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A Groundbreaking Art Gallery Near the North-South Korean Border

The Yeongang Gallery on the border of the two Koreas is promoting the power of local talent... and peace. By KARRYN MILLER.

Published on Sep 15, 2016


MOST TRIPS to a museum don't require a military escort, but then Yeongang Gallery is not your typical art space. Above the South Korean Civilian Control Line, which runs alongside the Demilitarized Zone (commonly known as the DMZ), the gallery is the first of its kind to open near the heavily armed border.

Yeongang Gallery exterior
The exterior of Yeongang Gallery depicts scenes of local landscape. Courtesy of Yeongang Gallery.

The site of fierce fighting during the Korean War is now verdant countryside as a result of it being designated for agriculture more than half a century ago. Despite an initial sense of unease upon entry—visitors must pass through a military checkpoint and be escorted by a soldier—the region, and the gallery itself, is remarkably tranquil.

The inaugural exhibition by Han Sungpil, titled "Innocence," echoes this by showing the rugged beauty of the area through photographs and video installations, rather than highlighting that the 1950-53 war still has not officially ended. The gallery, formerly a "security exhibition hall," displaying the belonging of spies and defectors to raise awareness about North Korean threats, has now been transformed into an ode to peace with part of its façade consisting of towering whitewashed shutters with plaques framing messages of reconciliation from foreign embassies.

Open Sky
One of Han's photos of Yeoncheon County titled Open Sky. Courtesy of Yeongang Gallery.

A market and café round out the space, which opened in May 2016. The market sells a selection of locally produced goods, from honey to tea. The simple, almost rustic café is a pleasant stop for a cappuccino and homemade cake before either heading to the nearby Taepung Observatory to get a better look at North Korea, or starting the two-hour drive back to central Seoul. That's the benefit of being on the border: from one vantage you get a glimpse of two different worlds.

"Innocence" exhibition by photographer Han Sungpil. Courtesy of Yeongang Gallery.

"Innocence" exhibition runs until November 20, 2016; +82 2 2268 1973;; free entry, photo ID required.



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Outside Yeongang Gallery. Courtesy of Yeongang Gallery.
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