Im Heung-soon: Jeju Prayer, Symptom and Sign

Heung-soon Im Sung Si (Jeju Symptom and Sign) (2011)
Im Heung-soon: Sung Si (Jeju Symptom and Sign) (2011). Film still. Courtesy the artist

The most substantial work in the final session of experimental film screenings at the Tate in September 2015 was Im Heung-soon’s Sung Si (숭 시 – Jeju Symptom and Sign. 2011, HD Video, colour, sound, 24mins), a work which obliquely addresses the 4:3 incident and the Gangjeong naval base. The piece has been made into a more substantial 90 minute documentary entitled Jeju Prayer (2012), and the longer work obviously provides more opportunity for interviews with those who experienced the turmoil in Jeju in the late 1940s, and with those impacted by the building of the naval base today.

Im Heung-soon talks about Sung Si on 19 September 2015
Im Heung-soon talks about Sung Si on 19 September 2015

The longer piece can therefore be clearer in its message, but nevertheless Sung Si has a unique poetry in addressing the issues. There are many shots of the Jeju landscape, reflecting both how the victims of the 4:3 incident had to take to the hills to hide from the authorities, and also reflecting Jeju culture’s long-standing connectedness with the land through shamanistic ritual. In both versions Im Heung-soon travels to Osaka to interview ageing Korean women who had emigrated to Japan during the uprising to escape. They now found it difficult to talk about either in Korean or Japanese even though it affects them so greatly. As the director says:

my intention, with a minimum of information through images and sounds, is to generate a situation of sympathy with human existence and its emotions, as it helplessly faces historical tragedy. (Artist website).

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