Who is Nick Bonner giving his book to this Christmas?
Made in North Korea's author tells us about his highs and lows of 2018 and who’ll be getting a great gift
Made in North Korea is a timely book, but almost for the wrong reasons. Its publication preceded the South Korean Winter Olympics, and the thawing of relations between North and South. However, it also coincided with a dangerous escalation of tension between Kim Jong-un’s regime and the rest of the world.
Thankfully, Nick Bonner’s book, Made in North Korea gets behind the politics, to show the fun, beauty and idiosyncrasy of this isolated country’s visual culture. Bonner has been visiting the Democratic People's Republic of Korea – as the North is known officially - for 25 years, and possesses a deep knowledge of the country, as well as a sizable collection of DPRK ephemera. Read on to discover why he believes his book could help North Koreans recall earlier, national characteristics, what it was like to take Michael Palin to Pyongyang, and who he plans to give his book to this Christmas.
What inspired you most this year? The North South Korea summit between Moon and Kim.
What annoyed you most? My team of 11 colleagues at Koryo Tours work damn hard on engagement projects with North Korea but 80 per cent of the time red tape or simply bloody mindedness on all sides (both North Korean and Western) stops projects going ahead.
What was your personal highlight? The documentary we executive produced, (former Monty python star) Michael Palin in North Korea, took three years to arrange. This year we shot it and it smashed the ratings for Chanel 5 in the UK.
What can we expect from you in 2019? We have another project on the burner; more art-based but very much centred on North Korea.
Who will you give your Phaidon book to for Xmas? The best reaction has been from North Korean friends on trips to Beijing who I show the book to. They look at it as a strange object - why would anyone collect labels? - then nostalgia makes them reflect on earlier days and smile.
Whereas we see the images as 'cool and retro' graphics, the values they can place on identifying with objects from their past is very special. So I will not be giving a book away but sharing it. Taking the book to North Korea would probably end up with it being banned, for no other reason than they are not too keen on the outside world interpreting their politics and that includes graphics, art, music and food labels!
To see those food labels and much more besides, order a copy of Made in North Korea here.