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3 July 2014

Youngsoo Han, People in a period of recovery

The war had taken away many things. Not only had it mercilessly trampled our beloved families and neighbours, but also their happiness and hope; indeed, humanity itself. At the height of the Korean War, I moved among the front lines as a soldier experiencing this tragedy, witnessing countless scenes that enraged me.

I left the army with these horrific memories intact and found myself in the middle of a life which still bore traces of soot from the war. But, at the same time, what was even more surprising and astounding was perhaps the ordinary fact that ‘people still lived on’ nevertheless. Although a sense of futility, sadness, shock, and despair lingered, people were putting down roots, trying to find their place in this world.

Though struggling with the multifaceted after-effects of the Korean War, the 1950s was period of recovery. I was able to find hope watching cities and rural communities being rebuilt, in bustling the markets and the sparkling eyes of children the laughter I had forgotten. Slowly but steadily I was recovering my own humanity.

I realise now that this was what led me to a lifetime in which I gradually opened my eyes to photography and moreover the wonders of life itself. Korea and its people have seen massive growth in a span of three of decades. Retrospection on the cold days of yore may be distressing, but wouldn’t one agree that the past is the mother of today?

Artist presented by Bohnchang Koo for the Discovery Award of the Rencontres d’Arles.

Exhibition venue : Atelier de Chaudronnerie, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2014.