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Offering children the chance to learn about the evils of war

Apr 14,2018
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At the “#NOwar” exhibition held at Hello Museum in eastern Seoul, families can view works that deal with the different sides of war. On display are works from four artists including Ozawa Tsuyoshi’s “Vegetable Weapon,” left, and Ha Tae-bum’s “Face Series 50,” right. [HELLO MUSEUM]
Contrary to the particular geopolitical situation surrounding the Korean peninsula, children in Korea are seldom taught about the devastating details of war. Hello Museum, a children’s art museum in Geumho-dong, eastern Seoul, seeks to offer children and their parents an opportunity to think about war while becoming familiar with art early in life. The “#NOwar” exhibition, which will be held through June 25, is a chance for families to come together while enjoying works of art that depict different elements of war and the people affected by the devastating aftermath.

“When working with children’s museums abroad, we have been asked many times - ‘What is the message that you are sending to children regarding the socio-political situation with North Korea?’” said Kim Ysaac, director of the museum. “We realized that we needed to take a stance on the matter, especially because of our role as a children’s art museum. Since the idea of war is difficult, it has only been dealt with lightly in children’s education so far.”

To give children an understanding of the realities of war, the destructive forces that drive victims into despair and what can be done to prevent acts of mass violence, the exhibit features four artists who shed light on the different sides of war: Jeon Joon-ho, Hur Bo-ree, Ha Tae-bum and Ozawa Tsuyoshi. While Jeon and Ha focus on the darker sides of war and those affected by bloodshed, Hur and Ozawa depict peace and harmony and give a message of reconciliation for the future.

“Hyper Realism Statue Of Brother” by Jeon is a representation of how war separates families and friends, using the image of the “Statue of Brother” standing at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan, central Seoul. The original statue is of two brothers hugging each other tightly, but in Jeon’s work, the two come in contact but never actually get to hold each other in their arms.

Ha is known as a multidisciplinary artist who creates works across many different genres. In this exhibition, he presents photos, a video, a sculpture and engravings all in pure white - each standing in contrast with the brutality of war. With “Face Series 50,” Ha created acrylic panels that seem pure white from a distance and contain faces of third-world children when viewed from below.

“There are some things that can only be seen from children’s eyes, and the artist wanted the children [who visit the museum] to be able to see these suffering children from their point of view,” explained Kim Na-rae, curator of the museum.

Ozawa’s “Vegetable Weapon” may seem like an artist’s statement on making guns powerless like his vegetable guns, but his work is complete only when taken in full context with the whole process. He buys the vegetables at a local market, makes guns out of them, and after a photo shoot is complete, the artist shares a meal with the models’ friends and family - a ritual he referred to as “coming to understand each others’ cultures,” while visiting the museum on the exhibition’s opening day.

“War occurs when people don’t understand each other. Cooking and eating is not something just physical, but it’s an act of understanding each other and each others’ culture in the process,” said Ozawa.

After taking a look at the works on display, parents can sit down with their children and read books on war chosen by the museum while leaning on soft cushions made by artist Hur. The gigantic cushions are life-sized recreations of missiles and torpedoes used by the Korean army, but made with soft fabric and filled with wool.

“These are weapons, but weapons that can’t kill,” said Hur during the opening. “Weapons are usually stiff, cold and tough. I wanted to show a softer side for the children. So they look the same, but they can lean on comfortably against the cushions. Though the missiles are meant to kill, they have no ill intention themselves. They kill because people make them [do so.]”

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]



Admission costs 5,000 won ($4.68). To get to Hello Museum, get off at Singeumho Station, line No. 5, exit 1 and get on buses 2233 or 7212 and get off at the Geumho Junction station. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day and closed on Mondays.