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Artist hopes London work will spark Korean reunification
[LONDON] An art installation lit up the memories of Korean refugees on London's River Thames on Thursday, in a project which artist Ik-Joong Kang said he hoped could spark the reunification of North and South Korea.
The "Floating Dreams" lantern stands three storeys high on the Thames, between two of the British capital's most famous sites - St Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern art gallery.
Appearing like an oversized Rubik's Cube and illuminated from within, the installation is made up of 500 drawings by those who fled their home during the Korean War in the 1950s.
"I grew up in (South) Korea but I always thought, when can the two Koreas be reunited? As an artist what do I have to do? Why do we have to live separately?" said Mr Kang.
The artist, who has lived in New York since the 1980s, said he hoped the bright light emanating from the installation would contribute to the reunification of North and South Korea.
"It has to be solved right now, now is the time...Even a big fire can be started from tiny sparks. This is a tiny spark in the Thames, because the Thames in London connects to everywhere," he said.
Mr Kang created the "Floating Dreams" piece by transferring the drawings by the refugees, now in their 80s and 90s, onto Korean rice paper.
He returned to his native South Korea for the project and, with the help of the Red Cross, Buddhist monks and Catholic priests, encouraged participants to draw their memories of home.
"I wait and I wait and they start talking about their home town; that is the time when they draw," he said, explaining many participants cried during the process.
"It's like bumping into yourself in the drawing. Thinking about your past, your memory of the past, then you just cry," said Mr Kang.
Towns, mountains and rivers all feature, while many people have drawn maps so their relatives can trace their origins if it becomes possible to return home.
The art work will be lit up nightly until September 30, as part of the Totally Thames programme of cultural events.
Mr Kang said he hoped people walking along the river would take notice of the work and learn about the refugees' stories.
"I hope this installation can be a small vaccine, can be spread out and cure our sadness, our scar, some day."