South Korean art installation satirises 'political show' of Kim and Trump

SEOUL • Mr Kim Jong Un, a smoking pistol in his hand, looks down at the dead body of United States President Donald Trump, sprawled on a red carpet next to a metal bag overflowing with American dollars.

Behind the North Korean leader glows a neon slogan that reads: "The show must go on!"

The scene is part of an installation art exhibition in Seoul - a satire of the diplomacy over the Korean peninsula that has become "a big political show featuring two of the world's biggest showmen".

The piece by South Korean artist Lim Young-sun marks the end of a whirlwind year on the flashpoint peninsula, during which Mr Kim and Mr Trump traded threats of war and launched personal attacks against each other - before their dramatic, first summit in Singapore.

The colourful war of words between the leaders of the impoverished but nuclear-armed North and the world's top superpower - as well as their highly-publicised summit in June - dominated global headlines this year.

"I just wanted to show our political reality... in which citizens get nervous, anxious and happy watching their every single move as if they are watching a movie," said Lim, 59.

Some people angrily told me to my face, 'Artists like you are jeopardising our ties with the US and national security', while others... said this piece gave them catharsis. '' 

SOUTH KOREAN ARTIST LIM YOUNG-SUN on the reactions of visitors to his installation art exhibition

The work portrays a film set, with Mr Kim and Mr Trump as friends and quarrelling over money. Eventually, Mr Kim, angered by the high interest rates demanded by Mr Trump, shoots the lender to death.

"Both leaders are masters of political shows and using the tension created by their hostile rhetoric for their own political gain at home... but what they are lacking seems sincerity," Lim said.

The week-long exhibition that ended recently drew thousands of visitors. Some of them were left aghast at the sight of the leader of the South's top ally killed - albeit in art - by the leader of its wayward northern neighbour.

"Some people angrily told me to my face, 'Artists like you are jeopardising our ties with the US and national security', while others, apparently not Trump fans, said this piece gave them catharsis," said Lim.

The installation - also a metaphor for international politics driven by money and capitalism - will be showcased elsewhere in the South and abroad next year, he added.

Seoul housewife Song Min-kyoung saw the artwork as a metaphor for "high-profile political flirting" between the two mercurial leaders, who may face a vastly different future.

"Politicians - including Trump - come and go in a democratic country, but Kim Jong Un is a dictator who can stay in power forever," the 42-year-old said. "So who knows maybe the reality may turn out to be just like this, with Trump gone yet Kim still firmly in power?"


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2018, with the headline 'South Korean art installation satirises 'political show' of Kim and Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe