Title North Korean Architect Lee Hyeong: An Elite Architect's Partnership with Autocratic Rule, 1953?2000
Authors 박동민(Park, Dongmin)
DOI https://doi.org/10.5659/JAIK.2020.36.7.69
Page pp.69-80
ISSN 2733-6247
Keywords North Korea; Pyongyang; Lee Hyeong; Kim Il-Sung; Kim Jung-Il; Socialist Realism
Abstract Lee Hyeong served two North Korean dictators as a high-ranking state architect, working for over four decades since the end of the Korean War. By examining Lee’s architectural projects and writings, this study analyzes the relationship between an architect and his dictatorial clients. Using his technical skills, Lee faithfully assisted his leaders?Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jung-Il?by designing their monumental architecture and testifying their architectural genius, and as a result, Lee remained the top architect in North Korea for an exceptionally long period. In this process, Lee did not develop his own unique architectural style; rather, he acted as an architectural expert to realize the various forms of architecture that his leaders desired to build. At the onset of his career, Lee went to the Soviet Union and studied architecture. After his return, he built a great number of Stalinist classical buildings in war-torn Pyongyang. During the 1950s, as Kim Il-Sung consolidated his absolute power, Lee helped build functional buildings that were in line with national policies or, sometimes, buildings that promoted national pride. In the late 1970s, Kim Jong-Il emerged as the center of national power, and in the process, Lee participated in Kim Jong-Il’s key construction projects such as the Changgwang Street redevelopment. Toward the end of his career, Lee served the regime by testifying that Kim Jong-Il's construction projects in Pyongyang succeeded Kim Il-Sung's postwar accomplishments. The understanding of Lee Hyeong’s varying roles as a state architect in a dictatorship will cast new light on the symbiotic relationship that North Korean elite architects had with their autocratic leaders.