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Common Ground

March 2013

Unify Korea Symposium


Symposium Details

Frank Altschul Auditorium
International Affairs Building
Columbia University
March 2nd, 2013

1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The Korea Art Forum, a newly established non-profit organization based in New York, is pleased to announce its first program, Common Ground, an international symposium inaugurating Unify Korea, a project of contemporary art.This international symposium took place in the Altschul Auditorium in the International Affairs Building at the Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street Room 417, on Saturday, March 2, 2013 from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. 


Common Ground offers a think-tank forum that argues for the necessity of exchanging arts and culture between North Korea and the rest of the world, especially the United States, as an alternative approach to the Korean conflict, while also reexamining the complex geopolitical, economic and cultural landscape in the region.

The symposium also serves as a preparatory measurement for Unify Korea, an international exhibition series of contemporary art, to be mounted in New York and other metropolitan cities around the world beginning in late 2014. The symposium is to find out how the exhibitions, in their contents and activities, are to be outlined and presented to the public in order to prevent inaccurate or misleading impressions.

The symposium is an attempt not only to embrace the public’s opinion and feedback about the exhibition series, but also to promote international public awareness and more comprehensive understanding of the geopolitical issues of the Korean conflict that is immediately related to securing world peace, and dismantling walls between different countries, cultures, and races.

Unify Korea Symposium Parts 1 & 2

Welcome Remarks by Charles K. Armstrong, Director of the Center for Korean Research, Greeting by John L. Moore, Member of the Unify Korea Project Advisory Council, and Introduction to Symposium by Heng-Gil Han

Speakers and Topics

Speakers and Topics
Armstrong, Charles K.

Charles K. Armstrong

Director, Center for Korean Research at Columbia University

Charles K. Armstrong is The Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences, Department of History, and the Director of The Center for Korean Research at Columbia University. A specialist in the modern history of Korea and East Asia, Professor Armstrong has published several books on contemporary Korea, including The Koreas (Routledge, 2007), The North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950 (Cornell, 2003), Korea at the Center: Dynamics of Regionalism in Northeast Asia (M.E. Sharpe, 2006), and Korean Society: Civil Society, Democracy, and the State (Routledge, second edition 2006). Professor Armstrong is a frequent commentator in the US and international media on Korean, East Asian, and Asian-American affairs. He received his BA from Yale, MA from the London School of Economics, and PhD from the University of Chicago.


Professor Armstrong will present North Korea’s Engagement with the World.  North Korea is often called “the most isolated country on earth.” In fact, from the time it was founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been involved extensively with the world beyond its borders. However, more than most countries, the DPRK has tried to control its external contacts and follow its own path of development. This approach to engaging the world has long been encapsulated by the slogan of “juche” or “self-reliance.” The meaning and content of juche has evolved considerably over the last four decades, and in recent years changes within and beyond North Korea have pointed toward a new and potentially even more active involvement in international affairs.

Cumings, Bruce

Bruce Cumings

Professor in History and the College, University of Chicago

Bruce Cumings teaches international history, modern Korean history and East Asian political economy at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1987, and where he is the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor and the chairman of the History Department.  He is the author of the two-volume study, The Origins of the Korean War (Princeton University Press, 1981, 1990), War and Television (Visal-Routledge, 1992), Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History (W. W. Norton, 1997; updated ed. 2005), Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American—East Asian Relations (Duke University Press, 1999; paperback 2002), North Korea: Another Country (New Press, 2003), co-author of Inventing the Axis of Evil  (New Press, 2004), and he recently published Dominion From Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power, which was ranked as one of the top 25 books of 2009 by the Atlantic Monthly. The Random House Modern Library published his short book, The Korean War, on the war’s 60th anniversary in 2010.


In his paper The Fruits of Engagement with North Korea, 1994—2008, Professor Cumings will argue that North Korea, unlike Iran for example, has responded well to American and South Korean overtures going back to the near-war of June 1994. The North agreed to freeze its plutonium complex and kept it frozen for eight years.  In 1998-2000 Bill Clinton began to transform US policy toward the DPRK, resulting in an agreement to indirectly buy out North Korea’s medium and long-range missiles.  Meanwhile, from 1998-2008 Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun radically restructured South Korea’s strategy toward the North, with many achievements—especially the huge Kaesong export zone, and important agreements signed at the second summit in October 2007 (but never implemented by Roh’s successor).  All this flies in the face of commentary claiming that the North deals dishonestly, that it can’t be trusted to carry out agreements, or simply wants nuclear weapons, regardless of diplomatic overtures or consequences.

Hyun, Soo Jung

Ms. Soo Jung Hyun, PhD



Korea Art Forum has commissioned Ms. Soo Jung Hyun, PhD, to review the exhibition Playground, curated by Won-seok Koh, for the Arko Art Center in Seoul. The exhibition explores anxiety, fear, and uncertainty—the quintessential aspects of democracy—in South Koreans’ collective psyche, introducing the diverse ways young South Korean artists are dealing with the traumatic reality that has been and is a part of building their democratic society. In her paper, A Critical Review of Exhibition “Playground” : On the Anxiety in South-Korean Society, Dr. Hyun will critically analyze Koh’s curatorial thesis and its meanings in relation to her own experience of living in the divided country.


Dr. Hyun has lived in New York since 2007 and organized several shows as a curator. She was invited as a juror for the Tehran Contemporary Sculpture Biennale (2007), and was invited as a curator for an exhibition, “Breathing” (2011), for the Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Art Gallery. She was also an organizer for the “East Village Forum” (2010, 2011) at the Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Art Gallery. She is currently working on the Korean American Archive project, sponsored by AHL Foundation and the Korean Cultural Service New York. Dr. Hyun is a member of the Advisory Board for The Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Art Gallery.

Kim, Yu Yeon

Yu Yeon Kim

Independent Curator

Yu Yeon Kim is an independent curator based in New York City, USA and Seoul, Korea. She has curated and been a commissioner of many distinguished international exhibitions of contemporary art.


Ms. Kim curated, a media art project for the Poland Mediations Biennale in 2008;(The Points of the Compass) for the Fundacion Ludwig de Cuba and other satellite sites in Havana, 2008 (which traveled to the Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros, Mexico City); and other curatorial projects. Yu Yeon Kim was an International Researcher and curator of thein UK; the Commissioner and curator for, an exhibition of Latin American art for the 3rdin South Korea; and a principle curator ofin South Africa, 1997-1998, for which she curatedat the Museum Africa in Johannesburg.


Her recent projects include “Tong (通 link)”, 2011, a major international art exposition at Haeinsa Temple, South Korea; Magnetic Power, Media Art from South East Asia; and Fluid Form, Contemporary Art and Urban Design from Middle East in Seoul 2010-2011.


The founder of DMZ_Korea, an independent, non-profit organization in South Korea, Ms. Kim has organized international exhibitions exploring concepts related to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. These have includedin New York, anda series of international exhibitions at the Paju Book City, Heyri Art Valley, Odu Mountain Unification Observatory and Civilian Controlling Zone situated in the vicinity of the Korean DMZ. In 2006, Yu Yeon Kim curatedan exhibition of international artists spanning three venues in Heyri Art Valley near the DMZ.  In her presentation ofYu Yeon Kim will share her curatorial experiences of organizing the international exhibition series,over the past few years in New York and South Korea.

Muhn, BG.jpeg

BG Muhn

Artist, Educator


BG Muhn, a painter and a professor of the Art and Art History Department at Georgetown University, has achieved noteworthy professional recognition through solo exhibitions in venues such as the Stux Gallery in Chelsea, New York City, the Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul, and the American University Museum in Washington, DC.  He has also received acclaim in reviews and interviews in The New York Times, Art in America and on CNN.   For the last several years, Professor Muhn has taken an interest in and studied relatively unknown North Korean art.  He has been giving talks on North Korean art at universities including Georgetown, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins universities.


Under the title,, Professor Muhn will discuss the genealogy and aesthetics of Chosonhwa, traditional ink painting on rice paper, which is the most popular and revered art form in North Korea.  Many paintings, including large-scale propaganda figure paintings, are created in this medium.  During his recent research trips to Pyongyang, Professor Muhn visited Mansudae Art Studio, the largest art community in the world, viewed many art exhibitions, and interviewed several Chosonhwa artists.  Professor Muhn found that North Korean artists have developed Chosonhwa into unique expressions not seen in other Asian countries.  In his paper, Professor Muhn will explore how this development was possible, what aesthetic values were emphasized, and the degree to which artistic self-expression was permitted.

Traavik, Morten

Morten Traavik

Artist / Director


Morten Traavik is a director and artist based in Oslo, Norway, and Stockholm, Sweden, working across a wide spectrum of genres and international borders. His often-controversial works include the beauty pageants for landmine survivors, Miss Landmine Angola (2008) and Miss Landmine Cambodia (2009). In 2010, he was the first (and so far only) artist-in-residence with the Norwegian Armed Forces. Mr. Traavik is also renowned for a series of pioneering collaborations with North Korean artists and cultural authorities. His recent retrospective exhibition POWER GAMES (2012) was the world’s first to be exhibited simultaneously in North Korea and the USA. For more information, please visit


A genius diplomat to some, a useful idiot to others, Norwegian director and artist Mr. Traavik has achieved a series of successful international artistic collaborations and gradually established a firm dialogue with North Korean cultural authorities based on mutual trust, respect and curiosity. He has even been authorized to negotiate cultural exchanges on North Korea's behalf. In addition to bringing together North Korean and Western artists in groundbreaking and contemporary new collaborations, Mr. Traavik's artistic interventions have been the subject of some of the most heated and high-level political debates surrounding any artist in his native Norway. In his presentation, Mr. Traavik will share some examples of his Korea-based work and describe how various responses to this work around the world challenge established notions of what constitute obstacles to an open and fruitful dialogue.

Farver, Jane

Jane Farver



Jane Farver is a curator, and was the LVAC Director of the List Visual Arts Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1999 to 2011, and the Director of Exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art in New York from 1992 to 1999.  She co-organized Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin 1950s-1980s, which toured the United States.  One of six guest curators for the 2000 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, she also served as co-commissioner for the 2003 Cairo Biennial.  In 2008, she was a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions, which selects artists to represent the United States at biennial exhibitions in Venice, São Paolo, Cairo, and Istanbul.


Ms. Farver is familiar with art scenes in South Korea.  She was invited to panel discussions at Busan Biennale in 2010 and the 4th Gwangju Biennial Curatorial Conference in 2001, and has worked with Korean artists such as Sung-Hwan Kim and Kim Sooja.  She also contributed an essay to a catalogue celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Korean Cultural Council in New York.  Ms. Farver will lead the discussion with Professor Muhn and Mr. Traavik, exploring on the North Korean art situation and the conditions for exchanging arts and culture with North Korea.

Hostetter, Doug.jpeg

Doug Hostetter

Director of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), United Nations Office


Doug Hostetter has done conflict resolution and peace work in war zones in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe.  Mr. Hostetter is currently the Director of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), United Nations Office.  In October 2010, he visited the MCC nutritional support and sustainable agriculture projects in the DPRK.  He has published widely on the issues of war, peace and nonviolence.  Mr. Hostetter will moderate the discussion with Professor Armstrong and Professor Cumings on the current international relationship with North Korea.

Knox, Gordon

Gordon Knox

Director, Arizona State University Art Museum


Previously a core collaborator at the Stanford Humanities Lab, Knox establishes international projects that connect artists with scientists, social scientists and NGO’s to develop contexts that expand the circulation of ideas and address pressing global concerns through social change.  Mr. Knox will hold a discussion with Ms. Kim and Mr. Koh about their respective exhibitions,and, exploring South Koreans’ collective experience of a divided country as expressed in works of contemporary art.

Presenting Welcome Remarks

Welcome Remarks
Moore, John L

John L. Moore

Artist, KAF Advisory Board Member


On behalf of the Unify Korea Project Advisory Council,will deliver a note defining the standpoint of the Advisory Council and multiple meanings of the project,.  Mr. Moore is a New-York based abstract painter, whose work represents the intangible and invisible histories and beliefs that define our existence.  His paintings have been shown nationally and internationally at prestigious venues, including the MOCA Cleveland, OH; the High Museum, Atlanta GA; Gyeongnam National Art Museum, Changwon, South Korea; the Queens Museum of Art, NY; Brooklyn Museum, NY; the Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; and the Fuki Fine Arts Museum, Japan among others.  His works are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; the Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Miami University Museum, Oxford, OH; New Jersey State Museum, NJ; the Studio Museum in Harlem, and others.  His exhibitions have been reviewed by Holland Cotter, Eleanor Heartney, Ken Johnson, Lilly Wei, Stephen Westfall among many other renowned critics for prestigious publications such as, and others.  Mr. Moore received numerous awards such as the Cleveland Artist Prize, the Tesque Foundation Individual Artist Award, and fellowships from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation, and the Ohio Art Council.

Han, Heng-Gil

Heng-Gil Han

Director, Co-Founder Korea Art Forum


Heng-Gil Han is one of the co-founders of the Korea Art Forum, a newly established New-York based independent art organization focusing on the potential impacts of Korean arts and culture on the advancement of contemporary art. He has conceived Unify Korea, a project of contemporary Art, and directs it under the guidance of the project’s Advisory Council. Mr. Han has served as curator at Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning from 2002 to 2012, where he founded the periodical exhibition of site-specific and participatory works of art, Jamaica Flux: Workspaces and Windows, which took place in 2004, 2007, and 2010. With a curatorial interest in the reciprocal relationship between art and life, Mr. Han organized a number of exhibitions, working with BroLab, Robert Morris, Wangechi Mutu, Olu Oguibe, Carolee Schneemann, Xaviera Simmons, among many other artists of our time. In South Korea, Mr. Han has lent his curatorial support to the 2008 Busan Biennial Sculpture Project and the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennial in 2009 and 2011. Mr. Han published Network and Fluid, a collection of his essays on contemporary art in South Korea, 2010. Mr. Han will introduce the symposium to the public, explaining its overall concept, specific thematics, and structure.



Common Ground does not represent any governments and their administrative offices. It is organized by the newly established, New York based, not-for-profit independent private organization Korea Art Forum (KAF) under the collective guidance of the Unify Korea Project Advisory Council that is composed of a group of accomplished artists, professionals, and scholars. The symposium is co-sponsored by The Center for Korean Research at Columbia University, NY.

KAF gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Arts Council Korea, Gallery Ho, and the members of the KAF as well as the generous contributions of individual philanthropists.

With the vision that geopolitical, economic, or cultural conditions of the Korean peninsula and history have the potential to shift the field of contemporary art, the Korea Art Forum (KAF) is a New York based non-profit independent organization committed to presenting thought-provoking practices by artists and curators of the Korean diaspora and others, for all audiences. The KAF organizes international exhibitions of contemporary art, lectures, seminars, and other public initiatives worldwide, fostering dynamic relationships between art, artists, and audiences. The KAF embraces experimental works of art, challenges conventional notions of art, and stimulates provocative conversations on contemporary art. The first initiative of the KAF is Unify Korea, which begins with the symposium, Common Ground, in March 2013.

Members of the Unify Korea Project Advisory Council help shape the Unify Korea project’s strategic, operational, and fiscal directions. The current members include Charles K. Armstrong, a professor and Director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University; Joel Carreiro, an artist and Director of Master of Fine Art program at Hunter College; Jane Farver, a curator and former LVAC Director of MIT List Visual Arts Center; Doug Hostetter, Director of the Mennonite Central Committee, UN Office; Taehyun Kim, an art consultant; Gordon Knox, Director of Arizona State University Museum; and John L. Moore, an artist.

Gallery Ho was founded in 2011 on the Chelsea Art District of New York City. Since its inception, the Gallery has focused on international contemporary art that communicate with New York and across the world. Gallery Ho represents a select group of Korean and international contemporary artists. The Gallery is devoted to providing an opportunity for significant international artists to become recognized in the leading international capitals for art, New York. Gallery Ho is located in 547 west 27th street #208, New York.


Since its establishment in 1988 within the East Asian Institute (now the Weatherhead East Asian Institute), The Center for Korean Research has played a leading role in the study of Korea within Columbia University and the New York City area. By sponsoring public lectures, conferences, workshops, visiting scholars, and individual research, the CKR has helped to make Korea an increasingly important focus of attention within the East Asian studies programs at Columbia, as well as within the disciplinary departments and professional schools.

Arts Council Korea (ARKO) aims to enrich the lives of Koreans by increasing the accessibility to arts and cultural activities as well as making the arts a part of their lives. ARKO plans to build a strong platform to support artistic endeavors from diverse disciplines of performing and visual arts by increasing funding opportunities for artists and arts organizations, increasing the accessibility to arts for the public, and promoting dynamic international arts and cultural exchanges. ARKO embraces the constant challenges and changes of our surroundings, and seeks to strengthen our role as an arts leader in the community. It promotes a shared culture of arts and information among Koreans through an effective communication system, and prioritizes a relationship built upon trust and responsibility with our audiences.

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