Cover image of the review
YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES, OUR DMZ (film still), 2021, Original text and music soundtrack, HD video, flexible dimensions, 21 min. Courtesy of the artist.

Negotiating Borders

2 Apr 2022
Korean Cultural Centre Australia 28 Jan - 29 Mar 2022

The Korean War (1950–53) is often referred to as the “Forgotten War”. Forgotten because its media coverage was censored and its memory overshadowed by both World War II and the Vietnam War. And yet, over seventeen thousand Australians served in it, and Australia became the second nation, behind the United States, to commit personnel from all three armed services. In doing so, Australia played a key role in a war that resulted in the death of more than three million Korean civilians and the construction and maintenance of one of the world’s most heavily militarised borders.

Australia is, however, good at forgetting its wars. It actively forgets the Frontier Wars, its military involvement in the Cold War, its occupation of Papua New Guinea by Australian forces until 1975 and Australia’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003. The list goes on.

Forgetting warrants artistic interventions of active remembrance. Refusing to confront a military past serves to justify ongoing militarisation. Negotiating Borders at the Korean Cultural Centre Australia in Sydney provides just such a critical form of active remembrance. This traveling exhibition was initiated by curator Sunjung Kim in 2011 as part of the Real DMZ Project. The Real DMZ Project focuses on the “demilitarised zone” (the DMZ), a strip of land 248 kilometres long and four kilometres wide that stretches along the Korean Peninsula. Established after the Korean War in 1953, the DMZ separates North and South Korea. The Real DMZ Project explores this border as a product and symbol of the Korean Peninsula’s ongoing political and cultural tensions (including its record sixty-nine-year ceasefire) through curatorial and artistic research. The current staging of the project in Australia provides space for a much-needed critical perspective on the Korean War’s legacy both here, and beyond our borders.

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