Archive: Art in North Korea
This North Korean spectacle involves 100,000 participants

This North Korean spectacle involves 100,000 participants

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005 1
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag has made it his mission to provide the world glimpses of social, historical and political developments of North Korea, which many people do not get to see. Noh produces photographs that record real-life situations that are directly linked to the division of Korea. Some of his works were in particular created to show how deeply the division between the North and South has permeated the daily lives of the Korean citizenry, as well as how the division has distorted the proper functioning of society.

North Korea is a particular subject that is constant in Noh’s themes. North Korea’s obsession with image and the way the country represents itself to the rest of the world by exaggerated manipulation of its images led to Noh’s fascination; in his photo series titled North Korea, Suntag’s photos observe conflict in the contemporary society in Korea.

The conflicts date all the way back to 1948, and they led to the division of Korea into two separate states. Noh perceives the two ideologies of both the north and the south as too extreme, in a manner that has led to a constant state of emergency in Korea. Noh shows this dichotomy through his photographs, highlighting the dictatorship in North Korea, the increased capitalism that has been experienced in South Korea, the high military presence in both countries, and the circumstances both subtle and violent that affect the daily lives of the people living there.

His photographs in North Korea also analyses the social and political ambivalence of the two countries. In this case, the two nations survive in ideological extremities with each other, despite sharing many social and cultural traditions. The presence of political disparities between the two countries, whereby one is an communist state while the other is a capitalist is also highlighted significantly in the North Korea series. Noh also visited the famous Arirang Mass Games in the capital Pyongyang, a national spectacle that involves up to 100,000 participants.

For this work, Noh employed his experience as a remarkable photojournalist, his education in political studies and his creativity to capture the quiet scenes that both reveal the truth and dispel myths about the partition between North Korea and South Korea that exists to this day.

Noh’s views in his pieces including Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005 and the State of Emergency, 2000–07 are unbiased. His analytical position recognizes the lasting political division and polarization of both the government and society. He expertly manages to tie the two nations together while exposing the underlying humanity that encompasses normal life in both the north and south.

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House I. North Korea in North Korea, 2005

Noh Suntag - Red House II. Give and Take, 2005
Noh Suntag Red House II. Give and Take, 2005


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Segregated from the rest of the world, eerie North Korea

Segregated from the rest of the world, eerie North Korea

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel’s photographs from North Korea are simply remarkable. Chancel joins the ranks of the few photographers in the world that have actually managed to document the impenetrable nation of North Korea. For more than half a century, this enigma of a country has been the personification of a rogue state; North Korea is an incredibly closed and reclusive nation.

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North Korea leaves its mark on Africa with huge sculptures

North Korea leaves its mark on Africa with huge sculptures

The Mansudae Overseas Project - Angola - Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, Luanda 1
Angola – Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, Luanda

Artwork from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has always been a trademark for modern socialist realism. Although North Korea is well known for being the most secretive nation in the world, the largely unknown nation is certainly not shy when it comes to publicizing their statues, monuments, grand festivals, and celebrations. In particular, a North Korean based construction company known as Mansudae Overseas Project, has been designing fine art for decades, helping art to become one of North Korea’s most important and most successful exports. While many other North Korean barriers remain up, fine art from the country has managed to make its way in foreign countries that are located as far away as Africa.

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How North Korea likes to present itself to the world

How North Korea likes to present itself to the world

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Every year, North Korea holds a lavish and extravagant celebration for its ruler known as the Arirang celebrations. The Arirang celebrations can be classified in the same category as the Olympic celebrations. The audience is always treated to a highly choreographed show, the likes of which have only ever been seen at the Olympics.

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Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Oliver Wainwright - National Drama Theatre, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightNational Drama Theatre, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright North Korean Interiors documents the unique architecture and the interiors of various regions of North Korea and its capital Pyongyang. Not many photographers get the opportunity to explore this isolated country owing to its closed state; however, Wainwright took the opportunity and ran with it. The interiors that he documented were very kitsch and retro as they were originally created to adorn important theaters and buildings that were designed during the Soviet era.

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Calm photos of Pyongyang, the ultimate socialist city

Calm photos of Pyongyang, the ultimate socialist city

North Korea - Setting the Stage - Pyongyang - Pyongyang women 01

North Korea - Setting the Stage - Pyongyang - Pyongyang women 01
Eddo HartmannSetting the Stage: Pyongyang – Pyongyang women 01, 2014

North Korea is known for its fascination and terror in the same measure. Most of the world knows North Korea for its former leader Kim Jong-II and the current Kim Jong Un. However, the fascinating thing about Pyongyang is its architecture.

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Serving in the military inspired these red paintings

Serving in the military inspired these red paintings

Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm

Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm
Sea Hyun LeeBetween Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm

South Korea’s traditional illustrative and art history is immovable; however, cultural and artistic experimentation will always be relentless. Sea Hyun Lee demonstrates his understanding of just how true the above statement is through his art. He manages to join the two forces of past and present together to create Between the Red.

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