Korea Foundation Sponsors N.Korean Propaganda Art Show

  • By Jung Sang-hyuk

    April 02, 2021 10:31

    The state-funded Korea Foundation is sponsoring an exhibition that includes North Korean propaganda art in Bern, Switzerland.

    Titled "Beyond the Border," the exhibition that opens on April 30 consists of 75 works from both Koreas from the vaults of prominent art collector Uli Sigg (75), who was the Swiss ambassador to North Korea from 1995 to 1998.

    The foundation said Bern is home to the embassies of both North and South Korea and added the exhibition will "unravel the starkly contrasting images of the South and North through art." 

    The North Korean works include a picture of nation founder Kim Il-sung and his son Jong-il grinning against a background of a missile launch -- "The Missiles" by Pak Yong-chol -- and another depicting the brutal Kim dynasty in saccharine socialist realist style.

    "The Missiles" by Pak Yong-chol /Courtesy of the Korea Foundation

    A foundation staffer Thursday told the Chosun Ilbo, "We decided to sponsor the exhibition after considering its aim and composition. We fully trusted the art gallery to choose the artworks."

    It also includes works by Chinese artists showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting a salt field or former Chinese premier Hua Guofeng holding hands with Kim Il-sung during a visit to Pyongyang in 1978.

    Conservative critics say that considering North Korean or Chinese propaganda purely as art risks decontextualizing them from the abuses of the regime and the very real threat it poses.

    The Korea Foundation last December decided to contribute US$77,000 for the exhibition, and the money will be sent to the organizer by the middle of this month.

    "We merely tried to show the difference in the South and North's art and have absolutely no intention of publicizing North Korea," the staffer said. "We promise to pay closer attention to future sponsorship decisions."

    The foundation is funded by the Foreign Ministry and this year's annual budget totals W51 billion (US$1=W1,131). 

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