United Buddy Bears in Northkorea
Setting up in Pyongyang
On 14th October 2008, the “United Buddy Bears“ exhibition was opened in the city centre of Pyongyang – at the foot of the Moran Hill near the Tong Il underground station.
The exhibition in autumn 2008 was the first art exhibition from a foreign country and at the same time the first one which was free accessible for everybody. The Institute for Foreign Relations writes about the United Buddy Bears in Pyongyang: “While this won’t change the world, it undoubtedly represents a major change for the world of North Korea.“ (Source of the original German quote: ifa Kulturaustausch, 20/10/2008)
Please read the speech of the German Ambassodor Dr. Thomas Schäfer here.
Photos of the opening in Pyongyang, October 14, 2008
This square – close to the Kim-Il-Sung statue, the open-air theatre, the Chilsong Gate and the Liberation Monument – was the site of the exhibition with 18 bears – each representing a country with a diplomatic mission in Pyongyang.
Together with the Buddy Bears from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Germany, the following countries will be represented: Egypt, China, the UK, India, Indonesia, Iran, Cambodia, Cuba, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Russia, Sweden and Vietnam.
The exhibition was accessible for everyone.
The initiative of the German Embassy in Pyongyang, the support of the Federal Foreign Office and our logistic partners DB Schenker and Hamburg Süd have made this exhibition possible. So far, our logistic partners have accompanied all overseas projects of the “United Buddy Bears“.
Everyday Life in Pyongyang
We would like to start with a quote from the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa Cultural Exchange) – see above:
"We want to support the freedom of thought in every individual, without indoctrinating, but nevertheless contributing to the process of her or him opening up. Let’s take the example of the United Buddy Bear Project in Pyongyang. North Korea agreed to [...] show some bear sculptures. This won’t change the world, yet it undoubtedly represents a major change for the world of North Korea. It is up to the people themselves how they perceive this process of opening up and incorporate it in their lives, yet we ought to provide stimuli. Values also play a role in this context."
What did the United Buddy Bears exhibition achieve? Maybe it contributed a small tessera to the mosaic of freedom. And the exhibition definitely achieved one thing: It brightened the relatively dismal everyday life for the people of Pyongyang, filling them with joy and lasting memories.
The following photo gallery is a reflection of everyday life in Pyongyang.
1-3: Public transport, close to collapse; 4-8: Almost car-free roads, but many pedestrians on the pavements; 9: Man reading a newspaper; 10: Shopping corner; 11-13: "A boulevard under construction".
Special significance of bears in Korea:
In Korea, the bear is particularly symbolic – representing the original mother in the Creation myth.
According to the legend of Tangun, thousands of years ago, when Hwanung – son of heaven – ruled the people, a bear and a tiger lived side by side. They both wanted to become human beings. They begged Hwanung to fulfil their wish. He was moved by their pleas and promised to turn them into people if they lived in a cave for 100 days and would only feed on garlic and mugwort. Once in the dark cave, the tiger soon lost his patience, though. He was not able to hunt and gave up. The female bear passed the test and was transformed into a woman. She asked Hwanung to find her a husband, but as he was so pleased with what he saw, he wanted to marry her himself. The couple had a son called Tangun who went off on his travels one day. He found a country with pure, clear water and very beautiful mountains. The colourful bouquet of seasons seemed so ideal to him that he settled down in that country. In 2333 B.C., he founded the Kingdom of Kojoson, the first state of Korea.