North Korea Notes

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An image I took this summer looking across to North Korea from Paju

North Korea is mentioned on occasion in this space. Below is yet another collection of links about the country.

David Guttenfelder is the only western photographer allowed to take photos of North Korea. In this short video he discusses that experience.

“I was born a [North Korean] Unicorn.”

An essay by Kim Jong Il’s former cook. He traveled all over the world to satisfy Kim Jong Il’s decadent cravings. In the end, he used one of those trips to escape.

An article about North Koreans in Japan. A friend of mine, Kim Insook, has an ongoing photography project about the subject.

Art Asia Pacific’s succinct article about what it means to be an artist north of the DMZ.

If you’re on the Korean peninsula next September you should check out the DMZ Korean International Documentary Film Festival. September 17-24, 2014 in Paju and Goyang.

North Korea and Choco pies, one of our favorite convenience store desserts when we’re in South Korea.

Apex Art’s exhibition from 2012, A Postcard from Afar: North Korea From a Distance curated by Mark Feary.

Contemporary Korean Art Roundup

By North Korean artist, Kouk Kun Son, as part of the DMZ International Installation Art Exhibition (2013)

PARA SITE in Hong Kong just opened Great Crescent: Art and Agitation in the 1960s: Japan, South Korea, and TaiwanPart of the statement about the exhibition reads: “A small essay of comparative art history, this exhibition highlights “anti-art” performative tendencies in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in the 1960s—a decade of turbulence and transformation worldwide, which was also a critical period in the social and political, as well as cultural and artistic histories of the three neighboring countries.”

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea is now open! According to e-flux, “MMCA Seoul will approach citizens as a familiar and inviting museum by leading public-friendly programs, and aspires to be a “comprehensive museum integrating the past and future in the present,” a “central museum for Korean art in enhancing global diversity,” and an “open museum inducing cultural development.” The MMCA website is here. For other contemporary art space in the area click here.

This week thinkers in Korea will be thinking about the Busan Biennale upcoming in 2014: “The Busan Biennale, which is set to celebrate its eighth biennial event in 2014, seeks to explore differentiation strategies in an increasingly competitive global biennale ecosystem and reflect on the characteristics of the ecosystem which can benefit the Busan Biennale and the methods of establishing the system.” via e-flux

A few months ago I wrote a post about art around the DMZ. Projects are continually popping up. Most recently, I ran across DMZ International Installation Art Exhibition (see image above). I found the project via the artist Jung S. Kim who I found through this investment advice.

Art in Seoul

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Click here to see my most recent post on Art Radar Asia! I review top contemporary art destinations in and around Seoul.

A list summary of the spaces reviewed in the article:

Samcheong-dong: PKMArt Sonje CenterKukje GalleryGallery Simon,  Palais de SéoulOne and J Gallery;  Alternative Space LoopDOOSAN Gallery (in Seoul and New York); Art Space Jungmiso; and Hyeri Art Valley in Paju new the DMZ.

Sunday Morning Coffee [North Korea]

From Jean H. Lee’s Instagram Feed

There are a couple of photographers I follow on Instagram that feature images of North Korea. One of the photographers, Jean H. Lee, was interviewed back in May.  Her Instagram handle is newsjean (David Guttenfelder’s handle dguttenfelder is the other; I recommend following both).  When asked about what would surprise the outside world about North Korea she says, “When I show my photos and videos of daily life in North Korea, or share anecdotes about what it’s like to live and work with North Koreans, people are most surprised by how “human” North Koreans seem because the picture we usually get is so orchestrated. But like the rest of us, they laugh, they cry, they joke, they fight. They love to tell jokes, they love to dance, they love to sing.”

On another noteThe Real DMZ Project opened July 27, the sixtieth anniversary of the cease-fire.  According to the project’s website, “The Real DMZ Project is a contemporary art project based on researches of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and the border district. It began in 2012 and will be proceeded as a long term project with interdisciplinary researches and practices. This year, it aims to elaborate on geopolitical meanings of the border region of DMZ in Cheorwon through the frames of art, humanity, sociology, and science with ‘borderline’ as the keyword. Moreover, the project will seek to provide a sustainable platform where the studies of the DMZ conducted in diverse fields can be shared.” For more information visit the review on e-flux where I became aware of the project and The Real DMX Project website.

The conference I attended in Macau had film screening along with the panels. They featured two films about North Korea, each representing a different approach to the situation there: Unfortunate Brothers: Korea’s Reunification Dilemma and Memory of Forgotten War. I only viewed the second but after talking to the director of the screenings I would recommend both of the films.

If you’d like to dig deeper into the visual politics of North Korea I recommend looking into Visual Politics and North Korea: Seeing is Believing by David Shim. It will be published by Routledge later this the fall.

On a lighter note, I prefer this to this.

After this post goes live I’ll have just enjoyed a scone and coffee sitting next to Lake Michigan at sunrise with my parents and husband. A much needed pause from this (wonderful) and crazy summer. If you’d like to follow along you can find me on Instagram. Enjoy the last few days of summer.