15 JULY 2010
|KOREAN DEMILITARIZED ZONE EXHIBIT IN SEARCH OF PEACE, LIFE AND HOPE
It must have been an emotional event for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In his acceptance speech in October 2006, he reflected on how his growing up in a
forcibly divided Korea impacted on his determination to work for peace. Opening an exhibit on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) certainly brought back memories of
childhood, youth, and diplomatic experience as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea.
The poignant exhibit at the Wall of the Delegates Entrance was the work of photographer Choi Byung Kwan, who mainly focused on nature. He was the
first Korean photographer who took pictures of the 155 mile long truce line and displayed them in Seoul, Tokyo and Hawaii.
His admirable perspective was seeing a sign of peace in that symbol of war. While needing permission from military offices on both sides, he
discovered that nature had its own expression of life and hope. From a mostly unfamiliar and sad location, he saw flowers growing on their own; plants
finding their way amidst rusty iron helmets with bullet holes and butterflies hovering despite ruined tanks. He came across intriguing wildflowers
blossoming through the mine fields; they filled him with both sadness and joy, a mixed feeling as he saw in them a reincarnation of the young souls of
fallen soldiers. With a number of exhibits regularly -- and sometimes dutifully -- displayed around the U.N. compound, this one was not only timely,
but with a clear message.
It reflected a creative work of art with a determination to celebrate life even in the most distressing spots. It signified a gracious respect
for nature and its many splendored expressions.
Although very few seemed to notice it, the exhibit was a valuable presence and a welcome expression of a certain aspect of an admirable Korean
spirit which we would hope would be demonstrated more often at U.N. Headquarters.