From IDs to diaries - personal objects of those displaced by the Korean War
When the news broke that a war had begun in Korea scared civilians did not have much time to think let alone decide what to pack as they fled their homes in fear of invading soldiers.
A collection of items that civilians carried has been organized for a special exhibition at the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History in central Seoul to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War (1950-1953).
The exhibition is divided into five sections. The first section introduces items that show how increasingly difficult it was for people to travel across the 38th demarcation line in the years between Korea’s independence from Japan in 1945 and the outbreak of the war.
“An identification card was issued to people that the South Korean government felt they had to watch closely,” the museum said in its explanatory note for a type of ID card issued by the South Korean government in 1949. “People who carried these identification cards were regularly investigated and questioned by the police.”
A type of national identification card issued in North Korea is also on display at the exhibition.
“This is an identification card issued in the North to all people aged over 18,” the museum said. “Anyone the authorities deemed suspicious or unreliable had their ID card confiscated. Thus you would have been in trouble if you could not produce an ID card at the request of authorities.”
A wooden box carried by the parents of a man named Lee Soon-dong is also included in the first section of the exhibition. Lee’s parents were living in North Korea in the 1940s but decided to move south of the demarcation line “to flee from communist ideologies" before the war, the museum said.
The second section of the exhibition details what people actually went through during the outbreak of the war on June 25, 1950. A diary entry from June 25, 1950, from a person living in Seoul explains how there “just wasn’t much information out and about for ordinary citizens to learn of the outbreak of the war,” according to the museum.
The final section of the exhibition shows items carried by people who were separated from their families by the time the armistice agreement was signed in 1953, including diary entries from 1959 to 1999 by a woman named Seong Kap-sun, whose husband was kidnapped.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]