Isahn (video still), 2004, single channel video DVD, 16 minutes 30 secondsIsahn (video still), 2004, single channel video DVD, 16 minutes 30 seconds

Isahn (video still), 2004, single channel video DVD, 16 minutes 30 seconds

Soon-Mi Yoo

In October 5, 2001, I heard TV news that Mr. Chung, an 82-year-old man originally from North Korea, killed himself after failing to get into the lottery to take part in the family reunion and meet with his family in North Korea.

The split screen in Isahn is from the stereoscopes at Imjingak, which is located 30 kilometers from Seoul and borders North Korea. Tourists and displaced North Koreans can go and drop a few coins in the stereoscopes to look at the government sanctioned photographs of North Korea.

The images from the stereoscopes are mixed with contemporary footage (shot in 1999) of Burmese refugee camps around Mae Sot, Thailand, in which inhabitants are forced to relocate to yet another anonymous site.

For those who are not allowed to go back home, the sights of exile are just ersatz landscapes. Sometimes they may offer consolation. Often times they work as hindrance. Many would say, “When I close my eyes, I can still see my hometown so vividly”.

Soon-Mi Yoo was born and lived in Korea for almost thirty years before emigrating to the U.S. in 1990. She earned her MFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art, in addition to studying film at the University of Washington Extension and earning both a BA and MA in German Literature at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. She has been an artist in residence at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, CPW, and was awarded the Corcoran Award for Excellence. Her work has been shown at the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, the Boston Center for the Arts, the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands, Lincoln Center‚ New York Film Festival, Seoul Short Film Festival, and in the exhibit Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self at the Seattle Art Museum and the International Center of Photography in NYC. Yoo has lectured at Wellesley College, Carnegie Mellon University, Syracuse University, and the Massachusetts College of Art.