Photos take aim right at America

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Photos take aim right at America

Noh Soon-taek is an activist who speaks with his photographs. Mr. Noh, 33, has used his camera as a weapon to expose what he sees as the absurdities of Korean society in the turmoil of modern history. His primary interest is the division of the two Koreas, and the role of the United States on the peninsula.
In a photo exhibition titled “Smells Like the Division of the Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Noh presents 36 black-and-white photographs taken in his home country, which he dubs “Republic of Komerica.”
In stark, black-and-white photographs, Mr. Noh finds a different shade of Korea’s reality. One of the photographs on display features Panmunjeom as seen from a new angle, with U.S. soldiers in the foreground, backs to the camera. Mr. Noh says in a caption that while South Korean soldiers think the Americans watch the North Koreans, they don’t recognize that they’re the ones being watched over. In a film that depicts a children’s picnic at the War Museum, Mr. Noh photographs carefree kids with the museum in the background, writing, “Why do we have to commemorate a war, not peace? The War Museum today again swallows children.”
Mr. Noh, who works at a leftist monthly magazine called Mal (“Words”), is politically anti-American, but that doesn’t mean he hates Americans. What he’s opposed to is a Pax Americana, an empire with supremacy over the world. He wants as many U.S. citizens as possible to visit his exhibit, in much the same way that millions of Americans have seen Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” In October, Mr. Noh will hold a joint photo exhibition in New York on the topic of the U.S. Army both in Korea and Japan.
“I don't want so many parts of our reality to be real, like the division of the country and South Korea’s dependence on the United States,” Mr. Noh said. “But sadly enough, the public is only given a fabricated reality. Once we get over the ignorance, there are so many things to learn. I want my photographs to be a tool to help.”


by Chun Su-jin

A conversation with Mr. Noh is scheduled for 6 p.m. next Thursday at the Kim Young-seob Photo Gallery in the middle of Insa-dong street in Jongno, central Seoul. The exhibition is at the gallery until Aug. 31. Admission is free. For more information, call (02) 733-3631.
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