This article explores the reading culture of anti-communist adult comic books as a unique sub-culture of 1970s South Korea which arose out of the confluence of anticommunist discourse and an explosion of sexualized content in popular culture. Anticommunist adult comic books appealed to publishers wanting to follow government policies of anti-communism and counter-espionage, writers desiring to create successful popular works, and readers seeking erotic content. As a result, authors portrayed female spies as sources of amusement and appealed to readers’ orientalist imaginations and voyeuristic desires. Comic books about Kim Il-sung featured rape scenes under the pretext of exposing the dictator’s evil deeds. In the process, Kim Il-sung became an object of admiration and envy, delivering vicarious satisfaction to readers. By illustrating the evil dictator as a phallic symbol, these books created a character worthy of male readers’ empathy, including teenagers. These narratives were produced and circulated during the post-war Yushin regime at time when authorities were pushing ethical puritanism and anti-communism despite the explosion of sexual themes in popular culture. Moreover, this essay highlights how anti-communist adult comic books reveal the possibility for popular culture to be produced and consumed in ways at odds with the desires of authorities.
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