|“Vanished Berlin Wall” by Lee Eun-sook. (Christian Jungeblodt)|
Nearly 60 years since the end of the Korean War, memories of war have faded away through the generations. But the memories remain very vivid to the separated families and are a true reminder of the painful history of the war.
Artist Lee Eun-sook, from a second generation of separated families whose father left four children in the North and died two years ago, keeps the fading memories alive by using the forgotten names of the divided families in the South and North as the main materials for her light installation.
So far, those names have only been seen in a foreign land. Her first light installation, featuring 5,000 names of families separated during the Korean War, was first introduced in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate in 2007.
The light installation attracted huge attention as it was covered on the front pages of major newspapers in Germany. The exhibition was also reported on in the major media outlets such as the BBC, Reuters and CNN.
|Artist Lee Eun-sook poses for a photo in her studio in Seoul. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
“There is still the pain of separation in Korea. And I think this sad reality touched the hearts of many viewers,” said Lee in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.
“Some people shed tears and some people told me they were moved and impressed by the artwork,” said Lee.
From Feb. 23-March 10, Lee is presenting a new installation work at the barbed wire fence near the Freedom Village at Imjingak, near the South-North border.
The 25-meter installation will feature consonants and vowels from the names of separated families with their pictures flashed through fluorescent light created from fluorescent-colored threads and ultraviolet light.
“I wanted to display it along the DMZ, but the military didn’t allow it,” said Lee. “But it’s meaningful that it is exhibited in such a symbolic spot,” she added.
The artist said she hopes to continue her installation project in other historical places in the country, such as Gwanghwamun.
“After I returned to Korea from Germany, I found the lights of central Seoul had too much of an amusement park feel. I am developing my idea for the Gwanghwamun installation piece, but I think I will include the modern history of Korea,” said Lee.
The exhibition at Imjingak is also the first exhibition she is holding since leaving Korea in 2000.
Lee, who graduated in 1979 from Ehwa Womans University, where she studied textile art, held several exhibitions in Korea that were met with harsh reviews from critics.
“They said the materials and fluorescent colors looked too cheap,” she said.
Lee started her second career in Germany after she was offered a chance to participate in a group exhibition of Korean and German artists.
“A curator from Frankfurt approached me at an exhibition in Korea and said I was the one she was looking for and she liked that there’s much work done by hand,” she said.
“And they found the subject of my work related to wartime-separated families during the war special,” said Lee.
“I hope people in Korea also feel the same thing and understand the pains and memories of separated people through my work,” said Lee.
By Lee Woo-young (email@example.com)