Linocut by Hwang In Jae available for sale in June
Numerous artworks portray what at first glance appears to be soldiers in uniform, often involved in construction projects. On closer inspection, you may notice the uniform does not have military style epaulets. This is the “Red Guard Suit”, a uniform of sorts, to denote Workers and Peasants Red Guard Paramilitaries, Red Young Guard, university students during their military training and the Shock Brigade workers (youth who after completion of school or university volunteer to work on infrastructure projects). The main inference of “Red Guard Suit” is that they are not in the military.
After the 1950-53 Korean War (referred to as the Fatherland Liberation War in Korea) discharged military personnel were instructed to keep their military uniform but without the epaulettes, so that they would be prepared for a war emergency. Shortly after the war, factories and towns ware guarded by civilian self-defense forces dressed in “red guard suits”.
University students running in their military training
Based on North Korean leader Kim Il Sung’s military view that the people are the masters of revolutionary military projects and that the people should mobilize the infinite power of the people and all the potential of the country, North Korea institutionalized the quasi-military organization with reserve forces. “Workers and Peasants Red Guard Paramilitaries” was established in January 1959 following the withdrawal of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army in 1958, and “Red Young Guard” was established in September 1970 and has been retained to the present day.