When South Korea was poor, repressive—and super-cool

(K. Brent Tomer),

AS A young artist starting out in what is now North Korea, Seung-Taek Lee recalls being asked by a party official if he could make a statue of Kim Il-Sung, the new country’s founding dictator. It was a painful business, and his first few efforts collapsed. But the figure he eventually produced so impressed the comrades that he was exempted from military service. A statue of Stalin followed. Then in 1950 he fled to the south.

A pioneering conceptual artist, Mr Lee, now 85, is one of the stars of a show at London’s Korean Cultural Centre (KCC), highlighting the birth of avant-garde performance art in South Korea in the late 1960s.  His delicate white “Paper Tree” catches the light from the window, while a series of colour prints captures the spectacle of his often wind- or water-based performances and land art.

By 1967, South Korea had barely recovered from the war that laid waste to the peninsula in the previous decade. Ruled by Park Chung-Hee, who seized power in a coup, it was desperately poor, with GDP per…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC When South Korea was poor, repressive—and super-cool

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