Korean artists commemorate fall of Berlin Wall

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Korean artists commemorate fall of Berlin Wall


From left, Suh Yong-sun, Ahn Kyu-chul, Hwang Sok-yong and Michael Jeismann answer questions at a press conference at the Goethe-Institut in central Seoul last Friday, with the panels they designed in the background.Provided by the National Museum of Contemporary Art

Although they’re half a world away from each other, Korea and Germany share a key bond: Both countries know the pain of division.

While the Korean Peninsula remains split into northern and southern halves, Germany was able to smash the barrier separating its eastern and western regions two decades ago.

Recognizing the link between the two countries, three Korean artists will each decorate a panel to be erected in front of the Brandenburg Gate on Nov. 9 in Berlin, Germany, as part of a larger display to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the National Museum of Contemporary Art and the Goethe-Institut in Korea announced last week.

The display, organized by Michael Jeismann, will feature 1,000 Styrofoam panels stretching from the Potsdam Square intersection to the Reichstag building, symbolizing the notorious barrier that once divided Germany. The fall of the wall led to the reunification of Germany in 1990 and the end of the Cold War.

Each Styrofoam panel measures 250 centimeters (8.2 feet) high, 120 centimeters wide and 40 centimeters thick. As part of the celebration, the panels will topple like dominoes to symbolize the destruction of the wall.

The panels were distributed to schools, groups, sponsors, partners and artists in Germany, China, Israel, Yemen, Korea, Mexico, Palestine and Cyprus for styling. Among them, three were distributed in Korea - one given to painter and sculptor Suh Yong-sun, one to sculptor Ahn Kyu-chul and one to acclaimed author Hwang Sok-yong.

The three have been working on the panels at the contemporary art museum’s studio in Goyang, Gyeonggi, since July.

Hwang wrote several lines from his novel “Garden” - which depicts people who fought for democracy in the 1980s - on the panel in both Korean and German. The lines highlight a scene from the book where a Korean woman is watching the fall of the wall and thinking of her lover jailed in Korea. Born in Manchuria in January 1943, Hwang personally experienced the fall of the wall in Berlin. After visiting North Korea in 1989 without a government permit, he lived in exile in Berlin for some years. When he returned to South Korea in 1993, he was immediately sentenced to seven years in prison for breaking national security laws.

Ahn, a professor of visual art at the Korea National University of Arts, created different images of men climbing and jumping over walls on his panel. He also witnessed the fall of the wall while studying in Germany. “It was touching, and I was very envious,” Ahn said. “I was hoping that the same thing would happen in Korea.”

Suh, formerly a professor of fine art at Seoul National University, painted a guard on both sides of the panel. “When I saw Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, I thought of Korea,” Suh said, referring to a famous crossing point on the wall.

The panels will be on display at the Goethe-Institut through Sept. 18. For more information, visit www.goethe.de/ges/prj/mar/enindex.htm.

By Limb Jae-un [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

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