This is a slight change of pace from recent stuff. For those who don’t know, I spend a lot of time in Shanghai these days where the World Expo is in full swing. I have been going there a fair bit, and was asked by the Lowy Institute of Australia’s Interpreter blog to write some short posts for them on some of the curious pavilions there. Here is the first, looking at the North Korean pavilion. More are coming (I have been to quite a few now) – and I am going to be going back and forth to the Expo, so feel free to leave comments requesting others if you have any specific ones you are interested in.
by Raffaello Pantucci – 18 June 2010 3:11PM
Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, where he is working on an EU-funded project on EU-China relations.
There is absolutely no queue outside the DPRK pavilion. The site is dominated by a large picture on one wall of Pyongyang looking alarmingly empty, with a Juche pillar in front and ‘Paradise for People’ emblazoned across the top. Television screens around the side show scenes of warfare interspersed with what look like 1980s era shots of students diligently learning. There are few pictures of the Dear Leader, and the final inexplicable set piece is a giant white fountain with dancing babies in it.
The whole thing has a surreal tinge to it and you have to wonder what they are trying to project. The majority of Chinese I saw inside appeared headed directly for the exit and the attendant with the national stamp (you can purchase Expo ‘passports’ which you can then get stamped at the various pavilions – they are very popular and in a number of smaller pavilions people appear to literally run through with no interest in the nation at hand, eager only to collect the stamp), though a few seem struck with a curiosity about the place.
It’s hard to know what kind of soft power is being projected here by the DPRK, but it is certainly not working as well as the British pavilion.
Now on to the Pakistani pavilion, which is designed something like an old frontier fort. That’s the subject of the last post in this series.