Australia has refused to issue visas to artists from North Korea for a special exhibition in Brisbane.  For the first time, art specifically commissioned from North Korea has gone on display in Australia.  The show's curator is accusing the federal government of censorship.    

Artists from various countries have arrived in the Queensland state capital, Brisbane, for the Sixth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art.

They have been invited to Australia to explain their creations to thousands of visitors.  That invitation was also extended to a group of North Korean artists, who are displaying their work in Australia for the first time.

However, their visa applications have been rejected by immigration officials in Canberra, insist their decision is part of the government's response to Pyongyang's missile and nuclear weapons programs.

In a statement, Australia's immigration department says the artists invited to Brisbane were from a studio that operates under the guidance of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il.

Officials say the studio produces propaganda artworks that glorify the North Korean government.

Organizers of the art festival have accused Australian authorities of censoring free debate.

The exhibition's curator, Nick Bonner, is disappointed the North Koreans will not be allowed to explain their work.

"There's a classic one here which is lads walking to work, it's early morning you can see on the left hand side there's a band which is very typical of these big work institutions," he said.  "It's an image that is very North Korean, but the way it's being treated is exceptional and this is the first time anyone has ever seen this style of art in the country [Australia]."

The Queensland exhibition will feature the work of 160 artists from 25 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Tibet, Turkey, Iran and Burma.  It runs through this week.

Australia and North Korea maintain diplomatic relations, which have been strained in recent times because of Pyongyang's missile testing program and its nuclear ambitions.