Mansudae Art Studio Back in the Limelight

On the 17th, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced that a Korean-Chinese female known only as Kim is suspected of trafficking and selling 1,308 paintings by the Mansudae Art Studio in South Korea since May last year, without the approval of the Minister of Unification.

According to police, an organization run by Kim’s North Korean husband, ‘Chosun Expatriate Brethren Support Committee’, made a deal with Mansudae Art Studio agreeing to pay North Korea half the income from sales of the pieces plus another $8,000 annually.

Interestingly, a large number of the smuggled paintings, which were put on display in Yeongdeungpo Police Station, appear to be by so-called ‘People’s Artists’, the name for a top-tier artist in North Korea (there are also Merit Artists and First-class Artists)

Mansudae Art Studio, which houses many such artists, has been a way for North Korea to acquire foreign currency by selling North Korean art in South Korea and around the world for a number of years.

Among other things, the organization’s artists have a widely reported history of designing and building monuments in a number of African states including Zimbabwe, Namibia and Senegal.

North Korea pushes the sale of all things by the group; landscapes, oil paintings, murals, jeweled decorative paintings, needlework, ceramics and handicrafts via the ‘Mansudae Overseas Development Group.’ An 80-page booklet of sample works and descriptions has even been published in English.

Below are some of the images contained in the booklet;