Before I search for other traces of art in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I aim to publicize a few more interesting works of pop art (and propaganda) created by the escape artist Song Byeok. The two pieces “Fall into My Arms” (above) and “Take Off Your Clothes” (below) both feature the late Kim Jong Il in unconventional forms.
“Fall into My Arms” features Kim Jong Il as the female partner of a dancing couple. He smiles as he quite literally falls into the arms of his male companion as if he were truly tripping over his own feet and pouring his full weight onto the sensuous male supporting him on the dance floor. As he dances, Kim Jong Il maintains his notorious grin and his iconic sunglasses. Song’s painting makes the former leader of the North Korean regime appear like one of the celebrities chosen to compete in the popular television series, Dancing with the Stars. And Kim Jong Il is certainly a star in the eyes of the people of North Korea since, as Song states in his interview with Ferguson, “They believe they are so much better off than the rest of the world because of their two leaders, who are like two suns.” Kim Jong Il is a star that shines brighter than the millions of stars that form our galaxy – he is as radiant as the sun.
“Take Off Your Clothes,” the second painting of Kim Jong Il, also features the former leader as another star: the sexual icon Marilyn Monroe. Song likens the North Korean people’s devotion and loyalty toward Kim Jong Il (including his former loyalty) to Hollywood’s fascination with the sexual allure and charm of the late actress. Although I do not mean to imply that Kim Jong Il and Marilyn Monroe are similar, I do think that it is notable that Song manifests his cynicism toward the former leader through two female images that invoke the essence of a star. Kim Jong Il was the star of his very own show in North Korea. And throughout his performance, he maintained his grin and his equally iconic sunglasses. Now that Kim Jong Un has taken over as the new leader of the North Korean regime, one must wonder if and how Song Byeok will choose to portray the son and heir of a fallen star.
Hopefully Song will delve deeper into his hopes for the future of North Korea through his art in a way that does not only criticize but also aims to educate those who do not know or understand what it is like to be influenced by the awe inspired by such leaders like Kim Jong Il. What keeps some people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea blind in the way that Song has described? What keeps the people from recognizing the problems that keep North Korea from progress and from being able to provide enough nourishment to keep people from defecting in order to find food and work? Perhaps Song will help us to find out more about the North Korean people and their adoration for their stars.