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Sunjung Kim is a leading independent curator in the South Korean contemporary art world. She has been deeply involved in the internationalization of South Korean art, successfully curating numerous art festivals and organizing contemporary art exhibitions in and outside her country. In the REAL DMZ PROJECT, exhibited in Cheorwon since 2012, she has developed a unique approach to the demilitarized zone that lies between South and North Korea. In this interview, Kim responds to questions about the project, and the relationship of art to memory and politics.
Kim notes that she began the project to produce an opportunity for people to visit the location in person and think about the DMZ. She explains that it is important to remember the reality of division when one imagines the conditions that will follow the reunification of North and South Korea.
Thus far the project has been run as an annual art exhibit open for a fixed period. Kim says that she now has plans to build a permanent collection of works in Cheorwon that would be open to the public at all times. Festivals like biennales effectively show many works produced in a short period of time. She says that this is precisely why she wants to take the time to carefully produce and exhibit works in this project.
There are currently plans to build a theme park-like tourist venue in Cheorwon. In response, Kim has proposed the idea of a new “garden” that will preserve the traces and memories of individuals related to the DMZ. A “museum” simply offers a space to arrange collected objects. In contrast, Kim notes that she would like to create a “garden” to nurture traces and memories.
According to Kim, division is not unique to South Korea. There are divisions of varying kinds between South Korea and its neighboring countries; furthermore, there are countries in situations similar to that of South Korea. Kim states that she would like to make this project an international endeavor and thus share experiences with artists having similar concerns from around the world.