Heaven on Earth

For artists in North Korea, self-expression is a dangerously foreign notion. Their mission is to toil as salaried functionaries in dictator Kim Jong Il's propaganda machine. They work in studios that turn out government-commissioned works in government-approved styles. The most famous studio is Mansudae in Pyongyang, a huge enterprise employing hundreds of artists, but studios are also maintained by regional and municipal authorities—and even the state railroad company. The artists work regular hours, are expected to produce a stipulated quota of works, and are sometimes enlisted in "speed-war" contests that test their ability to pump out patriotic art in volume. Depending...

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