SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Korea Bizwire) — Anticipation is building for the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism that will open at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza on August 2, due to a 36-square-meter model of a Pyeongyang apartment being built as part of the exhibit.
To the experienced eye, the first thing to observe from outside are the windows. Once inside, check the appliances and electronics, according to North Korean defector Moon Yoo Jin. “In Pyeongyang, window curtains are a symbol of the household’s prestige and social standing,” said Moon.
“Usually, the curtains and the household appliances are tell-tale signs that signify the upper class,” she added.
The apartment on display, however is not typical of the upper class but a representation of the average middle class home. (Moon pointed out the exhibit’s curtains are of the middle class quality).
To create as exact a representation as possible, an advisory panel consisting of the Ministry of Unification and the National Intelligence Service, among others, went to considerable pains to provide the materials and furnishings.
The Chinese-manufactured furniture and appliances are identical to what one would find in a middle class home in North Korea. As the model house is meant as an exhibit only, actual middle class apartments are significantly larger at anywhere from 100 to 115 square meters in size.
The organizers’ attention to detail ensured that two empty frames were hung on the walls as stand-ins for the omnipresent portraits of former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Below the portraits are photos that captured significant activities and events in the Communist Party’s history.
Sparsely decorated with mostly brown furniture, the apartment could be mistaken for an apartment in Seoul (a North Korea sympathizer’s home considering the photos on the wall). The development of apartments similar to those found in the capitalist South began in 2011, when the coronation of Kim Jong Un deliberately or coincidentally sparked the semblance of a market economy.
In the words of Bae Hyung Min, Director of the Biennale, the appearance of apartments was due to the “entrance of capitalism [to North Korea]“.
North Korean defectors will play the roles of docents (guides and instructors) throughout the duration of the exhibit, educating visitors on a slice of life that they once might have known all too well.