Earlier this month and for the first time ever, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea, opened its London embassy to the public. This novel event from the typically secretive regime took place as an art exhibition. Some of the paintings were from North Korea’s Mansudae studio in Pyongyang, while some were painted in London. The latter were painted by four North Korean artists who were at the embassy to present their pieces which they had painted shortly before the exhibition in London, and which consisted of scenes around the city. British curator David Heather hoped this experience would bridge the gap between the two countries’ art scenes and hopes to have British artists go to North Korea and paint their own experiences there in the future.

Although the exhibition was a result of Heather’s initiative, one might wonder why the North Korean regime agreed to it and held the exhibition in its embassy, open to the public, without security checks, and in a generally open atmosphere so uncharacteristic of the regime. Could the regime be changing? Or is this part of another attempt to present the nation in a better light?

Previously this month, North Korean officials made another unprecedented move: according to Marzuki Darusman, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korean diplomats were prepared to invite him, for the first time in UN history, to the previously isolated country for a discussion on human rights. This invitation was the result of growing pressure over the country's human rights abuses, and it came with a catch. In early October, the European Union and Japan drafted a resolution urging the UN General Assembly to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. This resolution was backed by an extensive, 372-page UN Commission of Inquiry report detailing the human rights abuses in North Korea. The mounting pressure the North Korean regime experienced due to these documents was reflected in their responses.

Although not explicitly stated, the North Korean regime offered this invitation in exchange for the dropping of two parts of the resolution: one being the notion that Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, could be held accountable for certain crimes and the other being the recommendation that the International Criminal Court take legal action on the human rights violations. Moreover, the regime published their own account of human rights in North Korea, which sought to counteract the UN report by claiming that North Koreans enjoy laudable rights and freedoms. This report claims, according to CNN, that North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system." At the London embassy, the artists spoke about the freedoms they enjoy in North Korea, as they stood by their colorful, lively artworks.

Claims such as these attempt to paint a happier, less international-law violating picture of the country. In light of the recent UN vote, however, how long will the regime continue these attempts?

Just last Tuesday a United Nations General Assembly committee voted in favor of a draft of the resolution. The resolution calls for exactly what the regime dreaded: the prosecution of North Korean leaders in the International Criminal Court and condemning of the government for human rights violations.

The resolution has a long way to go before it is enacted: it must pass through the Security Council, where both China and Russia, opponents of the resolution, hold veto power. The regime continues to assert that the claims of human rights violations are false and intends to conduct more nuclear weapons tests, citing the growing need to protect its peoples’ human rights. Officials claim the resolution is part of a plot by North Korea’s enemies to bring down the regime, and will consequently need more protection.

It seems that the North Korean regime’s attempts to paint a happy picture of life in North Korea were not convincing enough for the UN General Assembly committee; whether this will be the same for the Security Council remains to be seen.