Young Sun Han | Passages From a Memoir and Tourist in the Dark are two bodies of work merged into one installation. Both were created in 2018 when the artist journeyed to South Korea to document specific locations mentioned in his grandfather’s memoir (published in 1984 and recently translated to English) — a family narrative about agrarian life upturned by the arrival of the Korean war in 1950.
While exploring his ancestral lineage (through travel, genealogy, and a North Korean history class at Rutgers University) Young Sun discovered a more nuanced understanding of the divided countries. This included learning of the 4:3 Uprising and Massacre at Jeju Island; an under-recognized politicide whereby tens of thousands of civilians were killed by their own government under auspices of US military command.
Young Sun has layered these historical narratives together with his personal experiences in the expat enclaves of Seoul exploring nightlife and the gay scene, and all the while watching as the former US president, Donald J. Trump made headlines with his escalating rhetoric and political summit with North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un. The artist presents a multi-perspectival view of his relationship to the land, history, and ongoing realities of the Korean diaspora.
An excerpt from Young Sun Han’s grandfather about his escape from North Korea before the war:
Deukgwon Han, Crossing the Line (memoir except)
A fictional short story that describes the dramatic political turn in Korea during both Japanese and Russian occupation in the latter 20th century.
Kapitan Lee by Chon Kwang-yong
To learn more about Jeju Island: