Ki Hyeok Kim│General Director of the Inter-Korean Transit Office
My journey with the beautiful UniMARU began about ten years ago, before its rebirth when it was an abandoned building used as a transit office to Gaeseong Industrial Complex. This was a long time ago when the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) occupied my thoughts, and I was searching for inspiration.
I visited the Musée d’Orsay during my training in Berlin. Moving downstairs, after enjoying the famous paintings of Impressionist masters, I noticed a large clock hanging on the opposite wall. This unlocked a barrage of questions: Since when had the clock been there? How did Orsay come to be? How much was the famous Eiffel Tower initially hated by the Parisians? How did the Angel of the North in Gateshead, at the far end of England, stand on that hill? And my envy towards West Bund in Shanghai began. One question led to another, and that was the beginning of my journey that would go on to give me great pleasure and joy.
To satisfy my curiosity and ignorance towards art, this process of questioning everything has continued, along with my tendency to be a “history geek” and a happy “lover of culture.” The opportunity to reinvigorate an art space and open the 2021 DMZ Art & Peace Platform exhibition after coming to the Inter-Korean Transit Office in Dorasan, Paju felt like destiny.
The DMZ holds various meanings, such as being a symbol of division and confrontation while being a thriving ecosystem, but it is now reborn as a place for beauty and peace: a cultural space for peaceful unification. The creation of the cultural space for peaceful unification began in 2021 as a symbolic project of ‘Transforming the DMZ into an International Peace Zone’, which was agreed upon at the Inter-Korean Summit at Panmunjom in 2018. It is intended to be used as a space for South and North Korea to hold art festivals and various social gatherings together in the future.
I would like to thank and congratulate the Cultural Cooperation Team and the entire Inter-Korean Transit Office staff for taking on the historic task of making the DMZ a beautiful, peaceful space and returning it to the people. They have been walking together on this untraveled road and accomplishing everything with a sense of purpose, even under the most challenging conditions. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude for Professor Yeon Shim Chung of Hongik University, who took the position of artistic director, oversaw all exhibitions, and was our light in the dark. And to Professor Hyunjun Mihn (MPART Architects), who magically reinvented the former transit office (Chulgyeongdong) into the beautiful UniMARU art museum, as he had done at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, and all the 32 artists that allowed us to exhibit their incredible artworks in the east and west areas of the DMZ.
I look forward to the day the empty frames installed at the center of UniMARU are filled with beautiful artwork from North Korea.
Early autumn of 2021,
at Dorasan in Jangdanmyeon, Paju
Ki Hyeok Kim
General Director of the Inter-Korean Transit Office