Day Three from South Korea: Briefings and the Artist Sun Mu

 

A belated good morning from Wednesday morning in South Korea. (This post should have gone up Tuesday night Eastern Time. — Ed.) Today we are headed to the DMZ for a tour; sadly not the JSA because it’s closed for further talks after the Trump-Kim summit.

Yesterday we had all day meetings at the Liberty in North Korea headquarters about the summit we’ll be attending later this week between North Korean, South Korean and international students. I’m tagging along on a student-oriented trip and doing my best impersonation of a college student, but I’ve still somehow acquired the nickname “Mom.”

One of the main highlights from yesterday included meeting with the South Korean country director Sokeel Park and getting a briefing about the geopolitical situation here. Sokeel is the co-director of a fascinating documentary about the youth generation in North Korea, and I highly recommend watching it. He’s also a great follow on Twitter for news from the region.

One of Sokeel’s most important points about why Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) works to rescue refugees is lost on many, and I wanted to highlight it here. Two of the greatest agents for change within a country as repressive and closed off as North Korea are money and information. When defectors are able to make it over the border to South Korea, they often stay in contact with their friends and family back home in North Korea. Half of the defectors send home money and more stay in contact with their families. North Koreans are a particularly trusted source of news, and thus, the news and information they send home about the outside world are some of the most effective destabilizing elements that can bring about lasting change within the country. With infusions of cash, not only are families back home more economically flexible to grow the budding market economy, but those without family abroad see how wealthy those outside North Korea must be if they are able to send back such relatively large infusions of cash (the average is $1,000 annually for those who are able to send money home through brokers).

Another highlight of the afternoon was meeting with and having drinks with a famous North Korean propagandist turned South Korean painter, Sun Mu. Sun Mu is the subject of a Netflix documentary that’s worth your time, and an incredibly talented artist with a portfolio available online for viewing. He paints mostly in the style of North Korean propaganda, but from his lens of freedom here in the West. A few samples of his incredible work are below:

There are 6 comments.

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  1. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    Great stories.

    • #1
  2. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Thank you for sharing this. 

    I love Sun Mu’s artistry. 

    • #2
  3. Bethany Mandel Editor
    Bethany Mandel
    @bethanymandel

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I love Sun Mu’s artistry.

    His stuff was really amazing. I wish he had a coffee table book. His entire portfolio is available online. 

    • #3
  4. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I looked through much of the online portfolio. His art, combined with the text seemed a powerful opportunity to engage North Koreans with the simplicity of freedom. 

    As an outsider, it is heartbreaking to hear and see the pleas to Dear Leader. 

    I don’t fully understand the use of the Disney icons, except from my American point of view, that Disney is an icon of happiness. I’d be curious to hear a North Korean explain their oerceptions. 

    • #4
  5. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    “more economically flexible to grow the budding market economy”  Is there a budding market economy?  Of course in some sense there is always a market economy even if its a black market and illegal were acquaintances can exchange money for stuff, but is there a ” budding market economy in the market sense”?

    • #5
  6. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    OP

    . . .  With infusions of cash, not only are families back home more economically flexible to grow the budding market economy, but those without family abroad see how wealthy those outside North Korea must be if they are able to send back such relatively large infusions of cash (the average is $1,000 annually for those who are able to send money home through brokers).

    . . . 

    I keep noticing how people living under repressive regimes (in the past it was the Soviet Union and their satellites in eastern Europe) just cannot believe the material wealth that arises under freedom. 

     

    • #6
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