With lots of issues and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the 21st Assembly election was held on April 15th. Elections and candidates are, however, not a major issue for many young people in their twenties. Therefore, The Sungkyun Times (SKT) is going to introduce the exhibition, The Better Man 1948-2020: Pick Your Representative for the National Assembly. In this exhibition, various media such as games, music, and posters show the importance of participation, which changed the history of Korea.
Be the Part of the History
The National Election Commission (NEC) and Ilmin Museum of Art designed the unusual exhibition, which is different from the past campaign. The past campaign simply encouraged people to vote, saying that voting is important. This exhibition, however, leads people to feel the importance of voting and participating in the election by various methods, such as re-voting for past elections and making their election posters. A total of six floors are used, and each floor has its own section, excluding the fourth floor, which is used as an office. In the Who is the Patriot section on the first floor, we can think about democracy and elections. In the In Search of a Vote section on the second floor, there is a look toward the socially disadvantaged and various opinions that coexist and conflict with each other. A Very OOO Election in Progress section on the third floor consists of archives that show the history of fraudulent elections in Korean history. In the Election 24/7 section on the fifth floor, there are materials about the history of the NEC and Press Museum (PRESSEUM). In the Election & Books Media Lounge on the sixth floor, various activities such as making digital election posters, stamps, and books are prepared. Each floor has elevators so that visitors can move around easily. Below is the basic information about the exhibition.
Not Me, Then Who?
Gwangwhamun Gymnasium – ‘Memories of Injustice’ by Jung Yun-sun
The artist Jung Yun-sun tried to evoke makgeolli, the Korean traditional rice wine, cart bars that were placed near the polling places, and the “gymnasium election”, which were prevalent from the 1960s and the 1980s. This place is on the third floor, in the A Very OOO Election in Progress section. The seventh Assembly election held in 1967 is also known as the “makgeolli and rubber shoes election”. From the 1950s to the 1960s, farmers, who consisted of most of the Korean population, usually did not recognize the importance of the election, which led to the total turnout standing at around 20%. So, politicians began to pay attention to each farmers’ votes and therefore appealed to them to vote for themselves by giving them makgeolli and rubber shoes. With votes and makgeolli exchanged, there were makgeolli cart bars near the polling places. Furthermore, the eighth presidential election in 1972 was held in an exclusive place, Jangchung Arena, with a single candidate Park Chunghee. It is known as the gymnasium election, and this kind of election continued until the 11th presidential election was held in 1980. Through this place, artist Jung Yun-sun shows satirically the regressive and corruptive election practices, which have existed throughout Korean history.
Attracting the Audiences to Participate, with a Hope for Participating in History
➊ Listener’s Chair, by Chun Kyung-woo
This work of art consists of three objects, which are the speech room in Gwanghwamun Square, the hanging chair on the outer wall of Ilmin Museum, and 23 chairs in the museum. In the speech room placed in Gwanghwamun Square, the representative square in Seoul, anyone can talk about whatever they want to say. These stories are moved to the 24 headsets on the 23 chairs in Ilmin Museum, and audiences who sit on these chairs can listen to other’s stories for three minutes. Through this, citizens recognize each other as a part of society, while choosing between speaker and listener. The hanging chair on the fourth-floor high on the outer wall of the museum is an ordinary wooden chair used by an ordinary citizen. It conveys the symbolic meaning of individuals’ positions to the Gwanghwamun square.
➋ I Will Make It Happen!!! by NOLGONG
I Will Make It Happen!!! is an audience-participation game, which is in the In Search of a Vote section on the second floor. In this game, audiences get the right to re-vote in 19 president elections held from 1948 to 2016. Each candidates’ names and parties, however, are not shown, so the choices are made based on the pledges only. This game offers audiences the experience of changing presidents through their choices, and a chance to look back on their past choices. The artist, NOLGONG, suggests an election culture full of candidates and pledges that focuses on voters’ well-being, away from ideological and interest disputes.
More and more people are aware of the importance of voting, but the turnout of young people in their twenties is still low. For the citizens in a democratic society, voting is a duty, not a choice. The voting that I exercised would return with policies for me. Kingos, did you participate in this election? If so, maybe you can feel the meaning of your vote, and if not, the SKT hopes you can feel your precious sovereignty that is scattered in the air.
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