Laughing North Koreans: The Culture of Comedy Films is ultimately a fascinating and extensive study of a subject seldom covered in this way. Immanuel Kim draws the reader into a cultural space where unexpectedly there are starts like Kim Se-yong and franchises such as the My Family's Problem series, which North Korean audiences really could have engaged with and followed through the years. Readers will be more than satisfied with Kim's careful analysis of these films and the legacies and histories they leave.
Kim (Korean literature and culture, George Washington Univ.) analyzes film comedy in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, looking at the impact comedians have had there. Kim provides a fascinating discussion of how filmmakers and actors negotiate required ideological and political rhetoric, reinforcing Juche (the state ideology) and the dictates of the ruling Kim family, while at the same time provoking laughter. In the book's five chapters Kim examines "comedian comedy," Boasting Too Much (a 1970 spy satire), the My Family’s Problem films (1973 onward), A Day at the Amusement Park (1978), and the visual and traditional culture found in North Korean romantic comedies. The volume doubles as a study of Kim Se-yŏngin (winner of the People’s Actor award), who stars in most of these films and is, Kim argues, "the most important actor in North Korean comedy films" (p. 12). The volume is well written and eminently readable. . . this is a valuable book on an underrepresented topic and on what Kim refers to as “the process in which films are conceived, negotiated and produced in the North Korean film industry" (p. 58). Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.