Children of Korea

Girl Prodigy Grown into Famous Artist

Mansudae Art Studio, a renowned hub of fine art creation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, boasts a large contingent of excellent artists, and among them is O Un Byol from the Korean Painting Production Company who shows a remarkable ability in figure painting.


Her father, O Kwang Ho, was also a painter. As if she possessed her father’s aptitudes for painting, O was especially fond of crayons or brushes before any other playthings. So people said she was an art prodigy.

When she was two, her nursery teachers took her to the Pyongyang University of Fine Arts near her house at Jangchung-dong, Songyo District.


Little girls’ talent caught the attention of Choe Song Ryong, lecturer of high repute. Though he was a stern teacher, Choe often marveled at her brightness to perceive more than what she was taught.

In the first year of her learning, O drew nearly 400 pieces of still life. At the age of five she became well known to professional painters.


Her participation in the 12th world festival of youth and students in 1985 was her first international debut. Afterwards she won special prizes and gold medals at several international fine art exhibitions and prize contests of children’s drawings and even held her private fine art shows in several countries, which earned her international fame.

She studied the Korean painting at the Pyongyang University of Fine Arts and finished the postgraduate course. During her university days she won the first prizes in two exhibitions held to mark the founding anniversary of the university and the national fine art exhibition for new painters held in 2002 respectively. She also won a prize at the national fine art exhibition in 2003.

After her graduation she was posted to the Mansudae Art Studio as she wished, and in 2008, one year later, she produced a Korean painting that won the first prize at the national fine art exhibition.

Several of her Korean paintings won diplomas and medals at the national and other fine art exhibitions and were registered as the state’s collection.

To retain the honour is far more difficult to win it—it’s her frank feeling.

She spends her leisure time either reading or listening to music.

She is an enthusiastic helper of her younger sister, Ok Byol, and other young artists in their creative activities.

Though she is now 40 and a middle-aged woman, O Un Byol still keeps the traces of her appearance in the 1980s when she was widely known as a little art prodigy.

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