MA candidate Hye Young Min will present a paper at the New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS), to be held this weekend in downtown Binghamton. Her paper is titled “Archiving the Historical Event: Lee Kyung-Mo’s Photographs from 1945 to the Korean War.” Follow the link for more information.
This paper examines South Korean photo-journalist Lee Kyung-Mo’s documentary photographs between 1945 and 1951, especially at the key moments in the period of Korean modern history that runs from the independence from Japan to the Korean War. My main question in this paper is how different his photographs were interpreted or represented both in the late 1940s when these photographs were produced and published on a local newspaper and in the late 1980s when they were recollected and republished as a photo book. In the late 1940s, almost every press in South Korea was unwillingly slanted in favor of the government and the U.S. military. Under this circumstance, his photographs were censored and mobilized to interpret political conflicts to make the advantage of the government and the U.S. military. On the other hand, in the late 1980s, under a new wave of democratization in South Korea, his photographs were republished as a photo book with a different point of view to give people possibilities to rethink our memories of history, the causes of Korean War, and the established national identity based on anti-communism. This desire for democratization led to the reopening of Lee’s photographic archive, which had been lying dormant for about 30 years since Korean War. Comparing between two time periods, I aim to look at how Lee’s photographs were mobilized in different ways under different political situations.