Slave to the Blog: Image Conscious

Kent Boydston (PIIE)



Every so often we come across a new project that presents images of North Korea to the outside world in a different light. Of course, the rarity of these “rare glimpses” is often overstated but we’re always interested in seeing humanizing looks at North Koreans, with the caveat that the glimpses are almost always state-sponsored or merely tacitly state-approved.

One such project, “3DPRK: Portraits from North Korea,” is an endeavor by Slovenian photographer Matjaž Tančič to capture images of North Korea using a 3D stereoscopic technique. Tančič took images of workers, farmers, educators, athletes, and entertainers in both Pyongyang and rural areas outside of Hamhung. Tančič is now holding an exhibition in Hong Kong from November 19 – January 27. For a sampling of the images see coverage from The Guardian here. Tančič and Koryo Studio producer Vicky Mohieddeen also have a twenty-minute film of their time shooting the project in the DPRK.

We also learned of some new videos released by DPRK360, including the 14th Korean National Dress Exhibition held in Pyongyang. (If you were particularly reactionary you could call it a “fashion show”.) It’s no New York or Paris, but it’s something. DPRK360 has also uploaded recent footage of women parachutists landing at the Wonsan Air Festival 2016. We covered last year’s $200 million remodeling of the Wonsan Kalma Airport and this might be a good time to point out that North Korea is supposed to be strapped for cash and that aviation fuel is specifically banned under UNSCR 2270. Quasi-propagandist or not, DPRK360 offers some interesting, if sometimes “rare,” glimpses into a changing North Korea.

We also heard of a recently released photo book, The North Koreas: Glimpses of Daily Life in the DPRK, a collection of images from several international photographers known to have particularly great access within North Korea. Taking an artsy yet self-aware tack, the publisher advertises that the “selection of photographs, made by DPRK watchers over the past decade, not only has a documentary value; the lines and colours of architecture, landscape and the calligraphy of the ubiquitous slogans and announcements are often strangely aesthetic. An important and disturbing book.”

Finally, Morris Jones sent us a story from Rocket News 24, which reports that the North Korean government has asked China to prevent its citizens from referring to Kim Jong-un as “Kim Fatty III” (at least that’s what the English equivalent of the Chinese term would be). It’s hard to know if the DPRK government actually made this request but we can confirm that searching for the term in Chinese on Baidu is currently banned. But it really shouldn’t be an issue for much longer anyway since North Korea has invented a “golden pill” that cures obesity. Rocket News 24 concludes by bringing it back to the issues: “If you’re going to criticize a person, do it because they’re a brutal and oppressive dictator who threatens peace in their region, not because they’re a little overweight… or have a bad haircut.” Fair point. 

Everyone is just so image conscious. 

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