Forgotten history, the surface of evidence by Kim Dongwoo 

1 – 10 November 2019

Introduction: The era under Japanese occupation had reminded me of only the noun of “sorrow.” I could not remember any details about that era. The stories have been thoroughly repressed, simply because I would not be tested on them. It was almost ridiculous, given that it is only about 100 years ago that we lost our
nation. I may thirst for the ambiguous past. I was traveling in India. I heard that Red Fort, New Delhi, was the place that our Independence Army had joint drills with the British Army. It was shocking and I
realized at that moment that my understanding of the history of the independence movement was too narrow. I searched for the historical sites of the independence movement overseas and its scope exceeded my
expectations, from Europe to Central America. There was something that made my heart throb.

I overhauled my original plan to travel the world and instead began an adventure of finding liberation movement sites all over the globe. Wherever I went, I tried to meet descendants of liberation fighters. I called the Korean embassies, and if not possible, I contacted the Korean Residents Association. There were many times I asked Korean missionaries for help. It required patience to find them, like finding the world’s hidden jewels. Then I faced the problem of taking pictures. Although I found them after a long wait, it was impossible to communicate with the descendants. I managed to find an interpreter and tried to communicate with them again.

All the descendants warmly embraced me and treated me with their own version of kimchi. They seemed to be delighted at the brilliant story of Korea’s development. Witnessing their clear identity, ideas about their people, and pride in their roots, I found the liberation movement still alive. After this touching encounter, I began finding the historical sites. There were many cases of the wrong map and address, leading me to many fruitless trips.
In particular, it was very difficult to find the location of an independence activist’s grave only with his or her name and a picture. On the verge of giving up, I managed to find the gravestone and became elated. However, I sometimes got lost when I reached the location where there was not even a sign or where the scenery was entirely strange. This made me vaguely out of focus, like listening to a completely foreign language. Although I wanted to understand and reach a step closer, there was no method. I could not be sure if I interpreted the space correctly, although I tried to alter my camera angle. Here, I must confess that this project was too much for me. It went beyond my
capabilities. Sometimes, I felt emotional fatigue so I tried to find any excuse return home. Ironically, I could not cease my photography work because I could at least afford the luxury of finding an excuse. The people I sought did not even
have a country to return to.

Over countless nights of calming down my fluctuating emotions and studying history, I have traveled nine countries related to the independence movement:India, China, Mexico, Cuba, the U.S., the Netherlands, Russia, Kazakhstan,
and Uzbekistan. Even though I came back to Korea, my wanderlust made me incapable of doing something for a while. I just wanted to calm myself down. I just wanted to talk with others about my experience casually and return to the
photograph project thoroughly, but not too cold-heartedly. It was because, someday, I have to resume my trip to find the sites of the independence movement in Japan and Manchuria. I still don’t know why I repeatedly try to
stand up and face this emotional turmoil….

This artwork is testimony to our lost or forgotten history. It is not only our past, but also our present that we should remember and reflect on. The beginning was based on ignorance of our history; however, I hope the end will be rooted
in the sincerity of the liberation movement.

‘망국’(亡國)
살아 있는 모든 게 울음을 터뜨려도 하나도 이상하지 않을 것 같은 날
누군 그 울분 참지 못해 목을 맸다
누군 산에 들어가 총을 들었다
누군 실낱같은 희망을 안고 터전을 등졌다
전 세계 여기저기 보석처럼 박혀 등불이 된 사람들
우린 그들을 잃어버렸고
실체가 있어도 보지 못한 시간을 지났다
거짓 없는 침묵이 흐르는 현장은 말이 없다
망국 앞에 진실했던 몸부림,
찬양은 신의 것이 아니고
반성은 이제 나라 잃어버린 자들의 몫이 아니다
이 모두 그들을 기억하지 못하는 자들의 것일 뿐

About the Artist: Kim Dongwoo

Not a picture developed when I photographed for the first time, as I vividly remember. I worked as a student photographer for the university newspaper. Then, I got a job as a photo journalist at a newspaper company. This job let me gradually distance myself from photography. Then I fell in love with travelling one day, which reignited my affection for photography. I think this was themoment.

Since then, I have started examining the world in-depth. I had a private exhibition and participated in a few group exhibitions. I am interested in taking pictures of lost, forgotten, faded, and outdated things. I dream of a society
where common sense is understood and people emphasize with each others’ pain.

 

필름 현상을 맡겨보니 사진이 한 장도 나오지 않은, 어설펐던 첫 촬영의 기억이
아직도 또렷하다. 대학에선 학보사 활동으로 사진과 인연을 이어갔다. 신문사 기
자로 일하면서부터는 차츰 사진과 멀어졌다. 그러다 여행에 마음을 홀딱 빼앗겼
고, 잊고 지낸 사진을 다시 하게 됐다. 그때부터였던 것 같다. 세상을 조금 더 자
세히 들여다보기 시작한 게. 그 후 몇 번의 개인전과 단체전에 참여했다. 상식이
통하는, 타인의 고통에 공감하는 사회를 꿈꾸며 잃어버리고 잊혀진, 바래고 물
빠진 것들을 카메라에 담는데 관심이 많다.