Nothing appears in North Korea by accident. Indeed, so it is for portraying the enemy and foreign enemy imagery in games and toys… You can find cartoon foreign enemy imagery in various products, ranging from TV cartoons and toys to comic books. They are often associated with war, sabotage, and subversion.
Even though the following fairground foreign enemy imagery has a naïve feel about it, it has been thoroughly discussed and approved at higher levels in the DPRK. The artists use cartoon foreign enemy imagery of Japanese, Americans (and occasionally images of South Korean capitalists) to portray the enemy, to keep the idea that they are around you and have evil intentions, to let it seep into your subconscious.
Art manifests itself in various ways and none more so unusual than this..!
At Mangyongdae Funfair, we came across the classic ‘knock the bricks over’ with the background of a US soldier in lycanthrope form.
Images from Taesong Funfair: Shooting, bow & arrow, and grenade throwing (actually with wooden blocks). The weasel represents a US soldier.
After the game is finished kids continue to bash a character of a Japanese imperialist.
May Day in North Korea is not a holiday usually marked by parades. Nevertheless, it is a public day off.
In the morning at Taesong Park at the edge of the city, large crowds gather for various activities and contests between work units. One popular game is to be blindfolded, then to have to find and smash the imperialist (represented by a doll or inanimate representation of some kind).
All of this is for entertainment – even if it looks somewhat vindictive and violent.
Following a good bashing, the groups will head off for barbecues, singing, and of course drinking.
A piece from our colleague Rich’s collection; a ‘radio-controlled’ tank bought in 2016. It features hedgehog soldiers. This animal is used to portray DPR Korean soldiers. There is also the gentle text ‘Exterminate the Evil American Aggressors’..!
The image shows a couple of classics purchased at a local store in Pyongyang. A beautiful package design for the gun.
This is featured in our Phaidon book on North Korean graphics ‘Made in North Korea’.
In 2011, we set a brief for a linocut experiment ‘Heroes and Villains’. This is a North Korean comic book project.
In a departure from the ideology-led comic book stories of the DPRK, Koryo Studio worked with designer Oscar Venhuis to set this open-ended brief to DPRK’s most famous comic book illustrator Cha Hyon Sam.
The brief was to create a story based on a heroine who will save DPRK from a threat. All of the images were of a girl fighting ‘US imperialists’. This except one, which was of a train guard moving a rock off a rail track.
See more on the project as well as purchases here.