In 2009, I bought a comic book while I was in Northeast China. The following is an interesting commentary on the comic book from a professor whom I gave the book to.
by Eom Jeong-Hui and Ko Im-Hong Translated by Heinz Insu Fenkl and Jungbin Yoon
Last year, shortly after the excerpt from Blizzard in the Jungle was published in the graphic lit issue of WWB, I ran across a blog, oikono.com, maintained by Geoffrey K. See, a Yale graduate student who travels widely and posts cultural artifacts from around the world. He had recently been to North Korea, and after reading one of my earlier translations of North Korean comic books (Great General Mighty Wing, excerpted in WWB in 2009), he posted some pages from one of the North Korean children’s graphic novels he had picked up in a bookstore in China. The first thing that struck me about the pages was that they were posted in mirror-image (by error, it turned out), but in reading them, I was delighted to find that the comic book was about an elite group of North Korean young scientists who are out to save an unnamed African nation from a mysterious evil force! Blizzard in the Jungle, which addressed a similar theme, was published in 2001, but The Secret of Frequency A had been published in 1994. On the one hand, it surprised me to see that a kind of pedagogical/propagandistic “Hardy Boys meets Tom Swift” type of story would be introduced to North Korean children before the more mature Blizzard in the Jungle addressed a similar theme for older readers. On the other hand, this chronology made perfect sense, since it suggested that the same thematic issues would be sustained over time (and also suggested that North Koreans continued to read comics as they grew up). I contacted Geoffrey See, and he graciously emailed me the scans of his pages and later sent me the comic book itself. It is thanks to him that we are able to excerpt it in WWB this year.
The Secret of Frequency A is another example of the “North Korea as world savior” genre of comic books. North Korea has been active in Africa for decades, unbeknownst to the typical American (you can read more about this issue in my introduction to Blizzard in the Jungle), but what a general reader will find more surprising in this story is that North Korea is more than familiar with much of what we, in the U.S., classify as “Conspiracy Theory.” Whereas the villains in Blizzard in the Jungle are the Mafia (oddly out of place in Africa, by our standards), the evil technology involved in Frequency A is associated with mysterious American military “research” projects like HAARP—the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, which has been blamed for things ranging from climate control warfare to mass mind control to last year’s Haiti earthquake—and the use of “chemtrails” (clouds of chemicals sprayed in the atmosphere by military aircraft) for similar purposes.
Read more at Words without Borders