Freedom Village

Freedom Village. 2017. Single channel video with sound. 12min. 15sec.

The title of the exhibition Freedom Village Freedom Village is located in plains that lie near a river that flows out to the West Sea. There is a mountain in front of the village, and according to folklore sand was pushed all the way up to this area and piled high when a great food took place sometime long ago. Although there is no exact record when people started residing here, it seems that the village was founded no later than 1 CE. This assumption is based on relics that have been excavated near the village. However, it was only decades ago that it began being called by its present name, and only after reestablishing peace after a long civil war. Those who played a leading role in the truce reestablished a village here, even though people could not live here because it was too close to the military demarcation line, and then named it “Freedom Village.”

The Freedom village exists yet coexists regardless of the real world. It is hoped that the project will present an opportunity for the visitors to go beyond the clichéd perception that the Village is a peculiar political situation in Korea and rather discover the irrationality and contradictions of our surrounding world as well as refect upon the communal life of humanity

There, overfowing with experiment equipment that seem old and antiquated, happen strange incidents. What kind of experiment could it be? The incidents, which are diffcult to imagine, transcend time and space, overlapping with the image of a monk sweeping the yard of the temple under the scorching sun, that is, as if suggesting they are just a moment’s time. Inside the laboratory, thunder-like electricity is generated, and the indicators of the dashboard shudder like crazy. It is at this moment that a documentary of the Korean War is turned on, on the old television. War atrocities and strange experiments continue, and time and space – ambiguous in that it is unknown whether it is in the past or present – cross over each other. This flm examines the political anxieties and conficts that occur due to the division of the Korean peninsula, establishing itself as a space for metaphor and a horizon of imagination by correcting the mistakes in human history as well as revealing the world of contradictions.

Daeseong-dong (Freedom Village), Paju is the only village located in the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). According to the administrative district, it is officially listed as Josan-ri, Gunnae-myeon, Paju, Gyeonggi-do. Panmunjeom is located one kilometer northeast from this village, while the military demarcation line sits 400 meters west. As of July 2014, there were 48 households (51 families), or 208 people (100 men and 108 women), residing here. Most of these people are direct descendants of the original residents of the same village at the time the truce agreement for the Korean War was signed in 1953.

Residents make their living mainly by farming. The average household cultivates about 99,000 m2 of farmland, so they have a relatively high income for their line of work. Male residents in this village also have the option to not enlist in the army, something that is otherwise mandatory for all other Korean males. Although residents do not have the legal right to own the land they farm, they are exempt from all local taxes. Furthermore, residents have their identities checked with passes instead of ID cards. As they have to be in the village at least 240 days a year in order to maintain their right of residence, the civilian administration office verifies the number of people in the village on a daily basis. Armed soldiers attached to the United Nations Command are stationed there 365 days a year to ensure the safety of villagers and to aid in the possible rescue of citizens in the case of an emergency.

Freedom Village has a long and distinguished history. In addition, it looks unlike any other farming village in Korea because it represents the solemn reality of a divided country more than anywhere else on the peninsula. Directly beside the civilian administration office is a 100-meter-high flag pole flying the South Korean flag. This flag pole was originally located on the hill where Daeseong-dong Town Hall (Freedom House) now stands, but it was moved to its present location in 1980. After being moved, authorities made the flagpole even taller. In line with the height of the pole, the size of the South Korean flag is 12 meters wide and 19 meters long. North Korea’s Gijeong-dong (Peace Village), which lies just north of the military demarcation line, flies a North Korean flag, and the flagpole is actually 165 meters high. In July 1953, when the truce agreement ending the Korean War was signed, the two villages were established according to an article that stated “The North and South shall each establish one village respectively in the Demilitarized Zone.” Although the two villages lie just 1.8 kilometers apart, they have not had any exchanges with each other since the true agreement was signed.