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“Kkotjebi in Bloom: North Korean Children’s Flight to Freedom”
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2015-04-08 21:01:00
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“Kkotjebi in Bloom: North Korean Children’s Flight to Freedom”
NKHR’s Multi-Media Exhibition Dedicated to Children in North Korea
By Diane Rhim, Exhibition Coordinator

NKHR recently wrapped up its six-day multi-media art exhibition Kkotjebi in Bloom: North Korean Children’s Flight to Freedom.  From August 6 to 11, 2014, at Gallery IS in Insadong, Seoul, Kkotjebi in Bloom shed light on the lives of children in North Korea, with a special focus on “kkotjebi,” or homeless children in North Korea.  The children’s stories were told through the artistic talents of both North and South Korean artists. The exhibition also aimed to make human rights accessible to a larger audience by using art and literature to portray these grave issues.

A wide range of artworks were displayed at the exhibition including paintings and cutouts by North Korean escapees and artists Chunhyok Kang and Sun Mu depicting aspects of life for children in North Korea; colorful drawings by South Korean children reflecting the lives of North Korean children; an audio and visual installation by South Korean artist Jin Pyo Jun illuminating the experiences of two former kkotjebi, Eunju Kim and Sungju Lee; poems by a well-known former propaganda poet Jang Jin-Sung, as well as by a former kkotjebi, Hyuk Kim; and a documentary animation entitled “A Purpleman” portraying Hyuk Kim’s life as a North Korean escapee living in South Korea.

Various events were held throughout the week of the exhibition.  Over 150 people attended the opening reception, indicating a strong interest in kkotjebi and human rights in North Korea. The following evening, on Thursday, August 7, NKHR hosted a Q&A session and book reading with two of the kkotjebi featured in the exhibit, Hyuk Kim and Eunju Kim. They spoke vividly about their experiences as kkotjebi in North Korea, escape to South Korea, and lives today.

On Saturday, August 9, NKHR invited special guest Seo Yeon Kim to participate in a live interview about her passion for human rights in North Korea.  Seo Yeon is a 13-year-old South Korean student who recently authored a storybook about a child in a North Korean political prison camp, entitled “Please Grant My Wish.” Chunhyok Kang, one of the North Korean escapee artists featured in the exhibit performed a live drawing in front of an outdoor audience and spoke about his work on Sunday, August 11.  Kang drew a large crowd in part thanks to his recently participating in South Korea’s popular hip-hop show “Show Me The Money 3.” On the last day of the exhibition, special guests Casey Lartigue and Yeonmi Park filmed an episode of their online show “North Korea Today” at the exhibition. Yeonmi, who also escaped from North Korea, spoke about how the exhibition brought back memories of her own difficult childhood in North Korea.

NKHR was also honored to see a number of special guests visit Kkotjebi in Bloom. Dong-hyuk Shin, the only known person to have escaped North Korean after being born in a North Korean prison camp, and who is currently a prominent North Korean human rights activist, made a surprise visit to the exhibition. Renowned K-pop star, Tablo from Epik High, also visited the exhibition to support Chunhyok Kang and his work.

The exhibition was a great success.  It attracted a diverse audience of over 1,000 foreigners and South Koreans and raised nearly 3,000,000 WON (3,000 USD) to help North Korean refugees safely reach South Korea.  NKHR extends its deepest gratitude to everyone who helped bring Kkotjebi in Bloom to life.

Selected press:

North Korea Today at Kkotjebi in Bloom:

North Korean escapee artist Chunhyok Kang drawing live at Kkotjebi in Bloom.