Song Byeok was a state propaganda artist in North Korea until he escaped after famine killed his parents and sister. He has been based in South Korea since 2002, producing acrylic paintings that stylistically echo his earlier work but satirize the regime he was once forced to celebrate and often incorporate symbols of peace. Song was awarded the 2018 Global Artist Award for his work concerning the North Korean human rights crisis, and has been featured on CNN, Washington Post, BBC, and Asahi in Japan.
“There are many peoples and nations in this world. Within each people group and nation, there may be differences in status but for each human, there exists the same dignity. But under the same sky we see upon us tonight, there is a nation of people who live under oppression; they live without knowing their worth as human beings. They have no sense of their own dignity. The concept of human rights is foreign to them. These people live their lives in a darkness that lacks basic freedoms and rights. In this there is only one person who has worth; this person is their sun, their god. To them, surviving for tomorrow is more precious than anything else. Everyone in this world is equal and should be respected as a human being. Freedom of religion, freedom of art, freedom of speech, freedom of expression; these are the most fundamental freedoms of man. I have lived under oppression for over thirty years, deprived of all freedoms, under the North Korean regime. Through my paintings, I want to say that all human beings are created by God and are created equal and should be respected as such. One regime, one individual, cannot take away the dignity that God has given to us.”
— Song Byeok
Song ByeokDrill, 2018 Acrylic on canvas
Song ByeokOur Generalissimo, 2018 Acrylic on Canvas
Song ByeokPeople Come First
Song ByeokRepent, 2018 Acrylic on Canvas
Byeok SongWoman Soldier, 2018 Acrylic on Canvas