Over at OpenDemocracy.Net, Jane Portal has an article that explores the role of art in North Korea: What does a totalitarian regime expect from its artists?
Among the more interesting points was that since the 1960s, North Korean art was/is informed by a philosophy called Juche:
"Juche is usually translated as "self-reliance", although the academic Dae-sook Suh describes it in practise as "nothing more than xenophobic nationalism".
This school divides art into 2 types:
"Peoples' art" reflecting the needs of the masses.
"Reactionary art" reflecting the ideology of the exploiting class.
The whole article has several interesting elements worth checking out. Portal's final sentiments are:
"...there is no uncertainty at all expressed in North Korean contemporary art, no individual hopes or expressions, no mystery. As Kim Jong-il said: "A picture must be painted in such a way that the viewer can understand its meaning. If the people who see a picture cannot grasp its meaning, no matter what a talented artist may have painted it, they cannot say it is a good picture.""
It's an interesting reminder to me, as a writer and artist, of what kind of narrow world we can live in. We'd be the poorer for it.