During Kim Jong-il’s reign, Song Byeok was a renowned propaganda artist. However, when found attempting to escape North Korea, Byeok was subsequently beaten by border guards and forced to work in a labor camp for 6 months. From Reuters:
In the freezing Korean winter, Song recalls being lightly dressed, as he was arrested during the summer. A finger on his right hand became infected and eventually, he says, he was so close to death that his captors could get no work out of him, and he was released.
Byeok defected to South Korea in 2002, and since the “Dear Leader’s” death has turned to poking fun at Jong-il through his art. In an interview quoted in artdaily.org, Byeok said paintings mocking Kim John-il during his reign would have gotten his family “taken somewhere nobody knows about and forced to work there until death.”
Now, Byeok has spent his newfound freedom plopping Jong-il’s head on Marilyn Monroe’s body, surrounding him with a pack of hollow-eyed, homeless children, and portraying the late leader in various satirical portraits. You can see more of Byeok’s artwork on his website, most of which, according to the Huffington Post, will be featured in an art expedition opening this Wednesday in Seoul.
Though I myself possess only a limited knowledge of North Korean history and of Kim Jong-il, this pop art mockery has added a new dimension to my perception of the “Dear Leader.” Now, whenever I hear his name, I will think of three things: North Korea, Marilyn Monroe, and the fact that he liked to look at things.