I happened to arrive at the DPRK embassy at the tail end of the afternoon, after the reception which welcomed numerous dignitaries to the exhibition of work produced by the Korea Paekho Trading Corporation. I therefore had the works to myself: it was just me, Pak Chang Sop (People’s Artist and president of the corporation), the interpreter, and the man with the camcorder.
Like the exhibition of works from the Mansudae studios in La Galleria earlier this year, there was a wide range of work on display: propaganda posters, oils, one or two more traditional watercolours. There were no paintings of Mt Kumgang, but one or two of Mt Baektu. Pak Chang Sop himself had painted the atmospheric oil of Lake Chon, in the crater of Mt Baektu, and also a jewel painting of a Mt Baektu tiger.
The jewel painting is one of Paekho’s specialities. Surprisingly, given some of the vivid colours in these works, I was told that all the colours occur naturally in the minerals that are pulverised to make these pictures, and no artificial colour is added. This means that the pictures are particularly suitable for external work, as they are waterproof. Paekho were keen to emphasise that all the the works on display, in whatever medium, could be reproduced in any size.
One area of work which was not on show in La Galleria is the grand design for external projects. Paekho has been quite successful in selling its vast panoramas, which can be over 100 metres in length. There was a study for a grand panorama depicting the history of the Netherlands which had been installed in the embassy’s back garden:
Also on display were some architectural designs for a waterfront convention centre, along the lines of Sydney:
Both the panorama and the architectural designs are speculative, with no specific client in mind, but show the style of work that Paekho can produce. While the panoramas have already found an international market, Paekho have yet to have the opportunity to realise one of these large building projects.
- Michael Rank’s account over at North Korea Zone