The weekly original art I’ve selected is from a series of xerox flyers made in the summer of, um, 1987. In fact, it appears to have been made in June of 1987, when the Korean government first suspended the constitution, and faced massive popular unrest before backing down by June 29th, with the Korean government announcing major democratic reforms in response to the public pressure. As with all of my Monday images, clicking on it will produce a greatly enlarged image.
(In looking for linkage pertaining to the topic at hand I noted this interesting essay concerning the roots of the Korean democratic movement.)
The unrest at the time generated incredible images – little old ladies smacking Samurai-Vader riot cops with rolled umbrellas, walls of cops standing in sheets of Molotov cocktail flame – and at the time I knew nothing of Korean politics save the bare info that it was one of the many repressive governments around the world that the US equipped and trained. I was just interested in recycling the imagery as a means of expressing the general excitement I felt at seeing the shape of the static global politics of the day challenged – calls for democratic reform were being heard in China, in Korea, in South Africa, in Chile, in the socialist countries.
Later, my parents adopted a Korean grad student as a family member, and my dad worked with a lot of Korean auto-industry and business prof types, so I became more interested in the background to these images.
In my reading about it, the event that was of most interest to me was the 1980 Kwangju uprising and massacre, covered at length in an issue of Granta for which I could find no good links. The link here is to an article in The Nation which concerns itself wth the extent to which US officials knew in advance about and may have approved the use of the Korean military units that performed the suppression of the uprising.
Fortunately for me, the Indiana University daily paper had published an ill-advised coupon for “50 free copies” at Kinko’s – the coupon did not have the usual “limit one per customer” or and expiration date printed on it, so a band of my friends and I systematically harvested the downtown area for these coupons and squirrelled them away for use all summer long. I believe in the end I designed about 40 or so flyers. Most are similar to this one, in that they express a political opinion but are not polemical.
Just about two years later, I watched the events in Tiananmen Square with interest that escalated to concern as I realized that my parents had left the US to fly to a conference in Shanghai and were to arive there on the 5th of June. The army moved on the Chinese students while my parents were in the air, and let’s just say that media coverage combined with information I was getting from democracy-supporting Chinese students at IU gave me concern.
There will be more of these flyers seen in this space over time.