Archive for the ‘Ministry of Culture’ Category

New DPRK art exhibit in Beijing

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

According to CNN:

The Beijing-based Jinghesheng Investment Company has partnered with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea’s formal name, to exhibit — and sell — 60 oil paintings and 30 traditional Korean ink paintings.

“They were all carefully selected by the DPRK’s Ministry of Culture,” said exhibit director Li Xuemei. Although North Korean artworks may be available in some galleries in China and other countries, said Li, “you don’t really know where they came from, but ours are surely authentic artworks from DPRK.”

Inside a hall, the gallery showcases works of twenty North Korean artists affiliated with museums and art academies in Pyongyang. Li said the gallery receives as many as 100 visitors a day on the weekend and about 60 on weekdays.

The pieces depict landscapes and modern life. Many were painted by seasoned Pyongyang artists who hold honorific titles as “People’s Artists” and “Merit Artists.”

One oil painting, a socialist realist piece entitled “Huge Waves in the East Sea,” is three meters high and ten meters long and covers an entire wall of the gallery. Four artists collaborated on the painting using a wide scope of greens and blues to create textured and turbulent waves crashing into taupe gray rocks against a backdrop of blue sky.

The collection also includes watercolors, elegant portraits of Korean women in modern and traditional dress and wildlife.

Li said the artwork is only sold to elite customers, typically Chinese entrepreneurs in affluent cities like Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Dalian. She said 30 percent of the works on display have already been sold, but she declines to quote any prices.

“Many people chose to collect this art because North Korea is a country still closed to the outside world, although it is seeking to open up in the future,” Li said. “This makes North Korean artworks a good investment. Some artists have already passed away, making their work more unique and valuable.”

While the arts’ value may increase over time, their North Korean artists will not see any cash returns.

“In North Korea,” Li said, “art is not private property and the value made from the sales will go directly to the state.”

One artist and three North Korean government officials flew into Beijing to attend the opening of the show but stayed away from the media and declined to be interviewed.

While contemporary North Korean art is typically laden with a heavy message, the artworks showcased in the 798 art district leaves out traces of politics or propaganda. New collections of North Korean art will rotate through the gallery until in the coming months.

“We’ll show artworks on rotation,” Li said. “We’ll show different styles in the next collection.”

Additional Information:

1. The gallery is located in Beijing’s 798 district located here.

2. Pictures of the gallery and art can be seen here.

3. Nick Bonner has his collection on display in Beijing as well.  His new web page is hereHis old web page is here. Mr. Bonner recently showed some North Korean art in Australia.

4. Felix Abt offers pieces by artists at Pyongyang’s Paekho Art Studio here.

5. David Heather sells North Korean art here and here from the Mansudae Art Studio.

6. A separate web page claims to be the official site of the Mansudae Studio here.

7. The Mansudae Art Studio is located here.

8. Here is another page claiming to sell North Korean art.  It seems to be based in Germany.

9. Here are a couple of books on North Korean art: Art Under Control in North Korea, North Korean Posters

10. Here is a book review of North Korean Posters which offers additional information.


Logistics of filming in North Korea

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

My friend Paul at Knife Tricks recently interviewed the producers of Crossing the Line about the logistics of filming in the DPRK.  Here are some excerpts:

Gordon and his crew brought their own equipment to North Korea because local film technology was not compatible with the needs of a modern documentary shoot. “As far as equipment goes, they film on 35mm, and we were filming on DigiBeta for the first two films and hi-def video for Crossing the Line,” says Gordon.

“I used standard Canon lenses,” notes Bennett. “When I needed to light, I used Kino Flos, but much of the film was shot with available light.” Gordon adds, “In North Korea, the electricity isn’t necessarily on, and when it’s on, it isn’t necessarily constant, so we tried to use available light wherever we could.” He carried batteries at all times and hooked into mains when possible.

In addition to Gordon, Bennett, soundman Stevie Haywood and co-producer Nicholas Bonner, the crew included one or two North Koreans assigned to the shoot by the Ministry of Culture. Gordon notes, “Your immediate suspicion is that they’re government plants — security people pretending to be film people. But the longer you work with people, you tend to find out what they are and what they’re not, and the people we worked with day by day were absolutely film people.”

“They basically took it upon themselves that they were going to work for us and get us the access that we wanted, whatever that took and whatever personal risks that took on their part,” he continues. “Had it all gone wrong, there would have been quite nasty consequences for everyone involved.”

The filmmaking process involved many nights of discussions with the North Koreans about access or other issues concerning the next day’s shooting. The topics to be discussed with Dresnok were provided to the North Koreans in advance, with the understanding that new topics would arise over the course of the interview. The minders occasionally reviewed the dailies. “There was never an occasion when they said, ‘No, you can’t shoot that,’” Bennett recalls. “There were lots of occasions where they’d hem and haw as to whether they wanted us to film something, and we shot it, and they had a look at it afterwards and said, ‘Yeah, it’s fine.’ You’re not always aware of what they’re looking for.”

“No footage was ever taken away from us,” adds Bennett. “We came away with everything we shot.”

The North Koreans had no hand in the edit, either. Gordon says the final cut was not shown to North Korean officials until after it was screened at the Busan Film Festival in South Korea.

Read the full article here:
Documentary filmmakers are granted rare access to shoot a project that provides glimpses of life in the closed-off society.
American Cinematographer
Paul Karl Lukacs
March 2008


Google Earth North Korea (version 6)

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
North Korea Uncovered: Version 6
Download it here

kissquare.JPGThis map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the sixth version.

Additions to the newest version of North Korea Uncovered include: Alleged Syrian nuclear site (before and after bombing), Majon beach resort, electricity grid expansion, Runga Island in Pyongyang, Mt. Ryongak, Yongbyon historical fort walls, Suyang Fort walls and waterfall in Haeju, Kaechon-Lake Taesong water project, Paekma-Cholsan waterway, Yachts (3), and Hyesan Youth Copper Mine.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.


Philharmonic to explore venues in Pyongyang

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily

Representatives of the New York Philharmonic were set to arrive over the weekend in North Korea to discuss the possibility of a history-making performance in the communist nation.

Philharmonic President Zarin Mehta and public relations director Eric Latzky said they planned to explore venues and other arrangements for a potential February concert in Pyongyang.

“It’s a country that none of us have ever dreamed of going to. The next three or four days are going to be very eye-opening for us,” Mehta said by telephone Thursday from Beijing.

He and Latzky said they were embarking on the discussions with United States government support. A State Department official was accompanying the Philharmonic representatives on the trip.

“In as much as this is something that both sides are interested in exploring, we will do what we can to facilitate it,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Relations between the United States and North Korea have been tense for years. President George W. Bush once branded the country part of an “axis of evil” along with Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

But after North Korea tested a nuclear bomb last October, the U.S. softened its policy to facilitate progress on the North’s disarmament.

This week, the North pledged arms talks with Washington and other regional powers to disable its main nuclear facilities and declare all its programs by the year’s end.

Latzky said orchestra representatives had spoken with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill last month about the potential concert, and he was “very encouraging,” The New York Times reported Friday.

North Korea’s Ministry of Culture sent the renowned orchestra an invitation in August.

The Philharmonic has played in South Korea, as well as in other parts of Asia.


Orchestras may visit North, U.S.

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily
Jin Se-keun

A U.S. orchestra may visit North Korea while Pyongyang sends its own orchestra to the United States, an official of a Hong Kong-based company said yesterday.

Bae Kyeong-hwan, vice president of Daepung Investment Group, told the JoongAng Ilbo that his company has been authorized by the North’s Culture Minister, Kang Neung-su, to schedule and plan the events.

“We contacted the New York Philharmonic orchestra first, but if its schedule does not permit, the Boston Philharmonic or the Philadelphia Philharmonic could be an option,” Bae said.

The New York Philharmonic earlier confirmed that it has been invited to visit North Korea, but has not yet made an official decision.

After a performance in Pyongyang, the U.S. orchestra may return via South Korea, crossing the inter-Korean border at Panmunjeom Village, Bae said.

The North’s National Symphony Orchestra will then return the visit by going to the United States for a performance, according to Bae.

He claimed that negotiations for these reciprocal visits have been worked out by Christopher Hill, Washington’s chief negotiator to the six-party talks, and his North Korean counterpart Kim Gye-gwan.  

North invites the New York Philharmonic
Joong Ang Daily
Brian Lee

It’s up to the New York Philharmonic orchestra to decide whether it will accept an invitation to perform in North Korea, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Tuesday.

“We’ll consider it,” Eric Latzky, the orchestra’s director of public relations, told Agence France Press. “We received an invitation to perform in Pyongyang through an independent representative on behalf of the ministry of culture of North Korea.”

Latzky said the request, which had just been received, was “unusual” and that the orchestra would consult with Washington before making any decision. Furthermore, Latzky said, any such visit would come as part of a tour in the region.

The Philharmonic is scheduled to play in China in February 2008.

When asked whether such a visit was feasible, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “I think it’d be fully up to them whether or not they accept such an invitation. As for the details of being able to go there and whether there’s any compensation, that sort of thing, those are probably technical details.”

Financial sanctions and restrictions regarding arms, missile and nuclear technology are in place under a United Nations resolution adopted last year in the aftermath of a nuclear test by the North, but there are no restrictions on travel to the North by ordinary U.S. citizens.

But despite the symbolic meaning the orchestra’s visit could have, McCormack said he suspected it would only play for Pyongyang’s elite. “Whether or not your average North Korean gets an invitation if the New York Philharmonic’s in Pyongyang, I have my doubts about that.”

North Korea interested in inviting New York Philharmonic
Korea Herald


North Korea has shown interest in inviting the New York Philharmonic to perform in its capital, Pyongyang, apparently as part of its efforts to improve ties with the United States, sources here said Sunday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

During a meeting of six-party nuclear disarmament talks in Beijing in July, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill met his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, and proposed that the two countries start civilian exchanges as part of confidence-building measures, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kim responded positively, saying that his government has already thought about such exchanges and would be interested in inviting the New York Philharmonic, according to the sources.

Eric Latzky, spokesman for the New York-based philharmonic, told Yonhap News Agency that he was unaware of any invitation by the North but said discussions were under way with South Korea for a performance tour there.


Mass Games entered into Guiness Book of Records

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Click the picture to see it on YouTube.

arirang.JPGGuinness Certificate Awarded to “Arirang”


A certificate of the Guinness World Records was awarded to the grand gymnastic and artistic performance “Arirang”.

It was handed to Song Sok Hwan, vice-minister of Culture, by Wu Xiaohong, representative of the Guinness World Records Ltd., on a visit to the DPRK at the May Day Stadium on August 15.

The record of largest gymnastic and artistic performance in the world was created in Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK, the certificate says.

Conveying the certificate, the representative said the grand gymnastic and artistic performance “Arirang” could be successfully created thanks to the wise leadership of Kim Jong Il, and expressed deepest respect to him.

Warmly haling the registration of the performance in the Guinness World Records, the representative hoped that “Arirang” would successfully go on in the future.

More than 7 million Koreans in the north and the south and overseas and foreigners have watched the performance which has taken place over 180 times.

Extravaganza “Arirang” Praised


The grand gymnastic and artistic performance “Arirang” participated in by 100,000 persons is the most successful work both in its scale and ideological and artistic value.

Wu Xiaohong, representative of the Guinness World Records Ltd. on a visit to the DPRK, said this after appreciating the performance now going on in Pyongyang with great success.

I have never seen such peculiar work as the grand gymnastic and artistic performance “Arirang” in any other countries, she said, and went on:

What impressed me very much is that it is fantastic and conspicuous.

I marveled at the might of the unity of the Korean people while watching the performance.

It is my view that such extravaganza can be created only in the DPRK wisely led by Kim Jong Il.

It is something worth boasting before the world that such peculiar performance is going on in the DPRK.

The Guinness World Records Ltd. recognized the grand gymnastic and artistic performance “Arirang” going on at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK, as the largest one in the world.

The Guinness Book of World Records published by the company is distributed to at least 100 countries.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Korean people for having created “Arirang” as a great masterpiece of the world.

It is my hope that the performance will prove successful in the future, too.


Kim Jong Il’s latest film released

Friday, August 11th, 2006

From the Washington Post:

New North Korean movie is proletariat pleaser
By Jon Herskovitz

The king of the summer movie box office is none other than North Korea’s Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, or at least that is what the communist state’s official media has been saying this week.

The biggest movie sensation of the season has been the film made under Kim’s wise leadership called “Diary of a Student Girl,” the North’s KCNA news agency said.

“(It) is screened before full houses in Pyongyang every day, evoking lively response from people of all walks of life,” it said.

Unlike the big movies from Hollywood this summer, there are no pirates, animated cars or mutants making a last stand in the North Korean movie billed as a “close companion of life.”

North Korea’s student girl works with her younger sister in pursuit of scientific endeavors. Through their work they overcome hardships, better understand their parents and are instilled with pride in the nation and its military-first policy.

Even before it was released, official media said it would be listed as a masterpiece.

Minister of Culture Kang Nung-su praised the film as “the fruit borne under the wise leadership of Kim Jong-il, a great master in art,” KCNA reported.

And audiences indeed loved it: “The viewers make up their mind to live as the heroines do, saying that they want to see the film again,” the official agency said.

North Korea has made numerous movies that are low on special effects but high in messages that support the state’s communist ideology.

Kim’s official biography says the man known as the “Dear Leader” is an accomplished director who has made several award-winning films.

Kim is also suspected of kidnapping a South Korean director and his actress wife in order to boost North Korean cinema. Those close to him say he has a collection of thousands of movies.

North Koreans do not have a lot of choice when it comes to entertainment. Their radios have to be set to the official state station and they can get thrown in jail for watching foreign movies or listening to Western music.

As for Kim himself, it was not certain if he has sat through the latest movie. According to official media, he has not been seen for several weeks following Pyongyang’s decision to defy international warnings and test-fire seven missiles on July 5.