Saturday, June 16, 2018

An Anniversary Renewed

A man stands between cardboard cutouts of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a celebration of the anniversary of the June 15th North–South Joint Declaration in Seoul

The June 15th North–South Joint Declaration has been celebrated off and on in South Korea. It marks the agreement signed on June 15, 2000 between then President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea and then Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il of North Korea (both are deceased). It was the culmination of Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy" with the North and an effort to bring North Korea into the community of nations, with a goal of reuniting the peninsula.
A drum line performs during the celebration...

...while Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul (front row, center) and other VIPs watch. Park is an ally of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who in turn, was a supporter of Kim Dae-jung.

The Sunshine Policy was regarded by many American academicians as a failure and as relations soured between North Korea on one hand and South Korea and the US on the other hand observances of June 15 became smaller or the day was ignored completely. 

But the recent thaw in relations brought on by the Moon Jae-in / Kim Jong-un Inter Korea Summit in April and Kim's meeting with Trump in Singapore earlier this week has renewed the hope that some South Koreans have for a peaceful resolution to the peninsula's conflict. This year's observance of the June 15 anniversary was reported to be the largest in years. 


The general mood at the event was optimistic and happy. 

There were several hundred people at the rally, so it wasn't huge, and many in South Korea are not convinced the recent turn of events signals a sea change or is a temporary thing, like the passage of a storm before an even bigger storm swamps the boat. South Koreans are stuck between mercurial leaders (Trump and Kim) and what's said one day may not apply the next day. 
A woman with a placard bearing the silhouette of a reunited Korea. 

There are more photos of June 15 party in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Eid al-Fitr in Seoul

Men pray during the Eid al-Fitr service at Seoul Central Mosque. 

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and is one of the most important holy days on the Muslim calender. I've been photographing Eid al-Fitr since the early 2000s and I try to photograph Eid services every year where ever I am. 
A Muslim family on their way to mosque for Eid gets in an elevator in a Seoul subway station. 

Muslims make up a tiny percentage of South Korea. Most are Buddhist, but Christians have a large presence in the country. There is, however, a vibrant community of Muslim migrants in Seoul, from throughout the Muslim world. 
Some of the crowd at the mosque before the service started. 
Men pray in the parking lot of the mosque. 

The mosque was packed. I got to the mosque about 20 minutes before the service started and there were so many people on prayer rugs in the parking lot I couldn't get up to the actual mosque. I photographed the service from a corner of the crowd and then went into the mosque after the prayers to photograph the "Khutbah" or sermon.
The Imam delivers the khutbah. 
A man prays in the mosque after the khutbah.

After the Imam's sermon, men greeted each other, people posed for selfies in front of the mosque and folks poured into the street of the Muslim community around the mosque for banquets at the Muslim restaurants. 
A man from West Africa takes a selfie in front of the mosque. 

There are more photos of Eid in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Calling for Justice

The "Pyeonghwabi," or "Statue of Peace" across the street from the Japanese embassy in Seoul, represents all of the Korean girls forced to be comfort women for Japanese forces during World War II. The statue was dedicated in December 2011. 

Every Wednesday, since January 8, 1992, hundreds of South Koreans gather in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to protest against Japan's use of forced sexual slaves, put into mobile brothels that traveled with Japanese Imperial forces, during World War II. The sex slaves were euphemistically called "Comfort Women." Japanese forces enslaved hundreds of thousands of women from the territories they conquered but since Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910-1945, many of the enslaved women from Korea. 
A man leads a chant during the protest on Wednesday June 13. 

World War II ended 73 years ago and the surviving "comfort women" are in their late 80s and 90s but the issue is still an open wound in South Korean-Japanese relations and is a leading source of anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea. Japanese efforts to shut down the protest and move the "Pyeonghwabi" have backfired and strengthened Korean resolve. 

There are dozens of "Comfort Women" statues in South Korea. In 2016, activists put up a statue in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan. Japanese diplomats complained and the city removed the statue, which angered local activists and sparked demonstrations. The mayor apologized and allowed the statue to be put back in its place in front of the consulate. Japan responded by recalling two diplomats from South Korea and cancelling some economic agreements. 

The crowd in front of the embassy during the June 13 protest.

I was surprised by how young most of the people in the crowd were. They were the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the generation enslaved by the Japanese in World War II. I was expecting people my age or a little younger, people in their 40s or older. But it was people, mostly women, in their 20s and younger. 
Young people energize the crowd. 

Women at the protest.

The protesters have been coming together every Wednesday since January 8, 1992. In that time, they have only missed one day - after the Kobe earthquake in Japan in 1995. Their resolve has gotten them a place in the Guinness Book of records as the world's oldest rally on a single theme. 

There are more photos of the Wednesday protest in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

South Koreans React to The Kim-Trump Summit


Members of the South Korean People's Democracy Party, a progressive South Korean political party, demonstrate in front of the US Embassy in Seoul in support of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore.

Earlier this year South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met for meetings in the Korean DMZ. It was a significant thawing of relations that had grown very frosty because of North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, long range missile tests and bellicose tweets from the American president. South Koreans gathered by the thousands to watch the meeting on large screen TVs throughout the country.

The world was surprised when, after the Inter-Korean Summit, the "Dotard" and "Little Rocket Man" decided to hold a bilateral summit to address their issues. American conservatives, who were outraged when President Obama said he was willing to meet with Kim embraced Trump's decision.

I went to Seoul expecting that people would be as transfixed by Trump meeting Kim as they were by President Moon meeting Kim. I was disappointed. The reaction in Seoul was very subdued.
South Koreans ignore Kim's arrival at the Kim-Trump summit. 

The US Embassy, usually a gathering spot for demonstrations regarding the US presence in South Korea (for both supporters and opponents of the US presence), was quiet. There was a phalanx of South Korean police around the embassy, but they were bored with nothing to do. Only the  South Korean People's Democracy Party showed up, and it is a small party with no members in the National Assembly.
Members of the party gathered across the street from the embassy and chanted during the sumit.

I photographed the protest until it broke up and then went out and looked for other photos related to the summit but didn't get anything. In the evening I went back to the embassy and there were two women there protesting against the presence of the US THAAD (anti-missile defense) deployment to South Korea. 
A woman in front of the embassy protesting the THAAD deployment.

There are more photos of South Koreans' reaction to the summit in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Remembering the Forgotten War

A South Korean student runs past prayer ribbons hung on a fence in Imjingak, near the Korean DMZ. 

The Korean War might be the "Forgotten War" in the US, but it's not forgotten on the Korean Peninsula. There are monuments to the war dead in many South Korean cities. There's a huge monument and museum dedicated to the war in central Seoul. Millions of Koreans, on both sides of the DMZ, died. More than 33,000 Americans died. Thousands of Allied soldiers, fighting under the banner of the UN, also died. 
Looking north from Imjingak, the bridge on the right was destroyed during the war. The bridge on the left is to carry commercial traffic between the north and south after relations are normalized. 

It's worth remembering that the war never officially ended. The two sides, South Korea, the US and the UN signed a cease fire agreement with the North Korea, the People's Republic of China and the USSR (although the USSR was not an official combatant, it had hundreds of military personnel aiding the North, mostly in the form of air crews). The cease fire agreement is still what keeps the two sides apart. From time to time one side or the other will take some provocative action that threatens the status quo (for example, the North sunk a South Korean patrol boat in 2002). Not to mention North Korea's drive for nuclear weapons and long range weapons. And the North considers joint US-South Korean military exercises provocative. 
The entrance to Imjingak. It's a huge park and memorial within view of the DMZ and North Korea. South Koreans go there to relax and consider their history. Tourists go to get a glimpse of the North.

I went to Imjingak not knowing what to expect. I had seen pictures of the places and read travelers' accounts but sometimes it's hard to reconcile that against the reality. In this case the reality matches other travelers' accounts. 
South Korean school children hang prayer ribbons on a fence near the DMZ.

Women look at their smart phone from a scenic overlook. North Korea is behind them. 

A woman and her daughter walk through a park in Imjingak.

There are memorials to the war scattered through the park. Altars for the veneration of ancestors and families separated by the war. Cafes in the park. An amusement park with rides. A food court. A Popeye's chicken restaurant. It's easy to spend a day wandering in the park. 

There are more photos from Imjingak in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.