Lifestyle & Belief

Prop Art: The best of weird North Korean art


This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on February 16, 2013 shows the statues of late leaders Kim Il-Sung (3rd L) and Kim Jong-Il (3rd R) at Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang.



SEOUL, South Korea — On Tuesday, a Chinese artist made headlines when he offered North Korea its very own wax figure of the deceased dictator, Kim Jong Il.

It’s a nod to the hermit state’s ruling family. The Dear Leader, as he’s called, is the father of the current head, Kim Jong Un.

Of course, wax figures molded after presidents and celebrities are common all over the world. But this is the latest reverent artwork to arrive in North Korea, a nation with a knack for churning out authoritarian propaganda art.

Here’s a look at the best.

The 20,000 statues

North Korea is home to some 80 massive statues of Kim Il Sung, also known as the Great Leader and the nation’s founding figurehead. About 20,000 smaller statues are on display in other cities as a reminder of Kim’s supremacy.

In April 2012, Pyongyang unveiled a $10 million bronze monument of his son, Kim Jong Il, four months after his death. Similar works were erected around the country.

American imperialists

In North Korean propaganda, American soldiers are depicted as murderous barbarians carrying out atrocities during the Korean War of 1950 to 1953. North Koreans call that conflict the “Fatherland Liberation War.”

Battlefield paintings show American GIs executing young girls and torturing innocent families for information.

Anti-American propaganda paintings, via WorldStuff.

Mountain carvings

In February 2012, the regime unveiled a patriotic carving on the side of a mountain, commemorating the new 28-year-old leader, Kim Jong Un. He assumed power earlier that year.

“Long Live General Kim Jong Un, the Shining Sun!” the carving read. Later that year, the same slogan was made visible from outer space.

An Oct. 6, 2012, satellite picture of a hillside in northern Ryanggang province, via Google Earth.

African Renaissance Monument

No, it’s not in North Korea. In 2010, Senegal unveiled the tallest statue in Africa — a colossal portrayal sculpted by North Korean craftsmen from the Mansudae Art Studio.

The Pyongyang-based unit, consisting of 4,000 people, builds national monuments around the world, bringing much-needed foreign currency to the regime.

Children look at Dakar's "African Renaissance Monument" on April 1, 2010, via AFP/Getty Images.

North Korea has a little-known presence in Africa mainly because of its soft spot for spreading its ideology of Juche, or national self-reliance. But the government, surely and predictably, hasn’t had much luck promoting its thinking overseas.