Caricatures of American and Japanese solders are stored in a room at Kaeson Kindergarten in Pyongyang. Children throw things at the faces and pretend to shoot or bayonet them with toy guns during a schoolyard game.
Had to sign up for an Instagram account now that North Korea allows interesting photojournalists to post their pictures right from inside the country.
Under pressure from mainland China, Hong Kong’s elementary schools have to start a new curriculum on “national education.” Recently revealed, its module on the “China model” is full of political propaganda, such as the claim that one party dictatorship is more effective than any other democratic political system.
The more time goes by, the more the Associated Press’ partnership with Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency feels like a (really, really) bad idea.
Latest case in point: “Window on North Korea: Photographs from the DPRK,” a joint AP/KCNA exhibit currently on display at the 8th Floor, a private gallery and event space in Manhattan on 17th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. It includes some fine examples of evocative photo-journalism, all of them by AP photographers like Vincent Yu, Ahn Young-joon and, of course, the brilliant David Guttenfelder.
But too much of “Window on North Korea” is composed of transparently staged KCNA shots, like this one of a chubby little boy being weighed at a nursery school and this photo of workers at a power plant construction site, posing as though they’re appearing in a Workers’ Party poster. Which brings up a question: Why would AP stage a photo exhibit with an organization that doctors images, as it knows first-hand? And given the inconvenient fact that KCNA is the mouthpiece of a brutal, totalitarian regime, why greet visitors to the exhibit with beaming photos of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il?
Online reaction to these photos, both from the West (above link) and in China (translated) tend to circle around the morality and justice of either the drug trade or the death penalty. What the comments miss, however, is the public-relations facet of the photos, which I believe is the reason for their release.
Does anyone really think the Chinese government will let a photographer into its prisons without trying to get some positive publicity out of it? Go on, read the captions: They painted her nails! They gave her a flattering top! The prisoners are laughing and playing poker! Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but somehow I don’t think that death row in China is a place where people idly while away their time waiting for the inevitable. Such happy-making distortions are exactly what you’d expect to see from a government-controlled press.
I’ve known about Stefan Landsberger's collection of Chinese propaganda posters for some time now, but a recent Gawker post on the sinking of South Korean warship Cheonan brought out comments from other fans of socialist-regime art. So, this is a handy compilation of links from that post: