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Remembering Vietnam Veterans in Postwar South Korean Society: Heungsoon Im’s Exhibition, Homecoming Box(2008)

  • Journal of History of Modern Art
  • 2020, (47), pp.199-223
  • DOI : 10.17057/kahoma.2020..47.008
  • Publisher : 현대미술사학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Art > Arts in general > Art History
  • Received : May 5, 2020
  • Accepted : May 29, 2020
  • Published : June 30, 2020

Dong-Yeon Koh 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

What is the role of traditional apparatuses such as war memorials and museums in commemorating war victims, an act that constitutes the ultimate means of paying tributes to the patriotic spirit of fallen South Korean soldiers? How have particular diplomatic conditions and historical findings influenced the representation of war victims in postwar South Korea, a country that continues to experience polarized historical and political circumstances after the Korean War? This paper examines Heungsoon Im’s exhibition Homecoming Box (2008) including “Homecoming Box—Monument of the Unknown Soldier” (2008) and “Short Dream” (2008), in light of James E. Young’s and Erika Doss’s theories on war victims and war memorials. By concentrating on the theme of loss and absence as the central tenet of Im’s exhibition and his “Monument of the Unknown Soldier”, this paper aims to shed light upon the contradictory role that traditional memorials play in remembering and representing war victims and veterans. Simultaneously, I propose that “Monument of the Unknown Soldier” is a significant example of what James Young has called “counter-monuments” related to mass murder and war in South Korea. Comprising indexical photographic signs, the image of a disabled soldier, and a vacant homecoming box, Im’s work and exhibition question traditional war memorials of grandiose and sturdy forms and monolithic themes of patriotism and victory.

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