Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Art and Propaganda in North Korea


Propaganda is used to shape public opinion as well as isolate perceived enemies. In totalitarian states, film and art are regularly used to convey propaganda. This is most pronounced in North Korea where the regime considers propaganda as a critical tool that lengthens the lifespan of the government. In fact, the former leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, wrote a dedicated treatise entitled On the Art of the Cinema, which focused on the need for art and literature to conform with the ideals of the new communist dispensation, as well as the requirement for the populace to reject old forms of art which aim to shackle their minds and also endear them to capitalist seductions (Jong-Il 25).
Propaganda has been employed successfully by the regime of North Korea to not only maintain control over its citizens, but to also project an image of power abroad. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the gradual transition of China away from fundamentalist Communism; the regime of North Korea felt vulnerable, and it found recourse in propaganda so as to maintain control over information as well as mold the national narrative to conform to its need to retain power. The regime also understood the utility of art in conveying message. For this reason, the regime strove to control how art is produced and formatted in the nation (Mason et al 138). Thus, it regulated the art works of its artists and monopolized the film industry so as to ensure that all the films produced domestically conformed to the ideals of the communist party. Hence, art in North Korea has been reduced into an effective propaganda toolkit.
Anti-American Propaganda poster produced by North Korea. Photo Credit: CapitalistExploits.at
The merging of art and propaganda has evidently complicated the relationship between art, propaganda, and society; and this has in turn fogged the understanding of foreigners of how the [North Korean] society operates and the dynamics which drive social change and political evolution in the country. Normally, North Korean art serves to portray an ideal and satisfied communist society that is devoid of capitalism. In reality, this propaganda serves to obfuscate the reality about the social ills and festering destitution which characterize the North Korean society.
According to Kim Jong Il, communist art is the only form of art that can be allowed to exist in North Korea; and he conceptualized that this art must represent the ideals and aspirations of the age of Juche. Juche is a term which serves as the collective designation of policies and ideals of the ‘new ideology’. Thus, Juche art must reflect party propaganda; and for this reason, all forms of this art are produced by the Department of Propaganda and Agitation which is a subsection of the ruling Worker’s Party (Jong-Il 24). The main focus of these arts is to shape the ideology and political economy of the nation, and this explains why it is difficult for an American to study and understand North Korean art if he or she is not well acquainted with the ideological underpinnings of the ruling autocratic party. Thus, for one to understand North Korean art, he or she must be adequately versed with the ideological framework of the regime.
In conclusion, the regime of North Korea has transformed art emanating from the country into propaganda outlets which seek to portray the country as a communist paradise where everyone lives in peace and harmony. The regime has also used art to stunt political expressionism by ensuring that all art forms are censored by party agents.
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Works Cited
Jong-Il, Kim. "On the Art of the Cinema." (1989).
Mason, Alane Salierno, Dedi Felman, and Samantha Schnee. "Literature from the Axis of Evil:
            Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations." (2006).

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