: General Subject Guide for information on romanization and how to search for Korean titles under the heading ‘how to search’.

Below follow a few tips that can help you locating North Korean sources at Leiden University Libraries.

  • Most sources catalogued from before roughly 2016 have an added subject code ‘JAPAN.NK’ for North Korean titles or titles about North Korea. This is due to the fact that the Korean collection used to be part of the Japanese collection. Search in the catalogue using “JAPAN.NK” for an overview of these titles.
  • For publications from North Korea, the vast majority are published in P'yŏngyang. The place of publication is usually mentioned in the section for publishers. Keep an eye out for this ‘location of publication’, which is usually mentioned in the section of the record specifying the publisher. See for example this record
  • Use subject headings in source records you found. Taking the example from the previous point, if you check out ‘subjects’ section you see a number of descriptors here, such as ‘Korea (North) – Foreign relations – United States’. If you are interested in more books on this topic, click this subject heading. The catalogue will generate a list of sources with that same heading. Simply filter out the Korean sources by refining your search results by language. 
  • Books from North Korea in the Leiden Collections are not available in E-book format, only as physical books. If you are looking for just the North Korean books, you can refine your search results by switching ‘all content’ to ‘Leiden Collections’. 
  • Curious to see the latest acquisitions from North Korea or about North Korea? Have a look at the acquisition lists at the bottom of this guide!

B. Accessing North Korean Materials

You can access the North Korean Collections at three locations: the Asian Library Reading Room, the Special Collections Reading Room and online. Due to the poor paper quality and the irreplaceability of the books and journals, physical North Korean materials are not available for loan and cannot be taken out of the University Library building. You can only consult these on-site. 

Asian Library Reading Room
In the Asian Library Reading Room you will find a number of North Korean Journals, dictionaries, bibliographies and encyclopedias. The journals feature the most recent edition on the cover of the journal display, with back issues from the same year in the box behind it. These materials can be consulted anywhere within the library. Please do return them to a white cart or a library employee after you have used them. 

Special Collections Reading Room
North Korean books and older back issues of journals can be requested through the online catalogue. Due to their fragile state and irreplaceability, you can only access them in the Special Collections Reading room. This means that you cannot take them out of that reading room to consult them somewhere else in the library. Before you visit, take a look at the visitor information for the Special Collections Reading Room, and keep in mind that it is open only on weekdays from 9 to 5. 

Online Collections
There are a number of digital and digitized collections on North Korea that the library is currently working on making accessible. More information will follow once this once this has been sorted out.  

Below follow a number of introductory readings, reference works and websites you can use to start your research. 

Introductory Readings on North Korea

Recommended Readings on North Korea

Locating Books on North Korea

For information on locating Korean books, please check the General Subject Guide. For North Korean Books in particular, it is helpful to browse the Information Center on North Korea (북한자료센터) catalogue. Located in the National Library of Korea, this institution is devoted to collect and study North Korea-related materials in South Korea. Their collection includes over 100,000 North Korean publications and audiovisual materials, children books, journals, artefacts and more. 



Handbooks and country profiles 

Reference works and encyclopedias

Books from North Korea online

Maps and Atlasses

Leiden University subscribes to a number of paper journals from North Korea. Be aware that some issues might be missing due to problems with delivery and availability. Through KPM database and the Library of Congress you can find a large number of journals online. Below follows an overview of these journals with a link to the catalogue. 

North Korean journals in the Library

North Korean Journals, serials and articles

  • Information Center on North Korea (북한자료센터). Located in the National Library of Korea, this institution is devoted to collect and study North Korea-related materials in South Korea. Their collection includes over 100,000 North Korean publications and audiovisual materials, children books, journals, artefacts and more. 
  • Library of Congress – North Korean serials index. This website by the Library of Congress contains article level indexing for the North Korean Serials at the Library of Congress. A good tool to use if you wish to know what serials have been published in North Korea, and to locate individual articles as they were circulated.
  • Library of Congress – North Korean Serials Online. Launched in May 2020, this digital collection provides access to one of the most significant holdings of North Korean serial publications in the world. Upon completion of this digitization project’s initial two-year phase, the collection will comprise 146 serial titles in over 4,200 issues published through 1964.
  • Publications of the DPRK. Provides freely downloadable monographs and periodicals published by the DPRK Foreign Languages Publishing House. Resources are available in Korean, English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic

Journals on North Korea

Below follows an overview of news sources originating from North Korea, or otherwise sponsored and/or controlled by the North Korean government, or sympathetic towards North Korea in general.

IMPORTANT: If you wish to use anything from these websites in your thesis, screenshot the text or image in question and mark the date you accessed it. The content of websites and databases on North Korea can be subject to change depending on current developments. 


  • Choson Sinbo: Korean language on-line newspaper based in Japan, published by DPRK-sympathetic Koreans. Content is available in Japanese and Korean. 
  • KPM : 조선언론정보기지. The KPM database provides access to online newspapers and journals from North Korea. The website is updated daily. You can find the following newspapers in this database: 조선신보, 평양지국, 민주조선, 문학신문, 로동신문, and 통일신보. The site includes photos and video material. 
  • Minju Choson (민주조선). Minju Choson is the official newspaper of North Korea’s cabinet and the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly. The newspaper has launched a website in March 2019. 
  • North Korea Times. This newspaper calls itself “The oldest online news service in North Korea”. Published by Midwest Radio Network, part of Big News Network, Australia.
  • Pyongyang Times. English-language online version of Pyongyang Sinmun, the daily paper of the Worker's Party of Korea. 
  • Rodong Sinmun. Official newspaper of the ruling party of the DPRK. Available in English and Korean. All back issues can be found in the KPM database. 

Websites and Blogs

  • DPRK Today: News site based in China, sponsored by the North Korean government. 
  • KCNA Watch: KCNA watch is not owned or sponsored by North Korea, but important for accessing North Korean news none the less. KCNA watch reproduces the articles and archives hosted on the KCNA websites, including articles ran before political purges occurred, such as the case of Jang Song Thaek, after which original articles were often edited or deleted. 
  • Korea Central News Agency (KCNA): The Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) is North Korea’s official state news agency. Currently KCNA publishes news in English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian and Spanish. Includes video and photo materials. The archive goes back to 2013. 
  • NaeNara: Official web portal of North Korea. The content is divided in subcategories such as politics, tourism, music, foreign trade, art, press, IT and history.
  • Official webpage of the DPR of Korea: This is the website of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA). The KFA was founded in Spain in November 2000 to build international ties with North Korea. The KFA is recognized by the government of the North Korea, but the government does not exercise oversight of the website contents.
  • Uriminzokkiri (우리민족끼리): Website with a server based in China and controlled by the North Korean government that mainly targets South Korea. This website spreads news from, among others, the North Korean Central News Agency.
  • Voice of Korea: Voice of Korea is the international broadcasting service of North Korea. Voice of Korea published articles in Korean, German, Russian, Chinese, French, Arabic, English, Japanese and Spanish. 

Television, Video and Radio

  • DPRK video archive: Youtube channel with propaganda clips from North Korea, including English subtitles. 
  • Korea Central TV live (KCTV): Korea Central TV Live is broadcasted from Pyongyang, North Korea. The broadcast is currently in beta mode through KCNA Watch website. The stream is not 24/7, so check the website for information on broadcasting days and hours. 
  • Pyongyang Broadcast Service – DPR of Korea: Youtube channel with news clips from North Korean TV broadcasts, including English description of the events. Based in Mexico, recently switched locations to North Korea. 

Youtube channels

  • Echo of Truth. A more modern North Korean propaganda Youtube channel. Presented by a young woman named “Un A”, the videos showcase visits to Pyongyang metro, restaurants, dormitory and other places. Presented in Korean with English subtitles. You can also find the channel on Twitter under the handle @coldnoodlefan. 
  • New DPRK. The most recent North Korean Youtube propaganda channel launched in October 2019, featuring visits to museums, supermarkets and places of amusements. Only in Korean, no subtitles.

Unofficial News and Advocacy Websites

  • Radio Free Asia: A United States government–funded, non-profit international broadcasting corporation that broadcasts and publishes online news, information and commentary to readers and listeners in North Korea and elsewhere in East Asia.
  • Daily NK:  News from inside North Korea provided by networks of citizen journalists and defector reporters. Private and non-profit, Daily NK is part of Unification Media Group (UMG), which works for freedom of information in North Korea. 
  • Rimjingang: Website of the independent non-profit Asiapress International. Headquartered in Japan, Rimjingang focuses on photo and video journalism from inside North Korea.

North Korean Websites 

You can find an overview of all known North Korean websites on North Korea Tech Blog. The websites are divided in categories such as business, culture, government, travel, university etc. 

The sources listed below cover North Korea, and are produced by news agencies, scholars and private citizens not affiliated with or controlled by the North Korean government. 

NK News and NK Pro (login required)
NK News and NK Pro are independent, privately owned specialist information sources that focus on North Korea. The sites intend to bring authoritative news, opinion & analysis, research tools, data and subject specialists together in one place.
Content includes news, news aggregator, intelligence analysis, travel reports, and other data about North Korea. Many of the original sources from North Korea can also be consulted on the site.

Websites, blogs and news about North Korea

  • 38 North: News site from the U.S-Korea Institute of SAIS (School of Advances International Studies) of Paul H. Nitze. 
  • KBS World - North Korea A to Z: News articles and updates on North Korea from KBS 
  • KBS World Radio – Korean Peninsula A to Z. 
  • Many other newspapers like the New York Times, the Japan Times etc. also extensively cover North Korea. For more information about this, please referer to the Korean Newspaper, TV and Media Guide, and the General Subject Guide for Japan Studies. 
  • NK Chosun: All news on North Korea on one separate page, operated by the Chosun Ilbo, one of the largest newspapers in South Korea. 
  • NK News: Independent, privately owned specialist site focused on North Korea based in Delaware with international staff.
  • North Korea Economy Watch
  • North Korea International Documentation Project: The North Korea International Documentation Project serves as an informational clearinghouse on North Korea for the scholarly and policymaking communities, disseminating documents on the DPRK from its former communist allies that provide valuable insight into the actions and nature of the North Korean state.
  • North Korea Leadership watch: site with a focus on the leaders of North Korea. In particular, the site focuses on the political culture surrounding Kim Jon Il, and the military and political organizations and institutions that have been under his direct and indirect command. 
  • North Korea Tech: San-Francisco based blog covering news about North Korean technology, space & satellites, media, business, security issues and internet. 
  • Pukhan Net. Information website by Chungang Ilbosa (The Korea Daily). News on North Korea, including coverage of current topics on international relations, politics etc. 
  • Sino-NK: website mainly focusing on the border regions and transnational connections between North Korea, South Korea and China. 
  • South China morning post – North Korea 
  • The Guardian – North Korea 
  • Yonhap News Agency – North Korea: the largest media company in South Korea has a separate website for news on North Korea in Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish and French. 
  • Don’t forget that there are many newspapers around the world who publish articles about North Korea. You can find information on these in the Guide for Korean Newspapers, TV and Media. 

North Korean movies & tv series in the library collection

Leiden University Libraries has over 100 films, cartoons and documentaries from North Korea, in addition to a large selection of English Language documentaries, news clips and feature films on North Korea. Several new additions are made every year. You can find more information on the Korean movie collections in the guide Korean Newspapers, TV & Media.  

North Korean movies online

You can find over 75 North Korean movies with English subtitles on the DPRK Video Archive Youtube Channel. 

Resources for North Korean movies



Organizations active on Human Rights Issues in North Korea

Organizations supporting North Koreans and Refugees 

  • Connect North Korea 
  • Committee for the Five Northern Korean Provinces. The committee's main practical function is to provide support to North Korean defectors living in South Korea, including helping with the resettlement of North Koreans and organizing social events for North Koreans. 
  • Choson Exchange. Choson Exchange brings experienced professionals to the DPRK to support Koreans with hands-on training in entrepreneurship, business, marketing, and more. 


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