The history of the miners dispatched to Germany is currently in progress

Exhibition <Arirang in Germany, Asking in 45 Years>

Park Woo-Jin (Weekly Korea Reporter, 2010)

The <Arirang in Germany, Asking in 45 Years> exhibition, which will be held from the 16th, concludes the welfare project for miners dispatched to Germany, which was carried out until last year. Materials documenting life in the 1960s and 1970s and art works about the miners sent to Germany are exhibited, and <White Paper on Miners Dispatched from Germany 2009> and a documentary film made as part of a welfare project are released.

However, this is not a place to celebrate the achievements of the welfare project for miners sent to Germany. Rather, it is the true intention to point out and inform about the business background and progress process.

The key point is that the welfare project for miners sent to Germany is not a government-led project. Most of the financial resources are reserves that should have already been paid to the miners dispatched to Germany. The German government paid the Korean government in exchange for manpower dispatch, but it is a pension of 1.8 billion won that was not returned to the parties concerned. The main body of the project is the General Association of Korean Miners Dispatched to Germany, an organization that combines the Korean Residency Glückauf Association in Germany and the Korean Association of Korean Miners in Korea.

As one Korean miner said, it is their reality that they have to prove their history with the blood and sweat of their colleagues. Korean society has always been indifferent. Seong Gyu-hwan, chairman of Glückauf, a Korean residing in Germany that published <45 Years History of Miners Dispatched to Germany>, said, “Sadly at the reality that no one remembers, senior citizens in their 70s stepped forward to leave a record for themselves.”

Exhibition Poster ‘Arirang in Germany, Asking in 45 Years’ ⒸPark Kyong Ju

The reason Park Kyong Ju of Salad TV planned the exhibition was because she felt bitter about this tragedy. “The work of arranging history also has the meaning of objectification and evaluation, but the parties cannot do that.”

Park Kyong Ju, who is also an artist, reworked her 2000 work <Memories of Germany> for this exhibition. It is an installation work in which she reproduces a video in which she interviewed five miners who were dispatched to Germany while she was staying in Germany, and writes down the names of the forgotten miners in Germany on the wall. Through this work, Park Kyong Ju said, “I want to ask whether we have erased those who are still alive with vivid history from our memory storage warehouse in a hurry.“

Artist Park Chan-Kyung also participated. The contents of <People who went to Germany.>, a photo essay book published in 2003, featuring miners and nurses dispatched to Germany, will be exhibited. Artist Park Chan-Kyung said at the time, “I was surprised and even ashamed to learn that there was no proper book about miners and nurses sent to Germany while doing research for this work.”

The significance of re-examining the miners sent to Germany is to first of all evaluate and acknowledge their contribution to Korean modern history, but it does not stop there. This is because their personal history is the history of Korea. The existence and experience of the miners sent to Germany is a common lesson and asset of Korean society.

Artist Park Chan-Kyong points out, “Respect for Korean workers dispatched to Germany should not only be absorbed into the myth of Korea’s economic construction, but should also lead to a warning about our own memory loss, ignorance, and exclusive nationalism.” Transforming their own past into our progressive present is the true open end of the welfare project for miners sent to Germany.

The <German Arirang, Asked in 45 Years> exhibition runs until February 1 at the Kim Daljin Museum of Art, located in Changseong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul. From February 5th to 11th, it will be moved to the Korean Cultural Center, the Korean Miners’ Memorial Hall in Ruhr, Germany. On January 29th, the German Cultural Center in Korea will hold a seminar titled ‘Evaluation and Prospect of the History of Miners Dispatched to Germany’ (tentative title).

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