UHD digital film, color, 20:13, 2020
What happens when a battleground becomes an amusement park, and a restricted military zone becomes a wildlife sanctuary? The Korean DMZ military tourism leads us to a new ideological wonderland.
The ideological conflicts between North and South Korea created a demilitarized zone, a 250- kilometre -long by 4 -kilometre-wide space located in the middle of the Korean Peninsula. This DMZ space was supposed to serve as a military buffer zone, but in reality, this space has been heavily armed and restricted for more than half a century. Without human traffic, wildlife thrived. The South Korean government tried to plan for using this space as a national wildlife preserve, but this is just a future plan for when the Korean War officially ends. In the meantime, South Korean DMZ tourism has slowly opened up and changed the borderland. When I had a chance to visit Dora observatory in the West Front Line, with the DMZ fences in the distance, I ran into a small group of German tourists. One of the older gentlemen came up and tried to speak with me. He had known a different barrier, along a wall, in a different country, another outpost in the ideological war between communism and capitalism. I later saw him looking out over the border by himself, engaged, examining it with a surprising intensity. This struck me as a powerful moment. This serious place with its half-silly commercialism and bizarre contradictions had real power over this man’s imagination. That brief moment in time, that encounter, was a touchstone moment for me. This film is about what this powerful ideological landscape means for us, in space and time.