Minjung art

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Minjung art
Hangul 민중예술
Hanja 民衆藝術
Revised Romanization Minjung Yesul
McCune–Reischauer Minjung Yesul

Minjung art was a South Korean political and populist art movement, born in 1980.


The Minjung ("people's") cultural movement came as the popular and artistic response to the Gwangju Massacre by South Korean dictator General Chun Doo-hwan in May 1980. Minjung artists used visual arts, especially painting and woodblocks, to call for democratization and Korean reunification. Their artworks glorified nature, laborers, and peasants, and criticized imperialism, Americanization, and the authoritarian South Korean government. In the 1980s, many Minjung artists were accused of sympathizing with communism and North Korea, and tortured or imprisoned like other democratization activists.


The organization of Hyun-sil and Bal-un Group in 1979 inspired several artists to line up against the government and 70's art. That was the time when Minjung art started. Notable Minjung artists included Kim Pong-jun (b. 1954), who led the Du-Rong Group, Kim Jeong-heon (b. 1946), Im Ok-sang (b. 1950), Sin Hak-ch’ol, O Yun (1946–1986), and Hong Song-dam.

With the democratization of the 1990s, Minjung art started losing their concrete aim and became part of the mainstream - post modernism. In 1994, the Kim Young Sam government allowed a large-scale exhibition entitled "Fifteen Years of Minjung Art: 1980-1994" in the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, and in 1996, the government even commissioned Hong Song-dam, one of the most acclaimed and radical Minjung artists, to create a 42-meter Minjung mural for a wall of Chonnam National University in Kwangju itself. Possibly as a result of this greater acceptance, while earlier Minjung artwork has become sought after, little new art in the Minjung style is being created. Later Korean artists tend towards post-modern and avant-garde styles.

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