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Yasukuni spirits set ablaze at IhoDocumentary photographer burns his artwork in symbolic act to mark Korean liberation
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승인 2015.10.07  14:43:25
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Kwon Choul said he wanted people to reconsider how they think about Korean liberation through his work. Photo by Eric Hevesy

All photos by Eric Hevesy Photography. To see more of his work click here.

A street photo exhibition drew to a dramatic close at Jeju’s Iho Tewoo Beach with the symbolic burning of a pile of the exhibits on Sunday evening, Oct 4.

Renowned photojournalist Kwon Choul set ablaze dozens of his photographs of the Japanese Yasukuni Shrine to commemorate 70 years since Korea’s liberation from Japan.

The Korean Performing Arts Development lead the march to the site. Photo by Eric Hevesy

The high-spirited event was the culmination of a celebratory procession led by members of The Korean Performing Arts Development.

In traditional dress, the performers filled the air with the sound of Korean folk percussion music as Kwon and friends, including the haenyeo women divers, paraded photographs of Yasukuni across the beachfront.

The hard-hitting images, captured over 10 years, were then placed on a wooden crate before the photographer poured on paraffin and ignited them – an act Kwon performed to challenge Korean people’s attitudes to peace and independence.

A celebratory atmosphere pervaded the event. Photo by Eric Hevesy

The event culminates a series of Kwon’s exhibitions held this summer, most recently at Jeju City Hall where some 40 Yasukuni Shrine photographs were put on display.

Curator and event organiser Jung Sinji said she hoped both the displays and the incineration had challenged people’s perceptions of what Korean independence means seven decades on.

“We have met lots of people and the reaction has been really great. I’ve already had a few friends saying they got goosebumps.”

“I strongly feel a lot of people have got emotionally involved. I wish everyone will feel they have joined something and rethink about what is Korean independence,” said Jung.

The village is also close to the heart of photographer Kwon, who recently held an exhibition looking at development and the lives of Iho’s diving women.

Kwon Choul stands next to his burning work at Iho Tewoo Beach. Photo by Eric Hevesy

The site of the exhibition was also carefully chosen, flanked by the ocean and Mt. Hallasan, and home to a haenyeo changing room where the diving women relax. Controversially, it is also earmarked for a large Chinese resort and casino.

By showcasing his work in such a setting, Kwon aims to raise awareness of social issues among people who wouldn’t otherwise visit an exhibition or gallery.

Jung said: “Kwon wanted to make this event today here because he has a mission as a documentary photographer to get involved and try to help to protect this land.... He says he has a responsibility to help make it better.”

The photos fully ablaze. Photo by Eric Hevesy

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