“Kaesong Industrial Complex”

This group show examines the historical implications and imaginative potentials of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a bold symbol of economic cooperation that was launched in North Korea, just across the Demilitarized Zone, in 2004 and shut down in 2016 due to political accusations from both countries. In the wake of the historic inter-Korean summit of April 2018, the exhibition deftly addresses the relevance of this now-defunct political experiment.
The show begins with archival materials: an installation offering think-tank reports, newspaper clippings, and governmental documents, presented in a monotonous grid that brings to mind assembly lines. This rudimentary aesthetics of administration, to borrow a phrase from Benjamin Buchloh, does not dispel the sentimental qualities that linger in the following rooms. For instance, Im Heung-soon’s Road to Brother Peak (all works cited, 2018), a sixteen-minute, two-channel video projection showing the artist’s own painstaking but fruitful climb, with a coffin on his back, to the titular summit on Bukhan Mountain, is an allegory of the bumpy road to reunification. Meanwhile, Yoo Soo’s photography series “Workers from the North/South in KIC” evokes dramatic emotions, largely due to his subjects’ surreal togetherness. Finally, with Going to Work Regularly, a sequence of large-scale, ink-painted chiffon banners gently suspended from the ceiling, Jeong Jeong-yeop renders female workers from North Korea as ephemerally beautiful and ideologically healthy. The affecting atmosphere of the show never comes across as a failure, and that’s not just because it’s finely curated by art historian Park Carey, but also because it reaches the heart of the exhibition’s theme: the volatile nature of inter-Korean relations.
July 6, 2020
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