It’s been really long since I spent so much time admiring a book about art. Why? Because this title proves that we have a very limited view of North Korea and a very narrow range of associations. The art of DPRK in our heads is only socialist realism or propaganda posters – fortunately Printed in North Korea shows that we could not be more wrong.
Yes, much of the work is steeped in politics and revolutionary narrative. But this does not mean that the works are therefore devoid of artistry. Ju Si Ung’s woodcut entitled “Night” does not differ that much from contemporary Japanese woodcuts from the shin-hanga movement, and Choe Jae Sik’s linocuts (especially the atmospheric “Dance in her mind”, a portrait of the Hong Jong Hwa dancer) could be hung in the best art galleries. Postcard works by Hwang So Hyang, illustrations focusing on folk traditions by Jang Ok Ju or beautiful landscapes by Kim Kuk Po or Si Ung – these are just some of the works that you will find on the pages of this beautiful book.
The book has an introduction in which you can read about the role of art in North Korean society (and politics); at the end, you will find an overview of the seals of the authors whose works are included in the book. I recommend reading (and looking at works of art) together with Made in North Korea.