The Korean view of simple hope

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The Korean view of simple hope

What does hope mean to a Korean person? That’s the question posed by the globe-trotting photographer Kim Yong-ho in his latest documentary project this year.
Since 2003, Kim, long known as a fashion photographer, has worked on documentary projects for The Beautiful Foundation as well as series of portraits of Korean cultural dignitaries.
Kim and his friend, Park Won-sun, an attorney and advocate for human rights, “registered” 421 people over three months, all of different occupations, ages and backgrounds, in what they call the “Hope Institute.”
The founders of the Hope Institute aim to compile the personal efforts and dreams of average people living in Korea, and spread the positive message of its participants around the country. It’s those people and their messages that form the backbone of “Hope Exhibition,” currently showing at the Press Center in downtown Seoul until April 2. The show displays 365 portraits of the participants and their unique view of hope. Viewers are greeted by medium-sized straightforward photographs, each capturing an individual personality.
Some hopes addressed by the participants sound more like personal wishes: A Chinese-Korean working in Korea hopes for better health and to reunite with long-separated family members back home. A mentally retarded child hopes to have a girlfriend. Others use poetic expressions to describe their hope for life. As the Venerable Hyeon Gak says, “Hope is within us.”

Na Hyeon-gi
Seoul Community Rehabilitation Center

“I’d like to make things, like toys or cabinets, that’s all. I’d like to have a girlfriend.”

Kim Je-yeong
Special Forces soldier

“I hope for our home country to be reunified soon!”

Jang Du-i
Stage actress

“Hope is life!”

Choi Tae-hui
Nun at Daughters of St. Paul

“My personal hope is that the world is a better place tomorrow. Hope is a strength that makes people live.”

Gang Yeong-jeong, with her pet, Haengdori
Volunteer at Animal Freedom Korea

“I’d like to be helpful to the rights and benefits of animals. I hope animals and people can live happily together. My personal hope is to start a good family this year.”

Kim Yong-ho

“Successful people, marginal people, old maids who wish to marry, Chinese-Koreans who hope to get well, volunteers who work hard for the survival of animals, junior high school students who speak about world peace; I hope everyone’s hopes come true one day.”

Hyeon Gak

“The world is ephemeral, like an afternoon dream. Our body, goals, environment and thoughts? All things in life change. They appear momentarily and disappear eventually. So we cannot rely on such superficial things and they cannot save us. True hope is within us.”

Gang Hyeok
Danggok Orphanage

“I’d like to be a dad, please.”

Kim Jeong-hui
Teacher at The Beautiful Foundation

“No more a world without broken hearts and sick bodies.”

Park Won-sun
Social designer

“Hope doesn’t fall from the sky, but we make our own hope. Hope rises from despair.”

Mun Pil-gwi
House of Sharing for former comfort women

“My hope is to receive an apology and compensation from Japan. I’m close to dying but I can’t die because I feel it is so unfair. Other people rally in front of the Japanese Embassy, but I can’t because my back hurts.”

Jang Dong-gun

“James Dean said an actor’s hope is to become an actor who is remembered for generations.”

Gang Chun-ja
Chinese-Korean working at a dumpling company

“I’d like to make money fast and live with my children. I also wish to be happy.”

Cho Joo-hee
Seoul correspondent at The Washington Post

“Warm sunlight. Beloved friends. To meet an albatross in a peninsula of mountains and oceans.”

Kim Seung-beom
President of Tube Entertainment

“Movies are hope. When a movie cannot offer hope, it is no longer a movie. Hope for those cannot return home is ‘Failan,’ hope for a grandmother we miss so much is ‘Jibeuro,’ isn’t it?”

Kang Ye-na

“Hope can’t be expressed in cliches like ‘a strand of light in darkness.’ There may be nothing to eat or wear, but hope can sustain life.”

Park Hyeon-jae
Vocal Performance Professor at the department of music, Seoul National University

“When I feel God inside me... When people around me feel happy through humble me, I think of hope.”

Son Ran

“I always hope to have a hope. By hoping, I find meanings everyday and wait for tomorrow.”

Na Sang-oh
Chef at AOC

“My hope is to cook and serve the best dishes to my customers.”

Kim Sang-woo
Secretary General of the Korean Olympic Committee

“Hope is to believe that tomorrow will be better than today, no matter how hard it is. Dawn comes right after the darkest hour.”

Park Ji-won
Fashion/jewelry designer

“The smaller the hope the better. The more often we hope for the not-so-distant future, the closer it gets.”

Ju Sang-tae
Guard at Government Buildings of Management Service.

“I’d like to be a kind guard whom visitors to the building can rely on.”

Nam Sang-geun
Father of Seoul Archdiocesan Vocation

“Hope makes us long for what that can’t be longed, seek for what can’t be obtained, and go somewhere that can’t be reached.”

Yeon Hong-sik
Police officer

“I’ve been a cop for 20 years, and before I only fought. My hope is to live in a country where there’s only summer and a lot of kind-hearted people. Hope is for even a criminal facing the death penalty to have a good heart.”

by Ines Cho
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