Just 30 miles from the North Korea border, central Seoul’s landmark Gwanghwamun Plaza provides the setting for a remarkably spooky installation of anti-war artwork.
While the nuclear tensions of one year ago have dispersed, there are rising fears that the hoped-for denuclearization of North Korea could stall – meaning the city would once again fall under the shadow of a mushroom cloud.
In perfect spring weather, the installation blends anti-war and anti-imperialist themes with traditional Korean motifs and some of the bloodiest events of recent Korean history. (Some anti-US messaging appears to have been thrown in, for good measure.)
The installation, created by the Korean YMCA and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will only last three days, but Asia Time’s Northeast Asia editor strolled through the plaza as it was being set up and snapped the pictures below. In our gallery, we take a trip across the plaza from north to south.
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A spooky face glumly ponders the possibility of conflict and killing. Photo: Asia Times/Andrew Salmon
Beast and man; who is what? Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
A flock of ghostly peace doves spreads their wings. To their rear is Mount Bugak, the backdrop for Gyeongbok Palace and the presidential mansion, the Blue House – all within a comfortable range of North Korea’s long-range artillery and tactical missiles. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Submerged by the tide of war? Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Ghostly figures wander in front of a banner proclaiming “In a matter of minutes…” A grim warning about the vulnerability of Seoul to obliteration. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
‘Not in our name:’ Banners take aim at what appear to be US stealth bombers. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
In traditional Korean dress, a giant “comfort women” – a female who labored in wartime Japanese military brothels – looms over the plaza. Her relationship to the Demilitarized Zone is unclear – the DMZ was established after the Japanese left Korea. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
A mushroom cloud hovers over symbols of militarism. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
An inflatable whale floats over the plaza. It is yellow – the color associated with the 2014 Sewol ferry tragedy – and includes what looks like the souls of the children who died in the incident. The official rescue efforts’ failure was laid at the door of Park. The banner calls for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, an end-of-Korean-War declaration, a follow-up peace treaty, and then end of sanctions against North Korea. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
A woman lies on a pile of bloodied bodies: This piece of art is in a booth dedicated to the Jeju Massacre of 1948, in which thousands of civilians were killed by South Korean troops pre-Korean War counter-insurgency campaign on the island of Jeju. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
A ghostly figure stands outside the Jeju Massacre booth. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Korea’s greatest leader, the sage-King Sejong the Great, on his (permanent) throne above the plaza, sits high above contemporary politics. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
The plaza’s other permanent resident: Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who crushed Japanese invaders in the 16th century. Korea’s greatest wartime hero looms over a placard dedicated to the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster of 2014 whose bodies were never recovered. The number, 1659, refers to the number of days that have passed since the tragedy. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
At the southern end of Gwanghwamun Plaza, a shrine to the dead of the Sewol ferry tragedy appears to have become a near-permanent feature. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Inside the shrine to the Sewol ferry dead are pictures of more than 300 victims – most of them teenagers on a school trip. Photo; Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
An anti-US protester sits on the southern edge of the square, approximately 100 meters from the US Embassy Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Christian groups in South Korea have traditionally taken a strongly anti-communist line, but the right wing is currently in political disarray in South Korea. This small tent, just off the south end of Gwanghwamun, is the only sign of right-wing presence in the central Seoul area. While it blares messages, the messages are recorded; the tent is unoccupied. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times Like this: Like Loading...