December 08, 2022
Interviews

A North Korean defector blazes her own trail as an artist in Seoul: Interview

‘I want to demonstrate that North Korean refugees can do just as well as anybody else in South Korea and beyond’

A recent art exhibition in North Korea to mark the Day of Anti-U.S. Struggle featured a mix of propaganda posters and realistic paintings of alleged U.S. atrocities, including of an American soldier about to take an ax to a child — a reminder that all art in the totalitarian state must serve the regime’s political purposes.

The daughter of a North Korean painter, Sumin Ahn was at one point on a trajectory toward becoming an artist in Pyongyang’s service herself, training at a special school for the arts. But when disastrous currency reforms wiped out her family’s savings, Ahn and her family fled the country.