Nine out of ten people who have escaped from North Korea they are captured by border guards, a crime that has two possible outcomes: jail or death. Sun Mu He was the one of those ten who achieved his mission, and he dedicated himself to painting not only portraits of oppression, but canvases of hope and creative expression.
And it is that in 1971, when the artist was born, hunger was devastating his country while the dictatorship of the president Kim il-sung It limited all his chances of full growth, so he served in the army, as was the majority decision for the youth of the country, while taking turns at the university where he studied art in a limited way, always starving due to the lack of goods.
As he grew older and understood that the dictatorship of his country would only complicate the challenges of his life, he became convinced with the idea of leaving, and that is because the artistic education system in North Korea keep going being very different to the one that exists in Corea del Sur, since in the north, students are divided according to their specialties.
"I thought North Korea it was a good country. I was one of those who were willing to die for their leader, but in the end, when you're hungry ... you need to eat. "
It was precisely this hunger that saw him achieve his mission in 1988, swimming through the river tumen to reach China and then to South Korea.
According to the same expatriate painter, he came to the following conclusion:
When I arrive to China, I realized how difficult life would be without a legal identity, and I said to myself, the south is my land too, and I had also heard that people like me were automatically granted citizenship, so I bought a map and ended up taking a bus to Laos, before traveling to Thailand. From there, I took a flight to South Korea. That was in 2002. I didn't have a real plan, but I thought to myself, I'd rather die trying than live without an identity.
When he finally arrived and was able to settle by moving between the freest painter's guild South Korea Given his skills with the brush, as an ironic response to his own search for identity, the young man adopted the pseudonym of Sun MuGiven the controversial nature of his artwork, there are aspects of himself that he cannot share, thus ensuring that he can work with peace of mind and avoid retaliation against his family who still live in North Korea.
This pseudonym adopted by the artist roughly translates as "borderless" in English, in turn becoming a bold statement that he crossed a boundary. figurative and literal. In this way, the boy who had been trained to create posters and murals for the communist government became the first deserter from the North to have gained fame as a painter in the South applying that same style of painting. propaganda.
"I show myself through my work," he said after an exhibition in 2007 that earned him international recognition, one that has since seen him show his work in galleries around the world.
Today, unlike the propaganda art of his earlier years, where he painted slogans about the evils of capitalism and reproduced the Kims as gods, he is painting the leaders standing under an upside-down flag and wearing Mickey ears, a crime punishable by death in his native land.
In the end, more than a political statement, and despite the fact that both countries have their own problems, the general message of Sun Mu It is one of optimism and free from the limitations of the dictatorship, with which it has managed to define Your own style with satirical works that fused images of North Korean communism with pop art, sometimes even drawing inspiration from the colorful world of Disney.
His scathing parodies of the regime of North Korea exploded in popularity in 2007, earning the artist international recognition that has taken his work to galleries around the world.
“My work, what I call 'my propaganda', contains criticism of the regime. But it also contains many of my thoughts, my hopes for the future in images, "said the artist.
To this day, 49 years old and established as a consolidated painter, Sun continues with his speech, one that, along with Banksy, better reflects the feelings of the citizen on foot, the one who lives around us every day.
At the end of 2015, it was released I am sun mu, a film by the director Adam Sjoberg, which portrays the artist's journey from his homeland as well as his preparations for an exhibition of works in Beijing, which was eventually shut down by government officials.
On its official site, one can learn more about his works as well as the ideology that defines him. There, he writes a poem that could well express the feelings of his art, one that can be read below:
Talking about peace and reconciliation between North and South Koera has become a “crime”.
Talking about world peace has a "crime".
Talking about the people who live in this world, about the life I have lived so far and the life I will live in the future, has become a “crime”.
Here is the song this “criminal” wanted to sing out loud at his Beijing exhibition.
I, too, have a heart given to me by my parents.
Somebody pinned a red badge over it.
I was grateful and happy to be somebody's subject.
It became everything to me.
The world made me into an orphan who wasn't an orphan.
It gave me the pain of parting and it gave me new encounters and enormous courage.
The badge that somebody had pinned over my heat fell away.
Now I have a heart that beats only for me.
I am Sun Mu.
It was all I believed.
It was all I knew.
It was my whole life.
Now, I think I understand something.
If that is happiness, I won't be happy.
If that is everything, I don't want to live.
Now, I know my own separate self.
Now, I cry out to the world.
I am Sun Mu.
After the separation I never wanted, I flung myself into the wilderness.
I spent every day in fear of being discovered and sported.
Then, spending one New Year away from home, I wrote a letter to my family.
With no hope that it can ever be delivered, I pray that its spirit, at least, reach them.
I didn't want the pain of separation.
I didn't want the life of a slave.
I didn't want to die.
The sun in the sky shines dazzlingly,
but the struggles of those living in the darkness
bring pain to my heat.
Whom is the ideology for?
Whom is the politics for?
Whom is the war for?
Let the sky be my witness.
In Beijing, China, in 2014,