Yeouido bunker reopens as culture, arts space

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Yeouido bunker reopens as culture, arts space


Seoul Metropolitan Government opened the “SeMA Bunker” on Oct. 19, an underground bunker in Yeouido, western Seoul. The bunker will be run by the Seoul Museum of Art, which is holding the “Yeouido Modernity” exhibition in the bunker. Left: “Yeouido Reserve Forces Uniform” by fashion design brand Holominium. Right: “Junction” by Park Jung-geun and Cho In-chul. [YONHAP]

In 2005, when the Seoul Metropolitan Government began the construction of the Yeouido Bus Transfer Center in southwestern Seoul, construction workers found an unmarked underground bunker that had never been identified in any public documents. After revealing its existence to the public in 2015, the government decided to turn the bunker into a cultural space for citizens to enjoy and learn history. On Oct. 19, the Seoul Metropolitan Government held an opening ceremony for the bunker, newly transformed into the “SeMA Bunker.”

Although no document mentions when the bunker was built or what the purpose of the facility was, the government dated it to being built between 1976 and 1977 during the Park Chung Hee regime (1963-1979), based on analysis of satellite images that were taken during the time. “We assume that the facility was built with the purpose of evacuating former president Park Chung Hee at that time,” said Kim Joon-kee, head of the safety headquarters at the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

As the name suggests, SeMA Bunker will be run by the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), and will offer a variety of exhibitions that touch on the significance of the history of the bunker. Though its exact purpose is still a mystery, the fact that a secret room made during the military dictatorship has been remodeled and brought to life again adds a level of meaning to the walls of the room. “We’re happy to open this space for the public, as a cultural exhibit,” said Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul.

To celebrate the opening of the bunker, SeMA presents two exhibitions: “Yeouido Modernity” featuring work from four artist teams and “I, Park Chung-hee, and Bunker” by Yoon Jee-won, both through Nov. 26. “Yeouido Modernity” walks the visitors through the history that brought Korea to the modern era, mainly through photographs and videos. A section by Halominium called “Yeouido Reserve Forces Uniform” is an actual mini studio by the fashion brand, that reinterprets the military uniform in modern white. The outfit, made up of a jacket, pants, hat and belt, is made on-site and sold for 330,000 won ($291.45).

“I, Park Chung-hee, and Bunker” is held in a separate, smaller room of the bunker designated the History Gallery of SeMA. Within the gallery, Yoon shows how the image of Park Chung Hee has been embedded within Korean history, through a video featuring actor Lee Chang-hwan, who gained fame playing the former dictator. Visitors can also sit on the sofa that was left in the bunker decades ago.

Meanwhile, as a part of the city government’s endeavor to regenerate old facilities across the city that have been abandoned for years, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will also open the “Gyeonghui Palace Bunker” and the “Sinseol-dong Ghost Station” later this month, both of which have been forgotten and left for years.

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