Let us all fight for more production and thrift!
Artist: Park Sang-lak
Publisher: Korean Workers Party Press
Condition: Very good, fold mark, tears and creasing to margins, stains to lower margin
Shortly before the Japanese surrender in 1945 the US divided Korea into two zones to be occupied by the Soviets in the north and Americans in the south. In the north under Soviet administration, in February 1946 a North Korean People's Committee was established under the leadership of Kim Il-sung (1912-1994) - a precursor to the founding of the DPRK on 9 September 1948. Kim Il-sung had fought the Japanese in Manchuria in the 1930s, returning to the USSR in 1941 as a member of a partisan unit of the 88th International Brigade of the Red Army. He returned to Korea in 1945 to find the Soviets already planning for the construction of another socialist state in its own image.
To free the new nation from Soviet interference, Kim Il-sung sided with Mao's China during the Sino-Soviet split of the late 1950s, managing to break free of their influence by 1960. There were historical ties between the two countries: Korean soldiers had fought with the Chinese communists in their civil war, and Chinese troops had fought alongside Koreans in the Korean War of 1950-1953. Chinese volunteers had also remained in Korea to rebuild the country after the destruction of the Korean War.
Despite the Soviet and Chinese influence on the history of the founding of the DPRK, North Korean poster art remains quite distinctive to the propaganda posters produced in those countries. The simplified compositions, colouration and stylisation of figures, alongside jarring political slogans create an instantly recognisable design approach. First referred to with the loan-word p'osut'uo, North Korean posters eventually became known as sonjonhwa, borrowing from the more specific Chinese term xuanchuanhua, or propaganda poster. In common with Chinese propaganda posters, their purposes were variously to instruct, agitate, inform, celebrate and inspire certain types of behaviour and thinking through an easily comprehended image along with a slogan - which would come directly down from the Party. Strident political slogans - to be seen on the many posters, banners and monuments in the country - have been a part of North Korean life since the birth of the country and remain so today.
In this 1972 poster a metalworker is depicted next to his machine, holding out his hand containing what may be a piece of scrap left over from production. The slogan in green warns 'this is also state property!' The magnifier held over the box of scrap odds and ends is likely highlighting the raw materials required for the country's industrial output - thus the poster is urging workers to be frugal in production with the nation's valuable resources.