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Frequently Asked Questions
Most posters are for internal use and only a few are seen by the outside world. Most of our knowledge on the propaganda art of DPRK comes from photographs of the poster hoardings usually taken by the very few westerners who visit the country, or in the few DPRK art books that are available to be purchased in North Korea.
Does purchasing these items violate the recent U.N. sanctions?
The recent United Nations sanctions are only applicable to military and weapons-related items. The acquisition and re-sale of these posters do not violate any sanctions imposed by the United Nations. Resolution 1718 (2006), which was adopted by the U.N.'s Security Council on October 14th, 2006, is predominantly focused on the funding, development, manufacture and trade of military and weapons technology.
The Council decided that all Member States shall prevent the import from or export to the DPRK of any "battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems" as well as "related materiel including spare parts" and items "which could contribute to DPRK's nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes."
While the country is one of the poorest in the world, the tours are not inexpensive at over US$1,000 a week.
A visit to North Korea is like travelling back in time; little has changed in the country since it was founded in the 1950s. Some observers note the similarities between the infamous Cultural Revolution of China and today's North Korea: monumental architecture, the deification of the leaders, wide usage of propaganda posters and slogans, and a population constantly in uniform.
An investment in propaganda posters and art from North Korean today will capture for posterity what some describe as an Orwellian world of absolute state control, devotion to society and the smothering of individualism.
Plus, many regard such North Korean propaganda artwork to be more aesthetically pleasing than the more widely available former Soviet and Chinese propaganda art, both of which have appreciated significantly in value since production. Recent auctions of printed Chinese propaganda posters have sold for over US$10,000.
Once framed, these posters and works of art can definitely accent any room.
Since two Muslim countries, Iraq and Iran, were labeled as being significant security threats to the United States, some pundits have argued that a third non-Muslim country was included so as not to appear to be launching a crusade against Islam.
As discussed above, North Korea is viewed by many as being security threat to the peace of North East Asia, with one of the world's largest standing armies, strategically placed and dug-in heavy artillery, and likely biological, chemical and possibly a few nuclear bombs, plus the recently developed Taep'o-dong 2 medium-range ballistic missile.
However, some North Korean observers, such as Wellington's Victoria University Professor Tim Beal, who recently published "North Korea: The Struggle against American Power," argue that North Korea is being kept bottled up as a problem nation by China and the U.S., essentially being used as a wild card in a game of Realpolitik over the fate of North East Asia.
By being North Korea's Big Brother--as the only official ally of North Korea and in extending a significant portion of North Korea's aid--China gains regional power through its political and economic influence. Plus China is slowly absorbing control over much of North Korea's key strategic resources, state owned entreprises and labour.
Likewise, with North Korea kept as a problem nation, the U.S. can justify its military presence in North East Asia. While only having 32,000 troops in the Republic of Korea, the U.S. controls the ROK military with a four-star U.S. General in charge of the Combined Forces Command. Plus the North Korean threat further justifies the American bases in Japan and the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet's permanent status as forward-deployed battle-ready.
We are respectful of those Koreans, Chinese, Americans, Canadians and others who fought in the Korean War. The Twentieth Century was marred with the blood of an estimated 160 million who died through war and genocide. Our perhaps specious belief and hope is that education will lead to greater understanding of the causes of war, and ultimately longer lasting peace.
The celebrated author and journalist, Robert Elegant, has commented on the huge sacrifice that the Americans and other allies had made in the Korean Peninsula. At the height of the Cold War, the Americans took a stand, which, in his opinion, set the tone for all future conflicts that ultimately prevented the Soviet Union and the U.S. from directly fighting. Two nuclear-armed superpowers at war would have literally changed the face of the Earth.
There is a great deal of controversy over this aid that China, the U.S. and Japan have given to North Korea, as some view the aid as propping up the North Korean regime. However, many political observers view maintaining the status quo as the least costly option compared regime collapse or all out war.
One of North Korea's largest funding source has been, ironically enough, thousands of Japanese citizens of Korean ethnicity who are sympathetic to the North, and have been delivering a large piece of the Pachinko Parlor profits pie--a tolerated gambling racket in Japan--estimated to be upwards of a billion US dollars annually.
This artwork for sale is about as far from military spending as one can get. It is worth noting that North Korea symbolically elevated artists to the same level as the farmers and labourers by adding a traditional Korean calligraphy brush to the somewhat standardized communist symbol of the hammer and sickle.
Many are bought from the north of the country at "Rason", the Rajin-Sonbong Economic Special Zone, and are ultimately sourced from the Pyongyang-based studios. Some might have exhibited on the street while others were in excess production.
Our business partners have asked that we do not reveal our sources in order to protect their other North Korean business interests--and we are appreciative that these other business interests are of a benign nature, involving cultural exchanges.
Please read more about North Korean propaganda art.
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