3 Koreans Will Be Part of German Unification Ceremony

2009-09-06 : 20:36


By Kim Se-jeong
Staff Reporter

Imagine a Styrofoam brick that is 2.5 meters long and one meter wide.

On Nov. 9 in Berlin, Germany, a thousand of these bricks will be lined up in front of the Brandenburg Gate ― a former city gate and one of the main symbols of Berlin ― and will fall one by one like dominos.

The grand spectacle is what the Goethe Institute, Germany's worldwide cultural institution, is planning for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What makes the project more interesting is that the institute has invited 30 artists from seven countries where there are still walls that divide people to paint the bricks.

Korea's National Museum of Contemporary Art (NMCA), the institute's partner for the "Journey of the Wall" project, helped to choose three artists ― Hwang Sok-young, Ahn Kyu-chul and Suh Yong-sun ― and each was given a brick.

After three months, the three revealed their completed works to the public.

At the Goethe Institute Korea in Seoul on Aug. 25, more than 100 people gathered, roaming around each of the three bricks, studying their paintings and trying to grasp meanings.

Hwang filled his brick with words - both in Korean and German - describing the state of separation and confinement.

Hwang, who is a novelist, has a unique attachment to Germany.

He lived in exile in the European country for a few years after visiting North Korea illegally in 1989, for which he was imprisoned.

His experience in Germany and North Korea left him with novels that touched on the issue of the division.
Michael Jeismann, head of the Goethe Institute from Berlin, was present and congratulated the artists on the completion of their works.

"We not only want to celebrate the 20 years since the fall of the wall alone, but we would like to let the German people know about divided nations all over the world, about old and new separations for political, religious or economical reasons," Jeismann said, explaining why the institute runs the project.

"It is to show Germans the walls around the world, and is to show the people in the world that we know that not every nation is as lucky as we were in 1989."

Lee Eun-sook, an artist who lived in Germany for three years, praised the idea for its creativity.

"It's very creative that they (the Goethe Institute) came up with the idea."

The institute managed to invite North Korean refugees to the ceremony to present a musical performance.
Besides Korea, it has invited artists from Yemen, Cyprus, the Palestinian territories, Israel, Mexico and China.

The rest of the 970 bricks are being done by local German artists and organizations, Jeismann said.
He said he wanted to invite North Korea as well. However, "when we were trying to approach them in the spring, the political situation wasn't so good."

That was when the tension on the Korean Peninsula was unprecedented, as North Korea fired several rockets into the Pacific Ocean.

The institute opened its center in Pyongyang in 2004 as the first and only independent European entity dedicated to cultural promotion.

The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the Cold War, fell on Nov. 9, 1989. Its destruction has carried a big implication that has danced on lips of many people since then.

The three bricks still remain in Seoul available for viewing until Sept. 18 when they will be flown to Berlin.
The German director wished for the prompt reunification of two Koreas.

"It is totally clear that the Korean Peninsula after reunification will face enormous problems, economically, mentally and socially, just like Germany. But it's worth the effort. Believe me."

skim@koreatimes.co.kr