by Soyun Park, Jaeha Ban and Seunghee Ha
Two artists, Soyun Park, and Jaeha Ban and a researcher Seunghee Ha from South Korea present a lecture, performance, and ongoing research that begins with investigating North Korean trash found on a South Korean beach.
Physical journeys between South Korea and North Korea are subject to strict prohibitions for Korean citizens due to the two countries’ division. Yet, Article 3 of the South Korean Constitution states that "the territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean Peninsula and its adjacent islands". Ironically, amidst these present circumstances, what South Koreans witness is only a censored image of North Korea depicted by both Korean governments.
However, both as a metaphor and a tangible entity, the ocean surpasses confines—transcending borders and this nation-state paradigm. Within its expanse, garbage from both nations traverses boundaries propelled by relentless currents.
Simultaneously, virtual technology takes up the mantle of another metaphorical ocean within this literary landscape. The previous leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il once emphasized the importance of cyberspace by stating that "the internet is a special space where national security laws(of South Korea) are neutralized" and "the South Korean authorities cannot control it”.
In this research, we explore the possibilities of this seemingly unreachable North Korea by viewing through the prisms of stateless waste, ocean currents, virtuality, and technology travelling across the metaphorical and literal oceanic space. Contained within South Korea's geopolitical borders, this practice thrives—melding the material and immaterial—its pursuit of the exclusive domain of its citizens. And just as the ocean's currents and virtual movements are in constant flux, this narrative defies definitive culmination.
Soyun Park (KR/NL) is an artist, designer, educator, and founder of a community-based studio for bonding technology, RGBdog. She investigates the relationship between humans and technology — from the very individual level — body movement, relationships, and way of living to architecture, communities, and politics. She has exhibited and performed at Rewire Festival, Nederland Fotomuseum, Ars Electronica, CTM Festival, and Jeonju International Film Festival.
Jaeha Ban is a Seoul-based artist interested in logistics and the division of Korea. She traces how the condition of the division operates in South Korea and addresses the distribution of images of North Korea. She co-founded the Image Center of Divided Korea and has been an active member since 2021.
Her work identifies the mechanism of borders from personal experiences, small events, and everyday objects, senses the presence of the Cold War, and traces the reorganization of industries. The keywords she uses to explore systems that exceed the individual are ‘logistics’ and ‘the division of Korea’. She uses logistics to identify global flows, and the division of Korea to identify localized elements of the Korean Peninsula. By crossing boundaries of the global and the local, her work aims to capture the synchronicity of the asynchronous.
"Is there an outside of South Korea for the South Koreans?” is the core question that has guided her research and work until recently. Through the keywords of logistics and the division of Korea, she tries to make visible the sensations experienced by South Koreans today and create an opportunity to re-sensitize the division by shifting between the global and the local.
Seunghee Ha is a research professor at Dongguk University's Institute of North Korean Studies. She received her PhD in North Korean Studies from the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, South Korea. Her main research interests include North Korean music, North Korean society and culture, and North Korean media.