Hayoun Kwon

489 years

Galerie Sator, Paris

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Hayoun Kwon
489 years
11 min 18 s
Format & Technical

Video 16/9
Edition of 3/5 + 2AP

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land, 248km long and 4km wide, which separates North Korea from South Korea. The Korean peninsula is today the only region that remains divided in such a way. Originally the final battlefield of the Korean War, the DMZ as we know it today was established as a result of the Cold War.
According to data compiled by the South Korean Ministry of National Defence in 2010, it would take 489 years to remove all the landmines in the area. Every year, more than a hundred soldiers are killed by these mines. In near-total isolation for over 60 years, the DMZ has become a nature reserve, and a sought-after tourist destination. Though its name suggests otherwise, the area is in fact one of the world’s most heavily militarized.
This project consists of a transcription of an account of the zone by a former South Korean soldier, Kim. We gain access to the DMZ as he immerses us in his personal memories as if in a tale retold. Kim relates an anecdote from his time there on a reconnaissance mission, and shares the stunning discovery that he made in an unidentified minefield, where explosives had been placed by the South Korean army but which was not recorded on any maps. He speaks of a place where man is forbidden to tread and which has been reclaimed by nature. The viewer enters into and discovers this site from a subjective point of view as they listen to Kim’s voice-over narration. “Through this project, I ultimately want to reveal the fantastical nature of this place that can only be reached through the mind,” says Kwon. This piece is an invitation to encounter the memories of a man whose past and present blur with one another, allowing us a less objective but more human access to the DMZ: a fundamentally paradoxical vision where the dignity of nature surpasses an omnipresent lethal danger.