February 21, 2024

Drawing the fine line between art and propaganda in North Korea

Artists express themselves through officially-sanctioned artwork despite strict rules, experts say

While it's easy to think of art made in North Korea as purely propagandistic, experts said recent national exhibitions in Pyongyang revealed the artists' individuality and attempts to push the limit of what is acceptable in the DPRK. “Some pieces really reflect the really wonderful inner expression of the artists," said B. G. Muhn, a Georgetown University art professor and author of several books on North Korean art.

In addition to heroic soldiers and smiling leaders, the craftspeople had also taken to painting dolphins on layered glass and sculpting children skiing down slopes, exhibitions celebrating the Eighth Party Congress in January and the 75th founding anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) last October showed.