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BBC: North Korea’s ‘biggest’ export – giant statues

The export of this bold, direct, firmly authoritarian style began in the early 1980s as a diplomatic gift to socialist or non-aligned countries from their North Korean brothers. More recently it’s become a valuable source of hard currency, with artists and craftsmen from MOP working in Angola, Benin, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia and Togo. Local media in Zimbabwe report there are two giant Robert Mugabes in storage waiting to commemorate his death. And most famously, in Senegal the giant African Renaissance Monument was cast on site by Mansudae craftsmen and dedicated in 2010. It’s estimated that the studio has earned tens of millions of dollars in this way.

North Korean art seems to appeal to African leaders for two reasons. First, because the price is right. Senegal paid for its 49m-high (161ft) statue by giving some land to the North Koreans – who immediately sold it for cash.

The second reason is the style. “The Russians and Chinese don’t make that kind of stuff any more,” says art critic William Feaver. “The appeal is in the statement of the obvious – and of course size is everything.” He sees enthusiasm for the style as part of a nation-building process. “You could think of Mount Rushmore as the American version, performing a similar celebration of founding fathers for a relatively new nation keen to assert itself in the world.”

We are glad North Korea has finally found a legitimate economic niche on the world market, because previously its only export seemed to be fake Viagra, counterfeit U.S. dollar bills, and nuclear bomb technology.

This article is republished with permission from our friend Oleg Atbashian at The People’s Cube.