Artist or secret agent?
North Koreans paint on the run
Created: 01/09/2023, 09:00
By: Peter Herrmann
Fled from North Korea in the 1990s: Unlike his South Korean curator and friend Jae-Hyun Yoo, Sun Mu (right) only allows his photographs to be covered for security reasons.
Photo: Peter Herrmann
Artist Sun Mu has fled his native North Korea.
For security reasons, he lives in secret.
His work can currently be seen at Schwankl-Eck.
Wolfratshausen – Almost in the style of a secret agent, he appeared on Epiphany in the art tower of the Kulturverein Isar-Loisach (KIL) on Obermarkt in Wolfratshausen.
Disguised in sunglasses, a slouch hat and a trench coat, Sun Mu explained the history of his works together with the curators Cornelia Oßwald-Hoffmann and Jae-Hyun Yoo before the vernissage began.
In between, the 50-year-old answered questions from our newspaper.
Wolfratshausen: Artist Sun Mu from North Korea exhibits at Schwankl-Eck
Some of the approximately 90 works on display were created in Starnberg.
"I was able to live there for a while and work in a studio," said the artist, who fled his home country of North Korea.
Cornelia Osswald-Hoffmann gave him the opportunity to do so.
"Sun Mu is considered a traitor in his home country and he hasn't known for years how his family living there is doing," explained the curator.
The former so-called propaganda painter also gets help from his South Korean friend Jae-Hyun Yoo, who lives with his German wife in Bairawies (district of Dietramszell) and acted as a translator at the vernissage on Friday evening.
"We organized the exhibition in Wolfratshausen in just ten days, which is actually far too short," reported Yoo.
The artist Sun Mu, who fled North Korea, enjoys an international atmosphere at the Schwankl-Eck
The large number of visitors was all the more surprising.
Compatriots and numerous art lovers even put up with long car journeys for this.
"It's incredible that so many people came here on a holiday," said Sun Mu, overwhelmed.
The Third Mayor Annette Heinloth was no different.
"We are proud that such top-class artists are exhibiting in our city," said Heinloth.
She liked the successful symbiosis of painting and political expressiveness.
The ironic slogans of the North Korean Workers' Party could be read next to some works.
"I wish for a reunification of North and South Korea," emphasized Sun Mu. As a child, he was still proud to be able to take part in state-ordered mass choreographies and to sing for the dictatorial head of state.
After fleeing and leaving the propaganda carousel, he at least kept his love for music.
At the vernissage, Sun Mu – the pseudonym means “limitless” in German – bravely picked up the guitar and performed the Korean folk song “Arirang”.
"We have to keep this place: Here come world-class artists"
This also impressed Hans-Werner Kuhlmann.
The former chairman of the association Lebendige Altstadt Wolfratshausen (LAW) sincerely hopes that the prominent building at Schwankl-Eck will continue to be available for art exhibitions.
"We have to keep this place: there are world-class artists," Kuhlmann stated.
Daniela Satzinger from the Isar-Loisach cultural association, which organized the event in cooperation with the "Art5" artists' association based in Plüderhausen (Baden-Württemberg), was delighted to hear it.
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In addition to collages and oil paintings, provocative pop art works can also be seen in the art tower until January 29th.
For Sun Mu, who lives and works in South Korea's capital Seoul, a hand painted blue and red with an outstretched middle finger symbolizes a rejection of armament in his native North Korea.
"I was brought up a communist and had to do ten years of military service," says the artist.
The 50-year-old is forced to accept that he now leads a life on the run, in secret.
"It fills me with pride to be able to exhibit here," emphasized Sun Mu.
However, a reunion with his family in a peacefully united world would have the highest priority for him.
"That would be the fulfillment of my dreams."
"Borderless" with pictures by Sun Mu in the art tower of the Kulturverein Isar-Loisach (KIL) at Schwankl-Eck on the Obermarkt can be viewed every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. until January 29.
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