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UnforgettableA photography exhibition commemorating the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami is on in Jeju City until March 18
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승인 2012.03.15  09:25:14
페이스북 트위터
▲ Photo by Douglas MacDonald

Douglas MacDonald has lived on Jeju and photographed it for over 10 years. -- Ed.

I have a special place in my heart for Japan. I lived in the country for 3 years after I graduated from university. It was my first time overseas and I made many great memories and lifelong friendships there while learning a lot about myself along the way. In many ways the country and its people shaped me into the person I am today. So, when I first saw the news about the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that rolled over Japan's northeastern coastline, I was shocked and deeply saddened.

One year later, the tragedy still fresh in my mind, I entered Jeju Students Culture Center in Jeju City to view a photo exhibition of this devastating event. As I entered the room, I was caught off-guard by a huge mural on the wall filled with a striking patchwork of brightly colored pictures drawn by Japanese elementary school students. The pictures were filled with messages of hope, an encouraging sign. Beside it stood letters from children expressing their gratitude for the help and messages of support they received from Korea.

▲ Photo by Douglas MacDonald

▲ Photo by Douglas MacDonald
▲ Photo by Douglas MacDonald

The first few photos showed an equally colorful and positive side of Japan: a sunset at a pier, fall colors in a forest and smiling dancers at a festival. The tone of the exhibit quickly changed in the next image, however, as I came upon a spectacular scene taken from the air showing the first giant waves hitting the coastline, sea spray flying high in the air as trees were toppled and houses destroyed. This was followed by a heart-wrenching photo of soldiers carrying panic-stricken children down a flooded road.

It was just the beginning of a series of unforgettable images. A single, "miracle" tree stands alone in a town once surrounded by over 70,000 trees. A group of boys carry a basketball net and backboard through the rubble of their neighborhood. A young child helps shovel mud from his family's house. A woman, the emotion apparent in her eyes, tightly clutches an old letter to her chest, all that remains of belongings washed away in the tsunami.

Most intriguing were photos that showed the contrast between towns immediately after the disaster and their appearance a few months later, garbage and debris long since cleared away but much reconstruction still needed.

The final image of the exhibition will stay with me for a long time. Like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie, the photo shows the silhouette of a woman driving along an empty road, overturned cars piled up on either side and the fiery glint of a city engulfed in flames behind her.

Jeju Students Culture Center
414 Ido 2(i)-dong
Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea

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