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A Soldier's Tale: 60 years of Memories, 130 Years of Friendship

A Soldier's Tale exhibition at Asia House, 8-20 July 2013 60th Anniversary of the Ceasefire of the Korean War Marks the 130th anniversary of UK-Korea Diplomatic Relations Organised by ISKAI Art and curated by Stephanie Seungmin Kim
    LONDON, ENGLAND, July 07, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- A Soldier's Tale is an exhibition inspired by the stories of British soldiers; real and tragic yet dramatically inspiring. It is not a manifesto of political views or ideological endorsements but rather, a journey of courage, brotherhood, despair and human endurance. It will run at Asia House, London from 8-20 July 2013.

The Korean War, often called 'The Forgotten War', represented one of the bloodiest episodes in 20th century military history. Troops from over 20 nations fought bitterly for three years, which, after four million civilian and military casualties, ultimately ended in a stalemate. The War marked an important cornerstone in world history: the first cold war conflict and one that is still, technically, continuing. Yet its veterans - Korean, British or other - have quietly faded into oblivion.

While this year has seen a new, and a hitherto relatively unknown, young leader of North Korea break a 60-year old truce to trigger "the most serious crisis" since the Korean War, this exhibition takes place in the month commemorating the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire and also coincides with the 130th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the UK and Korea.

A Soldier's Tale consists of 19 works by 14 artists. It also includes 30 photographs of the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone), both past and present, by seven photographers. The artworks respond in diverse ways and encourage visitors to reflect upon the untold pain, optimism and perseverance of the Korean people as well as the soldiers involved in its war. The exhibition aims to bring out new perspectives by bringing together the unnatural; foreign subjects processed through local eyes and minds, the old (war veterans) and the young (post-war generation artists), and maybe the 'forgotten' versus the 'forgetting.'

A Soldier's Tale is constructed in three parts. Visitors first enter the exhibition via the 'Soldier's Universe', a remodelled room of British-Korean War Veteran David Kamsler OBE by Soonhak Kwon. War memorabilia fill a deeply personalised wall, each accentuating his fragility and fading past. Anna Paik also paints a portrait of Kamsler, a special reflection of someone who has no family left.

Accounts of the Gloucestershire Regiment's legendary battle inspired three artists in the room entitled 'Imjin River'. Leenam Lee's Park Yeon Waterfall represents a constant yet forceful division of a country that lingers on. Meanwhile, Suknam Yoon's carved and painted 500 totem-like wooden figurines, 500-Returned draw on a millennium-old Korean tradition guarded by Shamanism. This ritual aspect of Yoon's work is spiritually intimate to but stylistically contrasting to Jiho Won's From One Point of View, an incised black carpet, which, when placed on a stony surface, transforms into the monumental lines of 750 coffins. Jeong Hwa Choi's striking installation of 750 bright red plastic flowers, Winter Garden, creates a sea of blood-tinged chrysanthemums. The white chrysanthemum is a funeral flower in the East but Choi's are deliberately reborn in bright red, invoking poppies or reincarnation.

The third section of the exhibition, 'The Enduring War', opens with a video projection by Yongbaek Lee, who represented Korea at the Venice Biennale 2011. Lee's Angel-Soldier is camouflaged in flowers and is a playful take on the obligatory (yet far from leisurely) national army service in South Korea. This iconic image is juxtaposed with a slide show of 30 photographs that convey past and present images of the demilitarised zone (DMZ).

The exhibition revisits symbolic places and incidents of the division with Taeeun Kim's Triple War. The three channel video screens his narrative, 'The Marines Who Didn't Come Home' (1963), and 'Wolmi Island' (1983). Wil Bolton's Baengnyeong Island was shot during his residency with the Incheon Art Platform, during which he travelled to South Korea's northernmost island that borders North Korean territory. Seungah Paik's large painting murals depict herself, a post-war generation artist, in meditational postures of Buddha, signifying the values of sacrifice and spirituality, as seen in MAITREYA. Similarly, the burnt candles placed on a chandelier by Woody Kim in Illusiomination(Illusion+Illumination) question the meaning of loss, and, inevitably, lost causes.

A Soldier's Tale celebrates the close ties that Korea and the UK have maintained for the last 130 years since diplomatic relations began. Shan Hur fuses the ideas of friendship and memories in his installation Broken Prop. The exhibition aims to honour and protect such memories lest they fade away, as most British veterans of the Korean War are now in their 80s and 90s. Locco also retells their personal stories in a stone carving, We Won't Fight For Another Rich Man's war and Yongho Kim's camera lens captures lotus leaves of Korea in the meditative Pian 2011-001, an oriental religious symbol of peaceful rebirth.

Notes to Editors

About ISKAI Art
Based in London, but working across Asia and Europe, ISKAI Contemporary Art commissions and produces unique public art projects by outstanding contemporary artists. ISKAI collaborates with various institutions to bridge different cultures, arts and dialogues, specialising in trans-cultural activities promoting Contemporary artists of Asia in Europe. ISKAI combines artistic advice, curatorial service and project management to form a comprehensive consultation for public and private sector organisations seeking to commission works of art or develop collections of contemporary art and design. ISKAI works with artists, policy makers and implementers within the public and private sectors. They carry out research, support events, deliver training, and commission new writings as well as publications. For more information, visit http://www.iskaiart.com

About Stephanie Seungmin Kim, Director ISKAI Contemporary Art
Stephanie Seungmin Kim is a curator based in London. From 2007 to 2011, Kim was the main curator and founding member of the Korean Cultural Centre UK. During her tenure she curated and managed over 40 exhibitions including the Liverpool Biennial 2010's City States Media Landscape, and Earth Alert: Photographic Responses to Climate Change which was a touring exhibition with thirteen international photographers (visiting London, Seoul and a part to Copenhagen). Founding ISKAI Contemporary Art in 2011, she divides her time between Asia and Europe.

About Asia House
Asia house, the leading pan-Asian organisation in the UK, exists to build dynamic links with Asia. By providing unique insights into culture, policy, business and education, Asia House promotes informed understanding and the mutual exchange of ideas, building stronger relationships between the diverse communities of Europe and Asia. Asia House runs public events programmes in the arts and culture, business, economics, policy and politics covering 40 countries form the Persian Gulf to the Pacific. Highlights of the annual programme include the Pan-Asia Film Festival in March, the Festival of Asian Literature in May and the Asian Business Leaders Summit in October. Historical and Contemporary art from Asia is displayed in a varied exhibitions programme running throughout the year. Asia House is a non-profit, non-political organisation. Asia House received the Charity Finance Award for Arts, Culture & Heritage in 2005. For more information, visit http://www.asiahouse.org

About The Korean War
The Korean War (25 June 1950 - 27 July 1953) was a war between the Republic of Korea (South Korea), supported by the United Nations, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), at one time supported by the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. It was primarily the result of the political division of Korea by an agreement of the victorious Allies at the conclusion of the Pacific War at the end of World War II. The Korean Peninsula was ruled by the Empire of Japan from 1910 until the end of World War II. Following the surrender of the Empire of Japan in September 1945, American administrators divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel, with U.S. military forces occupying the southern half and Soviet military forces occupying the northern half. The failure to hold free elections throughout the Korean Peninsula in 1948 deepened the division between the two sides; the North established a communist government, while the South established a right-wing government. The 38th parallel increasingly became a political border between the two Korean states. Although reunification negotiations continued in the months preceding the war, tension intensified. Cross-border skirmishes and raids at the 38th Parallel persisted. The situation escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950. In 1950, the Soviet Union boycotted the United Nations Security Council, in protest at representation of China by the Kuomintang/Republic of China government, which had taken refuge in Taiwan following defeat in the Chinese Civil War. In the absence of a dissenting voice from the Soviet Union, who had the power to veto it, the United States and other countries passed a Security Council resolution authorising military intervention in Korea.

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