Korean Reflections | Images Across A Divide - Sean Gallagher - Photographer & Filmmaker | Beijing, China

Korean Reflections | Images Across A Divide

Posted by on Nov 24, 2010 in on assignment | No Comments

(Left) A CNN Newscast in a hotel room in Seoul, South Korea. (Right) An image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a child appears on a television in a hotel in Pyongyang.

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As anyone who has been watching the news in the past 24 hours will know, tensions on the Korean peninsula have been increasing very very quickly following the shelling of a small South Korean island, by the north Koreans yesterday. Tensions are nothing new, however after yesterday’s events it seems like attention is focused on the conflict more now than in many previous years.

(Left) A handgun from the Korean War in a museum on the South Korean side of the DMZ. (Right) A handgun is depicted during a dispaly at the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang, North Korea.

This seemed like a good time to release a short series that I have been playing with over the past few months, currently titled ‘Korean Reflections’. Readers of this blog and followers of my work will know that I have, relatively recently, had the chance to visit both North and South Korea. I travelled to North Korea in the autumn on 2009, as part of a 5-day undercover assignment for the Globe and Mail and this year I have visited South Korea three times, two times for corporate work and once for the Globe and Mail.

(Left) Two South Korean gentleman visit the DMZ on the South Korean side of the border. The DMZ serperates the two nations. (Right) On the opposite side of the DMZ, two North Korean soldiers.

During my trips and whilst spending time with my images, I started to see commonalities developing between the images from either side. At first, I notices small things, like a similarity between statues, or a flight of stairs. I then started to look for patterns further in the images and found quite a lot more. I have collected what I have found and placed the images which ‘reflect’ one another side-by-side, in order for you to see clearly the subtle similarities and stark differences between the two nations which are so close but at the same time, so far apart.

(Left) Two men waiting at a bus stop in Seoul, South Korea. (Right) People waiting at a bus stop in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Having been lucky enough to visit and photograph both of these countries, the differences between the two were the most striking aspect for me. South Korea is a modern and dynamic Asian country whilst North Korea seems to be stuck in what I can only think of as a time-warp. Both sides talk of reunification in the future however when seeing the incredible differences between the two nations, it is hard to imagine. Underneath the differences however both sides talk of being the same people. Inevitable similarities emerge from the images.

(Left) A man walks past a tree in central Seoul, South Korea. (Right) A man walks past a tree in the North Korean town of Kaesong.

I do not claim to be any kind of expert on Korea, or on the Korean people, history or politics. However, having had the opportunity to observe both, I hope the images can act as a small window into these two nations. View gallery in full size here.

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