Check out Jane Portal’s article on North Korean art at OpenDemocracy. There is also a nice slide show to accompany it.
One aspect of North Korean art I’m interested in is book cover design, probably because I’ve had plenty of chances to look at them in the library at SOAS. Unlike a lot of North Korean ‘Juche Art’ which tends to give kitsch a bad name I actually think some of the book covers from the 50s and 60s are rather nice and accomplished pieces of work. It also interests me that they often depict nature or reflect nostalgically on the themes of ‘hometown’ and rural life. My impression is that this sort of nostalgic view of nature and the rustic life only became common in South Korea somewhat later. Perhaps this reflects the 10-20 year difference in large-scale industrialisation between the two Koreas (ie North Korea began in the late 50s, South Korea in the late 60s - 70s). Here is what Jane Portal says about the representation of nature in North Korean art:
The subjects originally required by Juche art were limited to such themes as: portraying the General, the relationship of the military and the people, the construction of socialism, National Pride and such like. However, in the 1970s landscape was also approved, when Kim Jong-il instructed: “The idea of describing Nature in a socialist country is to promote patriotism, heighten the national pride and confidence of the public in living in a socialist country.” The result has been a huge increase in the production of oil paintings of natural scenes.