North Korea is expected to end its anti-US propaganda amid its improving relations with the world’s largest economy after the Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore, a collector of North Korean posters said.
“If North Korea is going to open up its economy, it may have to stop its anti-US propaganda, which has sustained in the country for decades,” said Eric Wong Lai-chi, a Hong Kong film director and producer of advertising videos.
He said posters aimed at fueling anti-US and anti-Japan sentiment or mocking pro-US South Korea politicians as “muppets”, will be replaced by ones promoting economic development and welcoming foreigners.
Citing his collection, Wong said in recent years there has been more posters using English words.
Wong visited North Korea for the first time seven years ago by joining a tour flying from Dandong, in Liaoning province in Northeast China. Since then, he has been interested in collecting posters from the country. In order to dig deeper, he visited North Korea on tours two more times.
On his request, he visited Mansudade Art Studio in Pyongyang, where 4,000 painters are based. Wong, also a specialist in graphic design, was stunned by the exquisite art done by the country’s top-tier artists.
He has so far collected more than 300 hand-made posters, which together show a broader picture of North Korea.
Posters in the 1950-60s mainly focused on agricultural development. In the following decades, posters about economic development and infrastructure construction started to emerge. In the early 2000s, posters that promoted “Army-first policy” launched by Kim Jong-il were seen.
“Under the Army-first policy, it was not uncommon to see posters promoting that soldiers should have a higher priority to consume clean water than the rest of the population,” Wong said. “Posters always emphasized the importance of ‘nation’, followed by ‘army’, ‘weapon’ and ‘city protection’ at that time.”
Anti-US and anti-Japan posters have been key themes in the country’s propaganda for a long time. US soldiers are typically depicted as thin and ill-looking people dressed in rags with sharp fingers. In one of the posters, it showed a US soldier walking towards a grave of Nazi Germany.
Posters can be good tools for people to understand a country’s economic policy, Wong said. For example, there were posters that the Pyongyang government was encouraging people to raise rabbits and dig clams for food and cover up fields with plastic to protect produce in winter.
Wong said there would be changes in the posters if North Korea keeps opening its economy but it is unlikely to see posters about foreign movies or culture over the next few years as the government will still have a tight control on ideology.
Wong will exhibit some of his collections in Foreforehead, a new gallery in Sham Shui Po in Kowloon, between June 23 and August 5. The exhibition will also show 100 North Korean badges owned by Hong Kong collector Thomas Hui Ka-leung.
Foreforehead: 132B, Ki Lung Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
Date: June 23 to August 5, 2018 (closed Monday and Tuesday).
Time: 3-8pm (Tour at 4-5pm, reservation required)