Like everything else in North Korea, it is hard to find precise information what vinyl records and possibly 78s (Standard Play Records) were issued there. What I do know is that a significant number of 10 inch Lps and even 7 inch singles/EPs exist on the state run Korean Gramophone Records label (see above). The genres range from patriotic military music to film music to jazz (such as by the Wangjaesan Light Music Band) to Opera (such as by the Mansudae Art Troupe) to the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble series of LPs and EPs that contains moog-synth and electronic guitar compositions amongst other styles. The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble series goes up to at least Vol. 150 on CD, and there are at least 20 odd different 10 inch LPs and at least 3 different 7 inch EPs. I understand there have been no regular rock LPs to come out of North Korea.
The Korean Gramophone Record label seems in many ways similar to the famous state run Chinese Gramophone Record label (Chang Pian) (唱片) which released 12 inch LPs, 10 inch LPs and 7 inch EPs from the 1960s through until the 1980s. I used to have quite a lot of Cultural Revolution era ones – and the covers are very ‘glorious’. (examples of Chang Pian label records are pictured above). Incidently, the Chinese Chang Pian label has released at least one vinyl record (7 inch 33rpm EP) (front cover) (back cover) of North Korean music in 1964.
While its tempting to start collecting all the North Korean vinyl record releases, for the time being I’ll just be holding onto the odd ones here and there. As ridiculous as in may seem, it has crossed my mind to try to source North Korea records by actually going there and finding a way to ship them out. Although very problematic it may not be impossible, especially if they reopen the border to Kaesong once Lee Myung-bak goes (this text was typed Sep. 2012). The key to making it worthwhile would be finding some pre-1950 Korean and Chinese 78s there as well. I have corresponded with someone who worked in North Korea (Pyongyang) for 2 years in 2010/2011 who outlined the difficulties of finding and purchasing vintage items such as records there. And it is true that most of the North Korean vinyl records in circulation now came via Eastern Europe which seemed to have some kind distribution system for these records going with North Korea, back in the day. We shall see if anything eventuates on this front.
Something I’m interested to know is the reason why North Korean pressing vinyl records have English language text? Is this related to them possibly being exported out of North Korea to Eastern Europe and English being a catch-all language.
Above are pictures of a copy of one of the North Korean Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble 7 inch EPs (one that I picked up recently). Link to this 45 on the 45Cat discography site.
One last question only for true sages of the record collecting universe to attempt … below is a pic (thumbnail) of a (North Korean) Korean Gramophone Records 10 inch LP complete with matrix (bottom left of label). It seems to be a quite complex matrix configuration leading me to ponder if North Korean records may have been actually pressed in Beijing. Perhaps comparing a Chang Pian matrix to a KGR one may provide an indication. Unfortunately, I don’t have any CP records at hand myself at the moment.
I generally try to use records from my own collection in all my main pictures on this site. But regarding North Korean vinyl records I might try to compile a limited discography of the Korean Gramophone Records label that includes what pictures and info I can cobble together from where-ever I can find it. When time permits I will begin it and add to it in the free space on this page below.
Korean Gramophone Records label discography: (link pending)
Korean vinyl records – 한국 레코드판 by Michael Dover is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.Based on a work at https://koreanvinyl.wordpress.com/.Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://koreanvinyl.wordpress.com/.