On the fifth floor of South Korea’s sprawling National Library is a place far more fascinating than its name suggests: The North Korea Information Center.
Here you can read every edition of North Korea’s national newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, dating to its first publication in the 1970s. Or peruse a collection of 100,000 North Korean books and videos — fiction, nonfiction and the complete teachings of the autocratic dynasty that runs the country.
In addition to political propaganda, there is also a North Korean children’s book section. And there are textbooks. (Calculus problems are exactly the same in North Korea, but the textbooks have much less color.)
“There are very few places worldwide where you can get most of this stuff that is surrounding us,” says Christopher Green, a North Korea scholar from University of Leiden, who spends a lot of his time here doing research.
Researchers know about this place, which opened in the late 1980s during a thaw in inter-Korean relations. But the library isn’t advertised. Most South Koreans have never heard of it, and they can face jail time for having these materials out in the wild.
Photos: Elise Hu/NPR