Spirit of supreme leader stuck behind enemy lines

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 3:11am

It is a scene that the Dear Leader of North Korea did not live to see: propaganda posters of the secretive communist country encased in the glass and steel belly of the capitalist beast.

The posters, brightly coloured specimens touting the juche ideology of economic self-reliance and other party lines of Pyongyang, are exhibited at the last place the late Kim Jong-il probably thought they would end up - Taikoo Place, an office complex hosting the likes of luxury-brand behemoth LVMH and American cable network CNN.

Reading the bold affirmations of national pride, the irony is not lost on viewers.

"Our resolve: an earth without North Korea must be smashed," reads a poster of a great hulk of a man smashing a map of the United States to pieces as lava flows from the cracks.

"Let's make them love things that are ours," reads another, which portrays young North Koreans playing traditional games.

The blustering propaganda machine of the North Koreans is the stuff of legends, but as more posters find their way to the outside world, their bite is losing its venom domestically.

"I've talked to some people, and the anti-American, anti-Japanese pieces are becoming fewer and fewer. This also reflects the policy of the government," said Eric Wong, 40, who owns the exhibition pieces.

The commercial advertising director has been collecting North Korean art for the past five years, after coming across four posters at a friend's place in New York. "They were eye-catching and the colours striking. I begged him to sell me one or two."

Since 2011, Wong has been visiting the notoriously secretive nation to buy art from the Mansudae studios, a 4,000-person operation in Pyongyang that employs 1,000 artists. It has an outlet in the 798 art district in Beijing.

He buys in bulk and now owns more than 200 posters, having paid about HK$1,000 per piece.

Wong said he had faced no difficulty with the authorities in bringing the posters out.

"You can't trade in Kim's portraits. I think that's a death sentence. But I've had no problems. They'll tell you if something is not for sale."

The exhibition shows 36 pieces from Wong's collection.

"Breed more rabbits, so our soldiers can dine well," reads one.

"I like the posters of the children. I've seen too many military ones," Wong said.

Art Behind the Secret Curtain runs until October 17 at the bridge in Lincoln House in Taikoo Place, Island East.