Archive for April, 2009

Friday Fun: Google, Jackie Chan, and great photos

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

DPRK citizens forbidden from entering Google offices?
According to this article in Britain’s Daily Mail:

When you visit the shiny headquarters of Google UK, just a stone’s throw from Victoria Station in London, the receptionist asks you to log-in on a computer with a touch screen.

How else would you sign in? This is one of the centres of the cyber universe.

And then something strange happens. Before you can be issued a pass, the computer asks you to enter into a ‘ nondisclosure agreement’ with Google Inc., a 499-word document.

You must agree not to disclose any confidential information that you might stumble upon while in the building.

In particular, the Participant (that’s you) ‘hereby certifies that he/she shall not  –  directly or indirectly  –  sell, export, re- export, transfer, divert, or otherwise dispose of any hardware, software, source code or technology . . . without obtaining prior authorisation from Google and the appropriate government authorities’.

In addition, you must even certify that you are not a citizen of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.

Some readers will recall a similar incident with LinkedIn a few weeks back (which has since been resolved).

Jackie Chan
Following Jackie Chan’s comments that he believed Chinese people “need to be controlled,”  some Hong Kong residents created a Facebook group dedicated to sending him to the DPRK.  If you are a member of Facebook, check out the group page here.

Great Photos
(Hat tip to David) The Boston Globe posted a great set of photos from North Korea’s boder with China.  I am not easily impressed with photos of the DPRK, but these are good.

(Addition Al Jazeera)
Last night Scott Snyder and Alejandro Cao de Benos were on Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan.  Part 1 herePart 2 here.


North Korea, 1949

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Anna Louise Strong (November 24, 1885 – March 29, 1970) was a twentieth-century American journalist and activist best known for her reporting on and support for communist movements in the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.

In 1949 she wrote a pamphlet for Soviet Russia Today titled, “In North Korea: First Eye-Witness Report” (Many will be familiar with the DPRK equivalent, Korea Today, which has survived long enough to be published on the internet)

The text is relatively short, but since this is exam season, I will not get around to it for a couple of weeks.  Enjoy.

(hat tip Alina)


Hoiryeong Students Causing Furore

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee

As a result of a first-of-its-kind refusal to sign an army enrollment petition, students soon to graduate from a middle school in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung Province have been ordered by the Party to work on collective farms for life.

Furthermore, during this process the parents of some of the students protested after the children of government officials in Hoiryeong were granted exemptions from the same order.

The incident occurred at the Osanduk Middle School in early February. The Army Mobilization Department had urged graduating middle school students to sign the “People’s Army (KPA) Enrollment Petition,” stressing that “America and South Chosun puppets are taking provocative wartime measures.”

An enrollment petition requests a signature agreeing to “voluntary enlistment in the KPA for the security of the fatherland.” In the past, North Korean authorities forcefully carried out “voluntary” petition movements for youths between ages 17 and 35; however, since the reform of its military service law in 2003 the country has had compulsory military service. Thus, in practice the voluntary enrollment petition is a purely ceremonial expression of patriotism.

A source from North Hamkyung Province explained the background to the incident:

Although signing the enrollment petition has nothing to do with enlisting in the army itself, students worried whether they would have to enter the army immediately after submitting the petition. Moreover, they had heard a rumor that if they went to the army late then they would have to suffer deadly hard military service and subsequent malnutrition.

Both official class and lower class students fought each other so as not to sign it first. Ultimately, due to this factional conflict, all the students passed the submission deadline.

Then the fights among the students continued through February 16th, the birthday of Kim Jong Il, becoming a serious political issue. Not one Osanduk Middle School graduating student had signed the petition, which had had to be completed before the Dear Leader’s birthday. The fact that the school is located in Hoiryeong, the hometown of Kim Jong Il’s mother Kim Jong Suk, also contributed to the incident’s being turned into a political one.

The incident having been reported to the Party, all officials, including teachers, the principal, vice-principal and the manager of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, were laid off for “failing to properly educate students.” Then the higher authorities, invoking the duty of correcting societal law and order, ordered the dispatch of approximately 120 students who were expected to graduate on March 8th to countryside farms. In North Korea, being dispatched to collective farms is treated as de facto banishment into exile.

In North Korea, once one does not complete his military service or is sent to a collective farm, he/she will be deprived of all opportunities for advancement, including entry into the Party or university. Further, due to the pre-modern societal system which considers one’s family background in all things, the advancement of family members and children are also affected.

With the incident growing out of control, the parents in the official class objected. In particular, at the time of Kim Jong Il’s visit to Hoiryeong on February 24th, one Mr. Han, the manager of the Hoiryeong Basic Food Factory who was accompanying the General, requested that his son be removed from the list of banished students and allowed into the KPA. In North Korea, people who have met Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il are entitled to a “special reception” and are eligible for all kinds of societal privileges.

Meanwhile, other officials mobilized networks of relatives residing in Pyongyang and/or offered bribes to help their children. Ultimately, the Party in Pyongyang absolved eight students of responsibility and gave consent for them to enter the KPA.

Subsequently, the parents of those students who remained destined for collective farms immediately went to the Party in Hoiryeong and began protesting.

The source explained, “Recently in Hoiryeong people have been buzzing about this issue. They have been saying with sarcastic pessimism, ‘It is better that those who are fed by the regime go to the Army. Our children from no-good family backgrounds only go to the Construction Corps.’” The Construction Corps is known to be a hard military service assignment.

He also added, “With negative sentiment rising, the following decrees have been issued by the Party of Hoiryeong, ‘Strengthen ideological reeducation projects through the People’s Unit and Union of Democratic Women meetings’ and ‘Rein in your tongue to stop the spread of groundless rumors.’”

Meanwhile, the source also wryly noted, “While parents have tried to get their children excused by doing the rounds of officials, the students who received the banishment have been rejoicing, saying, ‘We thank the General for allowing us not to go to the Army.’”

He concluded in exasperation, “In the past, one who was banished to a collective farm could not even raise his head in public, but the graduating students from Osanduk Middle School have been acting as if they are generals returning from a victorious campaign.”

According to the source, the mentality of the younger generation in North Korea is that instead of wasting away for ten years in the Army, they would rather make money. Then, they can get away from the collective farm with the money they earn during that time.”


Kaesong Update: Deteriorating relations and trade

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

This week, The South Korean government announced that if the North unilaterally files formal charges against a detained South Korean worker it will reevaluate regulations for its citizens to enter the zone which would require each border crosser to obtain a written guarantee of his safety from Pyongyang before leaving South Korea.  Although the number of South Korean workers allowed to cross the DMZ was reduced after the North’s missile launch, this would effectively prevent South Korean managers from entering the Kaesong Zone and would likely bring an end to operations there.  According to Yonhap:

South Koreans may be barred from visiting North Korea if the communist country takes legal action against a Hyundai Asan employee who has been unlawfully detained by Pyongyang, a government source said Sunday.

The Hyundai employee, who works at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and is identified only by his family name of Yu, has been held for 28 days for allegedly criticizing Pyongyang’s political system and trying to lure a North Korean female worker to defect to the South.

The worker in his 40s has yet to be interviewed by South Korean authorities to determine the exact nature of the detention.

“Under the special arrangement governing the Kaesong complex, the two Koreas must reach an understanding on how to deal with serious offenses involving South Koreans (that carry punishments) exceeding warnings, fines and expulsions,” the source, who declined to be identified, said.

“If Pyongyang takes unilateral action to indict the worker, it will be a violation of the fundamental rules related to cross-border interactions and will compel Seoul to rethink its stance on allowing South Korean to visit the North,” the source stressed.

The bilateral agreement makes clear that Pyongyang should respect the rights of South Korean workers, dwellings and property in Kaesong and the special tourist region in Mount Kumgang on the east coast. The latter has been closed since the shooting death of a female tourist by North Korean guards last July.

He said that if protection for South Koreans nationals cannot be ensured, Seoul will be compelled to review its policies on allowing visits from scratch.

“If this is the case, even employees working at Kaesong will have to get individual, written permission from North Korea that they will not be detained,” the official said.

Such a move could effectively make it hard for South Koreans to go to North Korea, crippling normal operations at the complex just north of the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries.

As of March, 101 South Korean factories operated in the complex, employing about 39,000 North Korean workers. The Kaesong park opened in 2005 and produces labor-intensive goods such as clothing, kitchen wares and watches. (Yonhap)

Given the trajectory of North-South relations this year, it is no surprise that inter-Korean trade dropped 30% in March.  According to Yonhap:

Monthly trade between South and North Korea fell more than 30 percent on-year in March, as tensions ran high over South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise, government data showed Monday.

The two Koreas exchanged goods and services worth US$108.74 million over the last month, down 31.1 percent from $157.9 million in the same period in 2008, the data from the Unification Ministry said.

North Korea sealed the border three times in March, disrupting South Korean production in a joint industrial complex in the North’s border town of Kaesong. Pyongyang imposed the ban in retaliation against a joint military exercise South Korea staged with the United States from March 9 to 20 south of the border.

Pyongyang blasted the joint exercise as a rehearsal for a “second Korean War,” while the two allies say the annual drill is purely defensive.

More than 100 South Korean firms operate in the Kaesong industrial venture, just an hour’s drive from Seoul, joining their capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap but skilled labor.

North Korea demanded the South raise wages, pay fees for land use and revise existing contracts for the Kaesong venture during inter-Korean government talks last week, the first official dialogue in more than a year. Seoul is gathering opinion from South Korean firms and plans to respond to the North Korean demand as early as this week.

Hyundai Asan, which has seen a dramatic reversal of fortune in the last year, has launched a new tourism project to make up some of its lost revenue.  Unable to offer trips to Kaesong and Kumgangsan, they are still trying to capitalize on the mystery of the DPRK:

Hyundai Asan said its new programme includes one-day tours costing 46,000 won (34 dollars) per person to border areas at Paju and Yeoncheon, north of Seoul.

Two-day tours to the border area at Yanggu, 175 kilometres northeast of Seoul, and to Mount Sorak on the east coast, will cost 118,000 won.

“Along with trips to front-line fences, tourists will be allowed to see wildlife and other places which remained untouched for decades,” a Hyundai Asan official told AFP.

Visitors will not be allowed inside the DMZ itself.

Hyundai Asan said the new programme would help ease its financial woes, which began when a South Korean woman tourist was shot dead when she strayed into a military zone at Kumgang last July.

The Seoul government halted tours to Kumgang after the shooting, while Pyongyang barred the one-day tours to Kaesong city as relations worsened.

The company’s other major joint project, the joint industrial complex near Kaesong city, is also facing problems due to sour cross-border ties.

The communist North has expelled hundreds of South Korean staff and restricted access to the Seoul-funded complex.

On March 30 it detained a Hyundai Asan employee for allegedly criticising the North’s regime and trying to persuade a local woman worker to defect.

Read the full stories below:
Gov’t warns it can bar S. Koreans from visiting N. Korea

Inter-Korean trade drops 30 percent in March during political tension

South Korean firm to start tours along North Korea border
Channel News Asia


North Korea events in DC this week

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

This week is “North Korea Freedom Week” in DC, and there will be many North Korea-related events around town.  Though I have no relationship with this program, I plan on attending two of the events which I have listed below.  If you are interested in attending also, please RSVP.

Wednesday, April 29 (10:00am-12:00)
Panel Session Focusing on Survey of North Korean Refugees
Featuring: Marcus Noland, Ambassador Jhe Seong So, and former DPRK Colonel Choi Joo Hwal
Summaries, presentations, audio, and visual materials here

Thursday, April 30 (6:30-8:30pm)
Crossing Over: A Dialogue with North Korean Refugees
Featuring: Kim Young-il, Refugee & Executive Director of PSCORE (People for Successful Corean Reunification); Han Young-jin: Refugee & Reporter at Radio Free Asia; and
Laura Elizabeth Pohl: Freelance photojournalist and former foreign correspondent in Seoul.
Host: Ana Jang and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, GPPI IPD Track, GU Korean Student Society, PSCORE
Location: Georgetown University,
Carbarn Building, 4th floor student lounge,
3520 Prospect Street, N.W.
Especially for Georgetown community, but open to the public.
Contact: [email protected]


UNSC blacklists three DPRK companies

Friday, April 24th, 2009

In response to the DPRK’s rocket launch, the UN Security Council issued a presidential statement containing the following:

The Security Council reiterates that the DPRK must comply fully with its obligations under Security Council resolution 1718 (2006).

The Security Council demands that the DPRK not conduct any further launch.

The Security Council also calls upon all Member States to comply fully with their obligations under resolution 1718 (2006).

The Security Council agrees to adjust the measures imposed by paragraph 8 of resolution 1718 (2006) through the designation of entities and goods, and directs the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) to undertake its tasks to this effect and to report to the Security Council by 24 April 2009, and further agrees that, if the Committee has not acted, then the Security Council will complete action to adjust the measures by 30 April 2009.

(Read the full text of the statement here

Today the Security Council followed up this statement (and resolution 1718) by voting to blacklist three North Korean companies.  According to Reuters (via the Washington Post):

The North Korea sanctions committee met a Friday deadline set by the Security Council on April 13 to produce a list of goods and North Korean entities to be blacklisted under Security Council resolution 1718, passed after Pyongyang’s October 2006 nuclear test.

The three companies put on the list are Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., Korea Ryongbong General Corp. and Tranchon (Tanchon) Commercial Bank, according to a copy of the committee’s decision obtained by Reuters.

The decision said the three companies were linked to the military and active in procuring equipment and financing for North Korea’s ballistic missile and other weapons programs.

The blacklisting prohibits companies and nations around the world from doing business with the three firms, but the impact of the action might be largely symbolic.

One Western diplomat said the three blacklisted firms had subsidiaries that also would be subject to U.N. sanctions.

Committee members also decided to ban the import and export of items on an internationally recognized list of sensitive technologies used to build long-range missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

The US imposed sanctions on three North Korean companies in the Federal Register earlier this year.  Of these three companies, one has made the UNSC list: the Korea Mining and Development Corporation.  I can only speculate as to the fate of the other two mentioned in the US Federal Register, Mokong Trading Corporation and the Sino-Ki company. 

Read more below:
UNSC Presidential Statement

U.N. committee puts 3 North Korea firms on blacklist
Reuters (via the Washington Post)
Louis Charbonneau


Kim Jong Il, Urban Planner

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

Hyesan, Yangkang Province: If it had been any other day, on April 18th the entire city would be buzzing with People’s Unit evaluation meetings and cadre lectures. On this particular day, however, influential officials in Yangkang Province, including Kim Kyung Ho, Chief Secretary of the provincial committee of the Party, were gathered together around the railroad tracks in Sungwoo-dong.

The “Ground-Breaking Ceremony” for a project to clear residences near the railroad, so as to fulfill “Supreme Commander Kim Jong Il’s March 4th Decree,” was being held. However, the expressions on the faces of the officials carrying out the decree were grim. The ceremony ended with a few civilians who had been mobilized for the event demolishing an old farmhouse near the railroad and without the top official present making the planned speech. The faces of the bystander officials as well as the gathered civilians betrayed their distress; removal of houses near the railroad has already started, while new homes for residents, whose houses are to be demolished, are not yet prepared.

All of this started with Kim Jong Il’s onsite inspections at Samjiyeon, also in Yangkang Province, on March 4th. Kim, who entered the county along the road connecting Bukchung in North Hamkyung Province and Hyesan, had some choice words for the homes haphazardly clustered around the railroad.

“Why is it so disorderly around here? Get rid of all of the houses surrounding the railroad within the year!”

He also apparently expanded on his beliefs, “Clearing the area around the railway is an important project which improves the image of our country.” Since Kim Jong Il’s words and “instructions” surpass all laws and institutions, his words immediately formed the “March 4th Decree” and were subsequently relayed to all officials in the Yangkang Province region.

Railways in North Korea

In North Korea, there is no protection surrounding railroads, which frequently cut across the center of cities. There are rules that prohibit the construction of public buildings, including residential homes, within 50 meters of railroad tracks, but such rules have existed in name only for a long time.

From the perspective of common citizens, the areas around the railways are some of the most active zones for economic activity. Of course, it is very dangerous when trains are passing, but since they run only once or twice a day at most, the danger is short-lived.

The railroad is a more direct route than the roads, which are in any case not always paved, so it helps conserve time for commuters or those going to markets. It is also convenient to travel on the rails on wooden blocks during the winter! In the border cities of Yangkang and North Hamkyung Provinces, railways running alongside the Yalu and Tumen Rivers serve as important smuggling routes to and from China.

Since the early 2000s, when citizens began to prefer convenient locations around railroads for selling goods or commuting to and from work, the North Korean authorities permitted the construction of residential homes, though bribes had to be offered to officials. In small and mid-size cities, many homes were built within 10 meters of railway tracks.

A source from Yangkang Province explained in a phone conversation with Daily NK on the 23rd while relaying the news of the groundbreaking ceremony, “Workers have to spend most of the year constructing homes. Many people will then be forcibly evacuated from the danger areas.”

The source further commented, “In Hyesan, several hundred households have to be relocated even if only the residential homes within 50 meters of the railway are demolished. Since land is available only on the outskirts of the cities, citizens slated for evacuation have been putting up strong resistance.”

The source also commented dryly, “In resettlement projects, homes are usually built very sloppily. It would be better if the state provided resources to the individuals to build the homes themselves.”

In the areas surrounding the railroad in Hyesan proper, where one-bedroom rentals by university students recently discharged from the army are commonplace, frustration has been running high. The source relayed that while the People’s Units around the railways have been holding daily meetings to decide on the households to be relocated, angry words and even fistfights have been rampant, making mutual agreement difficult if not impossible.

The Party in Hyesan allotted responsibility for the construction of new residences to each factory and enterprises. However, the construction materials provided by the North Korean authorities amounted to just 300kg of cement, which is barely enough for the under-floor heating of a house. Additional materials and means of transportation have to be provided in their entirety by the factories and the enterprises.

Even the citizens who do not live in the vicinity of the railways are incensed by the recent decree. Each household in Hyesan was ordered to make and offer 500 bricks of mud and straw. The factories, in order to secure fuel and other materials, have had to reduce the wages of workers, which at best are not even equivalent to two kilograms of rice, by half.

The source explained, “In 1992, 1,000 homes were built for the discharged soldiers who had been stationed in the Hyesan mine, but in less than three years, at least half had abandoned their homes. Residential homes built in Potae-ri, Samjiyeon or in Daehongdan look great on the outside, but they were all built sloppily, so the soldiers are living in poor conditions to this day.” 


DPRK seeks to “renegotiate” Kaesong contracts

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

According to Yonhap (excerpts):

The two Koreas met Tuesday for their first government-level talks in more than a year, during which the North demanded negotiations begin on operational changes at the joint complex in its border town of Kaesong. Pyongyang said it will reconsider all “special benefits” that have been granted to South Korean firms, such as low wages for North Korean employees and free land use.

The proposed measure, if actualized, is expected to deal a serious blow to more than 100 South Korean firms in Kaesong, mostly small manufacturers producing garments, utensils, watches and other labor-intensive products and already struggling to survive the global economic downturn.

Under a contract signed between Hyundai and the North Korean government in 2000, South Korean firms pay their North Korean employees between US$70-$80 on average a month, but the wages are wired directly to North Korean government bank accounts. The annual wages last year amounted to $26 million, according to ministry data. About 39,000 cheap but skilled North Korean workers are employed there.

North Korea also said it will begin charging land fees starting next year. North Korea initially set a 10-year grace period on rent when the complex opened, allowing the South Korean firms to use its land in Kaesong for free until 2014.

The [South Korean Unification] minister criticized North Korea’s prolonged detention of a South Korean worker as “against justice.” Pyongyang officials did not answer questions about the Hyundai Asan employee during Tuesday’s talks, he said.

The inter-Korean talks opened after a half-day delay due to procedural disputes but lasted only 22 minutes, during which the two sides exchanged documents laying out their demands and positions.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea reviewing N. Korea’s call to revise industrial contracts: minister


Art in the DPRK

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

The Art Newspaper  published an interesting piece on how artists are trained and art is produced in the DPRK.

On artistic training:

All DPRK artists are members of state-run studio complexes where the art is actually created, and every artist has a formal ranking. These start at level C, move up through B and A, followed by “Merited Artists”, then “People’s Artist”. There are around 50 “Merited Artists” still working today and perhaps 20 “People’s Artists”, the best known being Son U Yong, Kim Chun Jon, Jong Chang Mo, Li Chang and Li Gyong Nam. Almost all artists working in oil and brush-and-ink are men but there are exceptions—for example Kim Song Hui, well known for her brush-and-ink work, is also a People’s Artist. There is also the Kim Il Sung Prize but artists normally have to be at least over 50 to receive this highest accolade, the most famous recipient being Jong Yong Man.

The top art institute is the Pyongyang University of Fine Art with various sections: brush-and-ink, oil, sculpture, ceramics, mural painting and industrial arts. Young artists are selected from around the country and if they are judged sufficiently skilled they will study here. Pyongyang University requires a minimum of five years study: at the moment there are 7-10 students studying oil painting and around 20 studying Korean brush-and-ink painting. In total there are around 150 students a year in the fine art department. Students enjoy class outings to local factories and much time is devoted to object and life drawing although not with nude models but, for example, girls in swimming costumes.

After finishing university the students are selected by various art studios—the Paekho or Central Art Studio, the Songhwa established in 1997 for retired artists, and the most active studio-compound, the Mansudae in Pyongyang.

On artistic style:

The art itself looks like classic Social Realist propaganda, that Beaux Arts technical tradition received through Russia, maintained by the Soviet Union and now, with the transformation of China, only being practised in North Korea, unchanged for more than 50 years. Abstract painting does not exist as it is deemed bourgeois and anti-revolutionary, and if some representational art can be purely aesthetic without political overtones, many landscapes do portray places of the revolution or of political significance.

Obedience to the ideology and excellence in its clear communication to others are what matter rather than any individual glory. This ensures an anonymity to much DPRK production that only its cognoscenti can penetrate. Experts can not only assign an artist’s name to a work, they can also determine whether it is an “original” or one of endless “copies” of an image.

Ever since the founding of the state in 1948, certain themes have maintained their place in the officially approved iconography of the “Fatherland” and it is hard to establish which artist first produced a specific image and when. These same images can be reproduced countless times over the decades. Thus much detective work is required to trace the origin of an image, the only real source being the annual “Yearbook” cataloguing official production.

As [Nick] Bonner explains: “The skill level is very high in academic drawing and painting, but the production is massive and it’s hard to find ‘pure’ pieces, you have to know the provenance or where things were first found.” Indeed, even the museums display copies, ostensibly to “preserve” the quality of the originals kept in storage.

More information on the Mansudae Art Company:

Here visitors, especially foreign tourists, are welcome to see the artists working in their small studios, watch the instructional video on the operation of the company, and buy some work from the large gift shop. Prices at the very top end for a “People’s Artist” can reach as high as €15,000, the favoured currency for all foreign transactions.

Woodblocks are a North Korean speciality, though nowadays they have been almost entirely replaced by lino prints with an attractive rich ink finish. The first ever exhibition of such prints in the United States, loaned from Bonner’s collection, opened last year at New York’s Korea Society, which is currently touring through the country. Initial editions are often very small, less than ten, but if the image proves popular the lino is either re-cut by the same artist or by a “copy” artist and signed by him.

At Mansudae there are also small-scale ceramic sculptures available, naturally of a propagandist nature, as well as more classical ceramics. There is even a startlingly realistic sculpture, reminiscent of Duane Hanson, of North Korea’s most famous ceramicist Uchi Soun (1919-2003) and examples of his widely-exhibited work for as much as €10,000 a pot. There are also striking large-scale figurative watercolours on paper and the highest-quality work, local ink paintings called “Chosonhwa”, some of which will be “thematic art” on revolutionary themes, as each artist will produce at least one a year for the state to show his support for the country. Mansudae employs some 150 of these ink-artists, compared with perhaps 60 oil painters. With some 1,000 members Mansudae produces at least 4,000 top level original works a year, though it also has a factory-style section producing copies for western hotels. Employees, who work a five day eight-hour week, are paid, dependent on level, at a similar rate to the national average, €35 a month for a worker and €70 for a technician.

More information on art in the DPRK: 

1. The Paekho Art Studio has partnered with Felix Abt to sell their art internationally.  Their web page is here.   The Mansudae Art Studio also launched a web page (click here).

2. Nick Bonner has a huge collection of North Korean art.  I have seen quite a bit of it, and it is impressive.  He also sells North Korean art through the Pyongyang Art Studio.

3. There are a couple of books on North Korean Art.  They are very different: North Korean Posters: The David Heather Collection and Art Under Control in North Korea.

4. (h/t Werner) The Mansudae Overseas Development Group, which has been building monuments and buildings across the developing world (mostly in Africa) is part of the Mansudae Art Studio.  

Read more below:
Inside the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea
The Art newspaper
Adrian Dannatt


North Korea’s revolutionary operas

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I was looking at the Koryo Tours web page and found the following information on North Korea’s revolutionary operas:

In the DPRK there are five revolutionary operas, all created in the early 1970s, which have been termed in North Korea as ‘immortal classics’.  In order of production date these are; Sea of Blood, The Flower Girl, A True Daughter of the Party, Tell O’ the Forest! and The Song of Mt. Kumgang. These operas are still performed to this day and on the occasions that performances take place it is even possible for tourists to attend the shows, the performing language is of course Korean but when foreigners are in attendance English language supertitles are beamed onto a wall beside the stage so that the narrative can be followed by visitors. All operas are full-scale, large cast efforts with amazingly high production values and these 5 shows have sustained their popularity over the decades. All of them of course contain strong political messages that reflect the issues concerning the country at the time of their writing up until the present day and people of all ages attend the shows frequently. For complete information on what comprises and constitutes a Revolutionary Opera and what characteristics and values it must have then there is only one book to read; On the Art of Opera by Kim Jong Il.

I have posted descriptions of the five operas below (each also from the Koryo Tours web page):