Sunday, March 14, 2010

Korean War : a photo exhibition at Cheonggyecheon

Don't get fooled by the UN flag : a highly conservative "freedom" movement is behind the photo exhibition on Cheonggyecheon Plaza which, instead of promoting peace and progress, too often radiates pure resentment and hatred.

Don't get me wrong :
- here is an interesting exhibition about key episodes of the Korean War (until March 18)
- that tragedy was started by the North
- Korea can thank the UN and all the countries who helped save not only half the peninsula, but also more than a few Northeners who refused to subscribe to Kim Il-sung's agenda (including NK POWs, who overwhelmingly opted for the South after 1953)

It's just that the not so subtle propaganda trickling down every other panel (along with a persistant rain that day) almost ruins the visit. And instead of Confucian wisdom and hope, the final message ("Never changed") exudes blind anger. It can be summed up like this : stop talking to North Koreans, they still want to get South Korea, and there will never be peace with such obtuse and stubborn people (I second that : peace is not likely to happen with this kind of dangerous ultra-radicals in Seoul to face that kind of dangerous ultra-radicals in Pyeongyang).

So it's a little bit like visiting Seodaemun Prison : you only have one side of the coin, a clumsily edited good v. evil, black-and-white fairyscarytale. There, you learn a lot about the horrors perpetrated for decades by Japanese torturers, but not one single word is written about the abuses that followed, perpetrated for many long years by the Korean government (as if you wrote the final book about Abu Ghraib without mentioning the post-Saddam mess). Here, you can expect many lyrical digressions about religion, but certainly not the full picture of a really nasty civil war (yeah, I know : all wars are nasty, and all civil wars are even nastier).

The only way to fix things and to prevent such tragedies from happening again is to promote truth and reconciliation, not to maintain obsolete propagandas and censorships. Praise the heroes yes, but please show some respect for innocent victims from all sides.

Ultra-conservatives will probably consider this exhibition a success because it exposes in the most direct fashion their basic points of view to the face of the world. Unfortunately for them, just like their attempt to silence the Truth and Reconciliation Commission*, this exhibition backfires and eventually exposes their imposture, sending the worst possible message to foreign visitors : not only North Korea is not changing, but some retrograde people in South Korea still refuse to see their own country become a great nation, and only manage to bring more shame upon themselves.

As a French citizen, I am very much humbled by the courage of countrymen who fought for peace and freedom in Korea, but ashamed to see the tricolore flag associated with such an agenda.

Seoul Village 2010

* see "TRCK lost in translation or lost in transition ?"

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