I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this popular fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, but it is a story that I grew up with. “The Princess and the Pea” is a tale of a prince who is searching for a suitable wife, and the queen, wanting to test and confirm the royal identity of his potential wife resorts to testing her physical sensitivity by placing a pea under a high mound of mattresses and feather-beds. The test is deemed successful, if the lady is able to feel discomfort due to the pea.
This particular story seemed to resonate a chord with me with regards to the current issue between North and South Korea. According to the results of a recent poll I read sometime back, it seems like the number of South Korean youths seem to regard the issue of Korean Unification with less and less importance as compared to other issues that were deemed more ‘pressing’ such as getting into college and so on. I wanted to depict the idea that while South Koreans may be busy trying to stack up on their material comforts, in hope of attaining a higher satisfaction of living, they will never be completely feel comfortable as long as there is the issue of Korea being divided. They may choose to conveniently neglect the issue of Korean Unification, but they’ll never be able to forget or disregard it completely.
It goes without saying that perspectives are important. Its not realistic to paint everything as black and white, right and wrong. Even with regards to North Korea and the Korean unification issue, some might see North Korea as the main antagonist, frequently citing its human rights abuses and its inhumane treatment of its citizens.
Ultimately, how one perceives a certain issue depends on which vantage point one is looking from. From North Korea’s perspective, U.S. is seen as the main antagonist/’enemy’ that is impeding the whole unification process, whereas its vice versa for the U.S.
And while the U.S. villianizes North Korea, China on the other hand chooses to see North Korea as its ally (though it is questionable if their current alliance is as strong as it was in the past).
The Korean unification should not be fixated on who is ‘right’ or who is ‘wrong’ for Korea’s separation, but instead focus on the need to have Korean unification – restoring the status quo of the Korean peninsula.
This picture is pretty much self-explanatory. I wanted to depict how the North Korean regime keeps an iron-grip rule over its citizens, from dictating what they are to wear, eat, watch, to even the little minute things like their hair cuts. North Koreans pretty much aren’t allowed to do what they please and as long as they are under the North Korean regime, it seems unlikely that this trend will change anytime in the near future.
The term ‘star-crossed lovers’ is used to describe two people who are enamoured with one another, but are unable to be together due to their circumstances. This drawing is influenced by the Korean version of the star-crossed lovers, as told in the story of the ‘The Weaver and the Cow Herdsman’. The story tells us how two lovers were separated, but were allowed to be with each other once a year because of how their cries deeply evoked sympathy from the magpies who decided to form a bridge. Likewise, I wanted to depict the situation of the Korean peninsula like that of star-crossed lovers, of how the people in both North and South Korea desperately want to be unified, but are unable to due to the circumstances.
For those familiar with Greek mythology, the term ‘Pandora’s box’ may not be all too unfamiliar. The idea or expression regarding the opening of the Pandora’s box is usually associated with chaos, with the resultant consequences being completely unanticipated. Likewise, I wanted to express that the while the Korea’s unification is ideal, the unification of the two Koreas may result in entirely unanticipated outcomes.
No one knows what exactly will happen regarding the unification of the Korean peninsula, and at best, what we can do in the meanwhile is to preempt and prepare for all kinds of possible scenarios that may happen upon unification.
The image of an obstacle course came to mind, as I thought about the long, complicated and tedious route Korean defectors have to take to reach South Korea as their final destination. Contrary to common belief, as much as North Korea is geographically close in proximity to South Korea, North Korean defectors are not able to simply cross over to South Korea. The common route they usually take is first by crossing the Tumen River into Yanji, China, and thereafter stop over in Southeast Asian countries like Laos and Thailand, where they will be linked with people who ensure their safe passage into South Korea.
The ‘Scramble for Africa’ influenced this drawing of a ‘Scramble for Korea’. Although some aspects of the colonization/invasion/annexation are different, arguably, I feel that on the whole, they are similar in nature, in the sense that the separation of Korea occurred due to intervention by foreign powers who had/have vested interests on the Korean peninsula. The light blue colored area denotes the Korean peninsula, and the spoons represent the key foreign powers that are have had, and still have, significant influence over the Korean unification issue. I drew the foreign powers as spoons to demonstrate the keeness of these countries ‘digging into’ the Korean peninsula, which has borne weighty consequences in the process.