young min moon

Cover of "Korean Returnees from Japan"

Foreign Languages Publishing House, Pyongyang, 1960.

There it is our homeland, my dear

Transparency in light box, 22" x 27", 2009

Reproduction of the pro-repatriation poster by

the Zainichi Korean Repatriation Cooperation Society, 1959.

(Originally held in the International Committee of Red Cross Archives, Geneva)

One of numerous letters sent from Masutaro Inoue

(Director of Foreign Affairs of Japan Red Cross Society) to Leopold Boissier

(President of International Committee of Red Cross, Geneva), March 31, 1956.

The six-page letter gives important insights into the origins of the repatriation of

Koreans from Japan to North Korea.

(Originally held in the Archives of the ICRC Geneva.)

Beyond the Instance of an Ending, at Herter Gallery, UMass Amherst, 2009

at Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan, South Korea, 2010

there it is our homeland, my dear

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This project pertains to the story of one of the truly extraordinary but buried tragedies of the

Cold War: the “return” of over 93,000 people, most of them ethnic Koreans, from Japan to North

Korea from 1959 onward. Promoted to the world as a humanitarian endeavor and executed under the

auspices of the International Red Cross, the scheme was actually the result of political stratagem

involving the governments of Japan, North Korea, the former Soviet Union, and the U.S.

Though most left willingly, persuaded by propaganda that a better life awaited them in North

Korea, the historian Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s work on the recently declassified documents in the

International Committee for Red Cross in Geneva reveals how the Japan Red Cross exerted covert

pressures to hasten the departure of this unwelcome ethnic minority. North Korea only offered

poverty and hardship for most of the returnees, while thousands faced brutal persecution and

death. In short, the massive migration amounted to “exile to nowhere.” The repatriation signals

the significant ruptures in the continuation between nativity and citizenship in the era of modern

nation-states.

The work was exhibited at Beyond the Instance of Ending in conjunction with Martha Rosler Library

at Herter Gallery, UMass Amherst, and subsequently as part of The Multicultural in Our Time at

Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art in Ansan, South Korea, in 2010. In Ansan, where some 60,000 foreign

workers reside, Koreans and multiethnic populations must learn to live together. Given that many

of the migrant workers have been living under the fear of being deported for their “illegal”

status, I engaged the audience with the fate of the Korean migrant workers in Japan in the 1960s,

and the notions of home, belonging, nationalism, the bare life, and the possibility of

transnational citizenship in the age of the global Empire.