North Korean Art Sold in China Violates UN Sanctions

“Landscape painting” created at the Mansudae Art Studio in North Korea. Image provided by the writer.

SEOUL – Despite violating United Nations sanctions, the Associated Press (AP) reported on November 3, 2023, that North Korean artworks were being sold at an art exhibition in Beijing.

At one art exhibition in Beijing, photographs of the Baekdusan landscape covered in snow were being sold for $2,460, and a portrait of a young woman had a price of $5,190. 

The AP report also mentioned that the sellers of these paintings did not attempt to hide the fact that these works had come from North Korea, despite the strict UN sanctions.

The seller is affiliated with the Arirang Gallery, a self-proclaimed top North Korean art dealer in China, which also operates studios for North Korean artists on the outskirts of Beijing.

The gallery was founded by Jin Zhe, an ethnic Korean who was born in the border region near North Korea.

The AP journalists’ attempts to visit Arirang’s “painting base” were thwarted by security personnel.

This indicates that China continues to ignore or circumvent UN sanctions despite a March 2023 UN report that mentioned how the Arirang Gallery has violated sanctions by selling North Korean artworks and inviting North Korean artists.

In an interview with this writer, North Korean defector Jung Soon-chul alleged that China continuously violated UN sanctions by granting tourist visas to North Korean workers entering the country before North Korea sealed the border during the pandemic. 

The laborers worked in places such as restaurants and computer component processing factories, which underscores the extensive support that China offers to North Korea to earn foreign currency in violation of UN sanctions.

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