During the last decade, the DMZ (demilitarized zone) has emerged as one of the most popular tourist attractions for both domestic and international travelers—despite continued conflicts over nuclear weapons under Jungun Kim’s administration as well as ongoing landmine problems. Inspired by Marc Augé’s theory of non-place, this essay critically examines the policy to create an eco-friendly image of the DMZ that became prevalent among public art projects such as Dreaming of Earth, proposed by sculptor Jaeeun Choi and renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, and the construction of the Pyungwha Nuri Gil (Spread Peace Trail). The essay further analyzes the key examples from the 2015 Real DMZ Project, the annual art event, started in 2012, on the site of Cheorwon, that serve as alternatives to public art projects for domestic visitors and international travelers. I argue that Hayoun Kwon’s 489 Years, Jisun Shin’s Contemplating Landscape, and Youngjoo Cho’s DMG_Demilitarized Goddesses (all of the 2015 Real DMZ Project) challenge the DMZ’s allegedly safe and benign image. More important, Minouk Lim’s Monument 300 (2014) evolves from the audience’s process of finding imaginary traces left by the historical massacre inside the DMZ. The participatory nature of Lim’s Monument 300: Chasing Watermarks calls our attention not only to the forgotten history of the area but also to the changing and unsettled meanings of the site. Therefore, the essay treats the DMZ as a symbolic site through which one can explore how the historical and political significance of the Korean War and its ideological tensions have been consistently forged within postwar South Korean society, particularly for the last two decades.
The Place-ness of the DMZ: The Rise of DMZ Tourism and the Real DMZ Project
Dong-Yeon Koh is an adjunct lecturer at Seoul National University and Chugye University for the Arts. Her academic and critical writings have been published in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (2010, 2013), Modern Art Asia, and Photography and Culture (2015). Her recent publications include The Survival Tale of Curators Today (2016), and From Softpower to Goods: Alternative Forms of Exhibitions and Populist Artistic Practices in Post-1990s East Asian Art (2018). Koh is currently writing Post-memory Generation in South Korea.
Dong-Yeon Koh; The Place-ness of the DMZ: The Rise of DMZ Tourism and the Real DMZ Project. positions 1 November 2019; 27 (4): 653–685. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-7726929
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