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In Session: Empathy Seen in Korean Visual Art in the Time of Crisis
2: Faraway, so Close: Mediated Experience of North Korea in Contemporary South Korean Photography
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
The University of Chicago, United States
What is the perception of North Korea of the rest of the world and how has it been mediated through visual arts? How do South Korean photographers represent the other Korea that cannot be accessed? This research explores how South Korean photographers incorporate their proxy experience of North Korea to position the other half in the actual time-space. The national division caused two Koreas to show different paths to development, and the North has been isolated as one of the few communist countries in the world. With the demise of the international cold war, “the hermit kingdom” has been further stigmatized and ridiculed in the West. The research problematizes this view and discusses how South Korean photographers locate North Korea in a larger historical context. Onejoon Che’s Mansudae Master Class (2015), for instance, documented socialist realism style monuments that North Korean Mansudae Art Studio produced in sub-Saharan African countries. Chan-Kyong Park’s Sets (2000) is a series of photographs of movie sets in Pyongyang that recreated Seoul Streets, a replica of Panmunjom at the DMZ made for a South Korean film, and a military training site that simulated streets of South Korea. In Fantasy Residency in North Korea (2010), Jooyoung Lee performed an imagined residency in North Korea and collected photographs that seemingly relate to North Korea in Berlin, a once-divided city. With the physical inaccessibility, this paper argues, South Korean photographers ironically anchor the inseparable half in concrete reality and suggest different ways to understand it.