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North Korean propaganda poster reads, "Squeeze out more edible oil!"
North Korean propaganda poster reads, "Squeeze out more edible oil!"

William van der Bijl's collection of North Korean art

Dutch stamp collector, William van der Bijl, shares with us his collection of North Korea art

Written by
Hahna Yoon

Dutch stamp dealer, William van der Bijl, visited North Korea 24 times starting in 1998 in his search for propaganda posters and stamps. Last year, these rare stamps and posters were exhibited at the Seoul Museum of Art as part of their “NK Project.” William explained: “I am interested in any kind of art. North Korean political art, as well as their stamps, are drawn in a simplistic way: A person does not need to know much about art in order to understand ‘the message’ in their drawings. All the people look always happy and [there’s] always a big smile on their faces.” On a trip to North Korea in 2013, he was arrested and imprisoned for two weeks. Since then, William has been unable to return to North Korea—leaving behind friends and his stamp trading post. “I was never able to speak to any of [my friends] and [it] makes me very sad. I have a great desire to go there and meet them again, but this will be impossible in the current situation.”

"[This] oil painting is [of] a farmer who is learning to read and write after his day work. The poster on the background reads something like: 'learning to work, working to learn'. [...] This is the best painting I have, the quality of painting is unbelievable!" -- William

"This is a pencil drawing of a North Korean prisoner in a South Korean prison. He is very proud and he's torn the paper with his confession in it to pieces. He's also drawn a map of a united Korea on the wall with his own blood and has Pyongyang as the capital of 'his' re-unified Korea." -- William

A painting of women looking at the new salt harvest.

A North Korean propaganda poster that reads, "Let's put all our strength together to produce 1,000 tons of grain." 
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