London is 'like Pyongyang', say visiting North Korean artists

North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artwork that is being exhibited at the North Korean Embassy in London. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MANSUDAE ART STUDIOS AND HEATHER ARTS AND EXHIBITS
North Korean artist Jon Pyong Jin poses for a picture next to his paintings during a photocall at the North Korean embassy in west London, on Nov 3, 2014, as four artists from the Mansudae studio in North Korea exhibit their work. -- PHOTO: AFP 
North Korean artist Jon Pyong Jin poses for a picture next to his paintings during a photocall at the North Korean embassy in west London, on Nov 3, 2014, as four artists from the Mansudae studio in North Korea exhibit their work. -- PHOTO: AFP 

LONDON (AFP) - North Korea's embassy to Britain offered the public rare access this week to an exhibition featuring four socialist realism artists and their takes on classic London cityscapes as part of a cultural thaw between the two countries.

Some 60 paintings by Jon Pyong Jin, Kim Hun, Ho Jae Song, Hong Song II and other artists, including landscapes of their communist homeland, went on display in the anonymous two-floor, red-brick townhouse in the Ealing suburb of west London.

The artists dressed soberly for a press viewing in the single room open to visitors. All of them wore North Korean flag pins with the images of Kim Il-sung, who founded the republic of North Korea in 1948, and his son and successor, the late Kim Jong-il (father of current leader Kim Jong-un).

"London, like Pyongyang, is a beautiful city with ordinary, peaceful and romantic people," said Ho, speaking through an interpreter.

When Ho was asked about artistic freedom in Britain, the interpreter cut in saying: "We have freedom!"

Britain has an embassy in North Korea and there are tentative cultural ties between the two countries including a performance of Hamlet by London's prestigious Globe Theatre company in Pyongyang that angered human rights campaigners.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is very critical of the regime, however. He accused it of "extreme brutality" following the execution of Kim Jong-un's uncle.

"I believe culture has an enormously important role to play in developing relationship between people," said David Heather, an organiser of this week's exhibition and a British expert in Soviet art who collects North Korean propaganda posters.

"The artists have been on a three-week tour of the beautiful part and less beautiful part of London," he said.

The tour for the four artists has included visits to two major exhibitions about Rembrandt and Turner.

Hong painted two young women on the edge of a bridge - a painting entitled Bright Smile By The Thames, while Jon posed in front of his latest work Trafalgar Square At Sunset.

But the artists appeared less than impressed by Britain.

Asked what he had enjoyed in London, he said: "Nothing in particular."

When questioned on which Western artists might have inspired him, Ho said: "None."

In an official interview with NK News Agency, Ho lauded the work of North Korea's Mansudae Art Studio to which he and his colleagues belong.

The group includes 700 artists and is behind the innumerable posters and statues to the regime inspired by Soviet art, as well as pictures of landscapes and flower arrangements.

Ho told NK News Agency that artists at the studio "normally" work 9am to 6pm including a one-hour lunch break.

"It depends on the individual artists, as some of them work through overnight when they are inspired and focused at their artwork," he said.