The Mirror and the Swamp, or Representation of Division in Media and Art

Table of Contents

Even now, 66 years after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, South Korea and North Korea are still legally at war with each other. This has not developed into a full-fledged war, but cold-war politics have profoundly influenced South Korean society as a whole. To discuss the changes that the division of the two countries has caused in South Korean media, it is necessary to examine how South Korean artists are utilizing art, including film.

Che Onejoon’s Mansudae Masterclass presented an archive of North Korean cultural diplomacy and offered a fresh point of view subverting the image of North Korea as an isolated nation. The REAL DMZ PROJECT exhibition, a contemporary art project, initiated a discussion regarding the paradox of military power buildup in the demilitarized zone of the peninsula, thus questioning the meaning of true demilitarization.

South Korean cinema made great strides in the 1990s and has come to take belief and doubt as its central themes. The collectively held doubt of the characters in film reflects the core mechanisms of the South–North division.

Park explains the relations between these countries, which depend on each other for identity formation, using the metaphor of a “mirror.” Both countries continue to select opposing ideologies and systems and the ceasefire line is also a “swamp,” which drags them into endless competition. Park emphasizes that a new culture and art that resists division must go beyond these paradigms to establish a solid ground.