More about the project
(II) Significance of the Arirang
(III) Research: Interviews
‘Are you from North or South Korea?’
My answer to the question would significantly shift the nature and subject of the conversation to come. Foreign understanding of the Korean culture seems to have been heavily influenced and plagued by Western political agendas and biases, and the political turmoil between the two countries have consequently become their identifying qualities. The media here plays a critical role in rendering this polarised image of the two countries, often harming their homogenous identity altogether. The problematic visual representations and its perpetual use of the same dominant metaphors therefore only serve to create a bigger gap– going beyond the atrocities brought by the current demarcation line.
The Arirang’s image of hope and oneness therefore becomes central in this project, that is, in brokering these differences and demonstrating amends. Situating myself within the project, ‘Arirang, Our Land’ delves into notions of the Korean diaspora and the collective feeling of hope which binds us, Korean Australians, as one– further interweaving the nations' past, present and future. Exploring the method of documentary storytelling, this project focuses on ways in which design could enforce and give form to these collective stories as well as challenge the distorted perceptions of Korea. This gives power to
Significance of Arirang
Significance of Arirang
In developing a more elaborate understanding of North and South Korea’s intertwined identity and culture, the Korean folksong ‘Arirang’ is undoubtedly one of Korea’s most significant artefact. It can be seen to serve as a cultural tool and a unifying agent that reminds its nation of their deep roots and ethnic homogeneity. Within the historical context of the Japanese colonialist rule and the Korean war, Yang and Lee (2016) highlights the Arirang as a song that enabled Koreans to ‘sublimate unbearable pain [from consistent suppression from its neighbouring countries] into a playful taste of art’. Embedding symbols of anti-imperialism, resistance and solidarily, this is indeed what makes the Arirang so powerful. With no grounded interpretation or translation for its lyrics, the Arirang has remained flexible and modifiable, allowing the individual to add to its lyrics based on their own interests. It is this flexibility that has allowed the song to survive through its long history and remain omnipresent within the lives of Koreans. This song served as a critical anchor for this project, dramatically shifting my approach to research and design application.
인터뷰, 그 이야기들
The interviews, The stories.
A total of 12 interviews were conducted, with the interviewee’s ages ranging from 21 to 95. These provided valuable insight into the role Arirang plays within the Korean culture, as well as the stories contained. The interviews with the more elderly participants were quite interesting to observe as it appeared that my own relationship with them evolved to mimic one that I share with my own grandparents. The conversations soon turned into storytelling sessions where they invited me on a little journey through their memories of the past. The power of the Arirang was once again manifested through this process, where different emotions and memories were being evoked by the same song– for some a happy memory whilst for others, a memory of deep and personal loss.
All these interview were transcribed, translated and organised as separate documents. The final script for the film was formed by going through a rigorous process of creating several paper edits from the transcribed interviews. The script was a fundamental part of the project as it set the structure for the film, and the visual approach taken. The objects seen in the film were created as a result of these scripts, where specific responses given by the interviewees directly informed the making process.
A sample Interview. Listen to Mr P. Han’s interview here below
Top: The interviews transcribed and translated Bottom: The final script formed by these interviews