How does Guy Delisle in his graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea present North Korea and its people? For example, this graphic novel can be thought of like a travelogue, and Delisle, being an outsider, makes certain comments on North Korea and its people. Does the outsider status make it impossible for him to unproblematically comment on what he sees?

Guy Delisle, in his graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, presents North Korea and its people as obedient, antiseptic, and obnoxious.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea , Guy Delisle presents North Korea as monolithic and severe. Neither the restaurants nor the shops are given typical names. It’s as if individual names would be too lavish for the stern environment of North Korea. Instead, the eating establishments and stores are...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Guy Delisle presents North Korea as monolithic and severe. Neither the restaurants nor the shops are given typical names. It’s as if individual names would be too lavish for the stern environment of North Korea. Instead, the eating establishments and stores are numbered, like “the appropriately named no. 1 store.”

The restaurants and stores reinforce the uniformity of Delisle’s North Korea. The menus are comically limited. The stores carry lots of goods—from shoes to coffee—that are all alike. As Delisle quips about the no. 1 store, “What it lacks in variety, it makes up for in quantity.”

North Korea also comes across as repressive. The militarism and the adulation of Kim Il-sung seem to have a stifling impact on individual expression. Delisle describes North Korea as “very clean. Too clean, in fact.” The antiseptic atmosphere leads to a fair amount of awkward moments for Delisle. He does not present North Korea as a place that’s comfortable for foreign individuals such as himself.

Delisle’s presentation of the people of North Korea aligns with his representation of their country. North Koreans are portrayed as grim, unfriendly, and obedient. Even the children are depicted as extremely disciplined, with the sequence of the kids dutifully watering the grass.

Additionally, Delisle presents North Koreans as a regular source of irritation. His North Korean production assistant “gets to be annoying.” The chambermaid, who brings his water rations early in the morning, bothers Delisle to such a degree that he fantasizes about assaulting her.

Overall, it’s reasonable to claim that Delisle’s presentation of North Korea and North Koreans is reductive and derisive. It’s like he’s making fun of the country and the people who live there. His stereotypical, mocking portrayal could be deemed problematic.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on