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No End to the Image War:
Photography and the Contentious Memories of the Korean War

This article examines the relationship between photographs of the Korean War and the collective memory of that experience. The Korean War was a defining event in the modern history of Korea. The war wracked the contested land and continued to cause devastating casualties during the early stages of the Cold War. Yet despite the deadly impact of the war and the presence of both Korean and foreign war correspondents during the hostilities, the Korean War is not broadly memorialized in popular iconography. World War II is remembered, in part, through photographs such as those of combatants memorialized in Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima or Robert Capa’s images of the Normandy invasion. However, it is difficult to claim that photographs that specifically symbolize military action of the Korean War are readily available in people’s memories of the war. This article examines the political and cultural implications of this seeming absence of popularized photographs depicting combatants and other violent subjects of the Korean War. The article posits that the lack of such iconic images is closely linked to the continuing unstable and conflicted nature of the South Korean people’s memories of the war. This connection between the iconography and the memories of the Korean War is also traceable through assessments of Korean War orphans and Saenghwalchuŭi Realism, the dominant photographic movement in South Korea in the two decades following the war.

Korea’s postcolonial history erupted into being in national and global politics with the unfolding of the Korean War. While the Cold War appears to have ended with the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the collapse of the [End Page 337] former Soviet Union, the legacy of that ideological and military conflict continues to shape politics on the Korean peninsula and in the entire Northeast Asian region. Although the Korean War is often referred to as “the Forgotten War” in the United States, the war and the subsequent Armistice which followed cannot be “forgotten” in South Korea, because its impact remains very much present in everyday life.1 The collective memory in South Korea of the war mediates the presence of the shadow of the Cold War, which, in turn, is influenced by contemporary prerogatives. The ways in which the Korean War is remembered are both indicators and implications of the desire to frame and commemorate the war. The medium of photography is one of the most widely accepted visual representations of the war, whether the direct propaganda from the South Korean government or the artwork produced by well-known photographers. Despite the large number of photographs taken during the Korean War by both Korean and non-Korean photographers, however, photographs of specific events, military actions, or combatants in the Korean War are much less iconic than, for example, photographs of war orphans.

This article discusses the ways in which South Koreans remember, forget, and reimagine the Korean War through photographic images and examines the relationship between Korean War photographs and the memory of the war in South Korea. Korean War photographs can be broadly defined as photographs taken during the war. This article concerns such photographs in general and separately considers those taken later, after the war, by artists/photographers of the post–Korean War photography movement called Saenghwalchuŭi Realism. Saenghwalchuŭi literally translates to life-ism and focuses on articulating the ramification of the war in Korean life. Discussing both original Korean War photographs and realist representations allows for a distinct examination of how Saenghwalchuŭi realist photographs came to represent everyday life after the war, how such photographs shaped the dominant aesthetics of photography as a medium, and, in turn, consolidated Saenghwalchuŭi’s status within the field of fine arts.

The first section of this article examines the relationship between photography and the memories of war by discussing how photography contributes to the construction and sustainment of collective memory; an analysis of Eddie Adams’s 1968 photograph of General Loan executing a man during the Vietnam conflict provides an example of how an iconic image of war emerges. This example will offer a comparative background for analysis of what the collective memory of the Korean War means for South Korea with respect to photographs of the war. To examine collective memory, this article assesses specific subjects of Korean War photographs—namely, combatants and war orphans. The particulars of war orphan photographs further an understanding of how the interests and interference of authorities, as well as the public, affect the construction of a collective memory of the Korean War.

The second part of the article focuses on the Korean War as an event that gave rise to the photographic movement Saenghwalchuŭi Realism and [End Page 338] examines how this movement influenced the memory of the Korean War in the following decades. Investigating the work of the founder of the movement, Im Ŭngsik (Limb Eung Sik), this article argues that the movement grew from artists’ direct experience of atrocity, was influenced by general anticommunist sentiment in the postwar period, and was propelled by members’ determination to bring the status of photography up to par with that of modern art in other media. Focusing on what the medium of photography does to the memory of the Korean War in South Korea, this article draws on photographs from South Korea, China, and the United States. The photographic processes used range from gelatin silver prints to Kodachrome.

War Photography and Collective Memory

Collective memory is not simply the collection of the individual memories of an entire group or society, which would be impossible to ascertain. Collective memory is memory constructed and shared by a large group of people, usually bound by a common locality or temporality.2 To construct a collective memory, comparable to social and cultural consensus, the individual memory finds common ground with the memories of others. These may be influenced by outside forces, such as the government attempting to propagate a collective memory conducive to state interests. Therefore, the difference between a collection of individual memories and a collective memory, aside from the generalized recollection of memory, is the potential influence of various outside powers to shape the memory toward consensus.

The construction of collective memory is thus ex post facto, built of individual memories that exist not as abstracts or ideals but which are drawn after the event from visual and other material.3 Mass media, memorial events, and rituals may become vehicles that initiate and transform an individual memory into a collection of memories and find common ground through symbolization.4 Collective memory is then kept, passed on, and modified through popular imagery, literature, film, and other media, reflecting widely shared sets of contemporary values, interests, ethics, and aspirations.5 Consequently, if the collective memory of war is to be studied through a photograph, it requires not just an examination of whose and what kind of memories are conjured up by the photograph, but also an analysis of the nature of the memory in question, how it is formed by the photograph, and what role other powers play in this formation.

From the earliest years of the medium, photography has recorded war and, as is evident in an 1855 photograph by the first official war photographer Roger Fenton, photographs of military action have always held considerable potential for manipulation. Fenton made two versions of the photograph The Valley of the Shadow of Death, both showing a road covered with Russian cannonballs during the Crimean War (1853–1856). One image, taken with a plate camera, depicts [End Page 339] a sloping road leading to Sebastopol looking up the valley. Off the road in the ditch, a large number of cannonballs are visible (figure 1). A more commonly reproduced version shows the same landscape, but the road is covered with cannonballs as well (figure 2). Due to this discrepancy, historians and critics such as Ulrich Keller, Susan Sontag, Larry J. Schaaf, and Errol Morris have challenged the nature of these photographs with conjectures varying from blatant manipulation to truthful depictions.6

As time has passed, the significance of Fenton’s photograph has changed as well. This photograph is rarely discussed nowadays as a means to show the aftermath of battle, but rather to illustrate how new meanings are created by the ways in which the image is deployed.7 That such images can accrue different stories over time reveals the malleability of the medium. Indeed, whether Fenton did or did not manipulate the scene, one thing is clear: the users and reproducers of the photographs have had very definite interests in choosing one image over the other. Involved parties have understood the medium’s “ability to reveal, conceal, explain, distort, to persuade and manipulate” from its earliest days.8 According to memory studies scholar Barbie Zelizer, this acknowledgment that it is “possible to use the photograph for important social aims” later directly influenced news photography in the 1930s on the eve of World War II.9 The rising importance of news photography was the result of “[t]he success of documentary photographers during the early 1930s; photography’s co-optation in films, newsreels, and the tabloid press; and experimental picture formats of certain photographers.”10 By the mid-twentieth century, photography was considered as powerful as writing in creating impressions.11

Photographs, then, especially as part of photojournalism, are “often most telling not for what they reveal about the intentions and practices of photographers” at the time they were taken, “but for what they indicate about current views of history and the way people mark, condense, and symbolize the historical past in the present.”12 Iconic war photographs in particular can avail the viewer of this marking, condensing, and symbolizing of the historical past. Thus photographic images are particularly pertinent to the formation of collective memory and subsequently the study of that phenomenon. Michael Griffin attributes this capacity to the medium’s “two powerful and potentially contradictory qualities: its apparent ability to capture a particular moment and its tendency to transcend the moment.”13

This state of contradiction is evident in Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams’s Pulitzer-winning photograph of General Loan executing a Vietcong officer. The photograph shows the moment in which South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan kills a captured Vietcong prisoner in Saigon on February 1, 1968. The prisoner stands in the middle of the road with his hands tied behind his back and grimaces as Loan puts his gun to the side of the Vietcong prisoner’s head and pulls the trigger. The row of shops and businesses to the right are closed for Tet, the seven-day-long Vietnamese New Year’s celebration.14 [End Page 340]

The Valley of the Shadow of Death (cannonballs in the ditch), Roger Fenton 1819–1869, photographer, 1855, photographic print: salted paper. Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.
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Figure 1. 

The Valley of the Shadow of Death (cannonballs in the ditch), Roger Fenton 1819–1869, photographer, 1855, photographic print: salted paper. Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death (cannonballs in the ditch and on road), Roger Fenton 1819–1869, photographer, 1855, photographic print: salted paper. Roger Fenton Crimean War Photographs Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC.
Click for larger view
Figure 2. 

The Valley of the Shadow of Death (cannonballs in the ditch and on road), Roger Fenton 1819–1869, photographer, 1855, photographic print: salted paper. Roger Fenton Crimean War Photographs Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC.

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Loan has his back to the camera and his face is revealed in profile; the tensing of his arm muscles is visible as he pulls the trigger. To the left of Loan is a man in military uniform wearing a helmet and sunglasses, clenching his teeth as he witnesses the execution. The trees to the left of the photograph cast shadows on the road below Loan’s extended arm, creating a cascading effect of his arm’s motion. The shadows appear like bursts of blood spreading from Loan to the Vietcong prisoner, whose blood is not visible in the picture.

Adams’s photograph hit the front page of numerous newspapers across the United States immediately after it was taken on February 1, 1968.15 It soon appeared on television, in magazines, and as part of antiwar placards. Pro-war groups argued for an increase in the number of US troops in Vietnam and perceived the photograph as an indication of the anti-Vietcong trajectory of the war; antiwar groups found the photograph symbolic of the extreme inhumanity of involvement in the conflict.16 Eventually, the photograph was “co-opted by American popular culture, as a graphic sign of unspecified rage, cynicism, or humor, slowly decoupling the photograph from the particular conditions of its making and from the raw impact of its original publication.”17

Adams later commented in an Associated Press interview on how photographs can lie. Adams was specifically referring to this photograph, emphasizing that there is much more to the story than Loan’s brutal act: the family members of Loan’s aide were murdered by the Vietcong prisoner earlier that morning.18 Although many would not consider this sufficient justification for the execution, Adams’s awareness of the ability of photography to both capture and elide narratives—a photograph’s ability to insinuate a history which may or may not be accurate—is profoundly pertinent to the medium’s “tendency to transcend the moment.” Indeed, this particular photograph eventually played a role in creating a memory of the Vietnam War that changed over time and influenced policy. The image suggests that the capture and execution of a Vietcong prisoner in plain clothes is a direct result of the Tet Offensive, a military failure for North Vietnam and the Vietcong. Nonetheless, because of subsequent reprisals by the Vietcong, and the media’s report of the Tet Offensive as a series of military losses to the US side, Alyssa Adams, Hal Buell, and Vicki Goldberg argue that the photograph “helped create perceptions in the US that the Tet Offensive was another example of the failure of the American effort in Vietnam.”19

The strength of the medium to influence the public imagination is evident as well in this photograph’s decisive and lasting influence on both the subject and the photographer.20 General Loan was condemned by the public for his act in Vietnam and unsuccessfully sought political sanctuary.21 Even though he did reach the United States, he was accused of “moral turpitude” three years later based on Adams’s photograph and put through deportation proceedings, which eventually allowed him to stay.22 The photograph thus came to haunt Loan well after the actions depicted within it, granting him “presen[ce] only through his photographic proxy.”23 Adams, in turn, felt deeply guilty for his role in Loan’s [End Page 342] predicament and avoided discussing the photograph for the rest of his life. With many of the facts buried in the symbolic power of the photograph, it has now become a narrative emblem of the complex, mixed memories of the war—“the symbolizing of national mythic narratives.”24

Memories of war, therefore, depend on a medium, either tangible or intangible, through which they are conjured. 25 This medium, such as a photograph or a literary work, can be used to evoke memories in any circumstance, but the medium needs to be used recurrently to attain the function of memory—for instance, through commemorations and festive occasions such as Independence Day and Memorial Day in the United States, which promote an environment for remembrance as a community. As Lewis A. Coser puts it, “it is the collective memory, as an intermediate variable so to speak, that both commemorates the events through calendar celebrations and is strengthened by them.”26 Ultimately, war and its memories are affected, if not controlled, by the ways in which they are “stored and interpreted by social institutions.”27 This concept underlies the perpetual construction of war memorials and commemorative events throughout human history. The memory needs to be refreshed, re-historicized, and re-contextualized. This essential process of the way memories are constructed is, in turn, precisely why they can fall under the influence of powers greater than individuals. Collective memory is inherently subject to manipulation and propagandizing.

Furthermore, the different communities experiencing the same war do not construct the shared experience of collective memory in the same way; Adams’s image meant very different things for the pro- and anti-war camps. This variation in memory is the conceptual basis of Harrell Fletcher’s 2005 work, The American War. Fletcher’s photographs showcase the images and wall labels at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, a memorial museum of the American War (the Vietnam War is referred to as the American War in Vietnam). Fletcher captured over 200 images and museum wall labels with a digital camera, then reproduced and framed them.28 Many of the images exhibited at the museum are reproductions of photographs originally published in Life magazine, such as the My Lai Massacre as photographed by Ron Haeberle in 1968. The wall labels provide information about numerous massacres and their victims, many of which are accompanied by the original descriptions and quotes from Life magazine. From the Vietnamese civilian perspective, these “American” quotes reveal the United States’ wartime cruelty through its “business-as-usual”-style commentary on atrocities.

Fletcher states that, while many of the images were familiar to him, “seeing them all together and presented from the Vietnamese perspective was very striking.”29 By re-representing the Vietnam War, which is simultaneously the American War, Fletcher asks the viewer in the United States to look at the war from Vietnam’s perspective and to explore how familiar images and texts can articulate different memories of the same events due to the distinct experiences, values, and aspirations of the different groups involved. In a similar vein, the memory of the Korean War might not mean the same thing in South Korea as it [End Page 343] does in other nations. The hundreds of thousands of photographs of the Korean War, including many by world-famous photographers such as Margaret Bourke-White, as well as the lesser-known Im Insik, the Korean Army’s official photographer at the time, did not produce enough impact to catalyze public discourse on the conflict, let alone on the photographs themselves.

Iconic Images and the Collective Memory of the Korean War

Collective memory is not necessarily born of direct experience of events. Memories conjured up by photographs of war among postwar generations is necessarily secondhand. However, the sustainment of an event through cross-generational memory is, in essence, the reason why societies value collective memory. Maintaining a collective memory of an event preserves it even as the people who experienced the event firsthand die. Marianne Hirsch uses “postmemory” to refer to the memory of the Holocaust “succeeded” by the children of Holocaust survivors. Hirsch uses the prefix post- to indicate a realm beyond memory created by “generational distance and from history by deep personal connection.”30 In contrast to memory, postmemory is constructed through “the experience of those who grow up dominated by narratives that preceded their birth, whose own belated stories are evacuated by the stories of the previous generation shaped by traumatic events that can be neither understood nor recreated.”31

In Hirsch’s use of the term, all memory becomes postmemory sooner or later, regardless of what the event is or where it happened. Hirsch indeed suggests that postmemory may be used for describing “other second-generation memories.” This emphasis on which generation is involved is crucial: Hirsch invoked postmemory as a term for the second generation, a generation influenced by their families’ memories of Holocaust. The memory of Holocaust survivors’ children exists as conjoined not just with the collective memory of the atrocity but also with the afterlife of their parents’ experiences. This is a major formative difference between the postmemory of the Holocaust and that of the Korean War. While postmemory can be used to represent the memory of the Korean War carried by generations of South Koreans who did not personally experience the conflict, the role the South Korean state plays in a military confrontation with the North is critical in the formation of citizens’ postmemory. According to Hirsch, postmemory is “dominated by narratives” of the previous generation’s firsthand experiences. Post–Korean War generations were likely similarly influenced by their parents’ narratives. However, the anticommunist discourse in South Korean society—intensified by the Park Chung Hee regime (Pak Chŏnghŭi, 1961–1979)32 —also exerted enormous influence on the formation of the postmemory of the Korean War.

Sociologist Maurice Halbwachs in his book, On Collective Memory (originally published in French in 1925) states: [End Page 344]

In the case of the family group the similarity of memories is merely a sign of a community of interests and thoughts. It is not because memories resemble each other that several can be called to mind at the same time. It is rather because the same group is interested in them and is able to call them to mind at the same time that they resemble each other.33

Memories of a certain event thus vary according to each person, but what is shared among people’s memories is the temporality of will—the will to conjure up memories of the event simultaneously, for communal perception of similarities affirming the shared interests held in the present. In the case of commonly shared memories of the Korean War by South Koreans, this “temporality of will” is manifested in, for example, annual public commemorative events on June 25, the anniversary of the day the Korean War broke out—but, significantly, not on July 27, the day both sides agreed to the Armistice. Thus the shared memories of the Korean War are at least partially institutionalized and reflect a desire to pass on memories to later generations. By default, South Koreans also collectively remember the Korean War whenever violent skirmishes between South and North Korea occur. These events dredge up memories not only of the Korean War and the present division of the peninsula, but also of Japanese colonial rule and the circumstances leading to the war.

The contribution of war photography to the collective memory of the Korean War is complicated by the nature and popularization of the images by which the Korean War is remembered. While Adams’s photograph broadly conjures memories of the Vietnam War in the United States, such violent photographs of war—images depicting combat, executions, and massacres—have not become iconic in South Korea, despite plentiful availability.34 Both the publication of photographs depicting war violence and the number of books devoted to Korean War photography decreased throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, Kim Hyŏnggon, a scholar of Korean War photography, found only one book devoted to Korean War photography, Tak’yument’ari Han’guk chŏnjaeng (The Korean War documentary) published in 1991. Kim located the book in the Republic of Korea Ministry of Defense archive.35 The resulting lack of public circulation of photographs showing military violence indicates that the large numbers of viewers necessary for a photograph to become iconic did not, nor does, exist.

This situation is rather unusual and requires the examination of the idiosyncrasies surrounding the availability and distribution of Korean War photographs. One factor is the lack of illustrated news magazines in postwar South Korea. Likewise, photojournalistic books have never been particularly popular or widely read in South Korea, at least not until the late 1980s—after the end of the Chŏn government, state censorship loosened up. More crucially, censorship in the Korean mass media was well established, dating from the colonial era against anticolonial, pro-independence, and pro-communist journalism.36 South Korean visual culture, including photography and fine art, was also subject to the same strictures placed on written media during this time.37 After independence and the Korean War, the [End Page 345] military government of Park Chung Hee continued strict censorship of printed materials.38 Following Park Chung Hee’s coup d’état on May 16, 1961, “all publications of weekly and bi-weekly photojournalistic magazines were forced to terminate.”39

As government interference affects the promulgation and perception of war imagery and thus war memory, different state interests result in different memories. The United States’ history with Korean War photographs is very different from the Korean experience. Popular illustrated magazines such as Life sent correspondents to the front,40 and photographers such as David Douglas Duncan “brought the horror of the undeclared war back to the coffee tables of America.”41 These photographs showed GIs fighting in the frozen hillocks of Korea “[territory] to be lost one day, regained the next, and lost again, [shaking] the nation’s confidence.”42 Although no single iconic image of this particular US experience exists, the Korean War photographs widely circulated in the United States, such as those published in Duncan’s This Is War! (1951; see figure 3), convey the frustration, both at the front and at home, as the justification for the sacrifices of war became less clear to both soldiers and the public.43 How the Korean War is remembered today seems primarily influenced by the outcome of the war. In the long run, the

American Marines Race Past a Dead Enemy Soldier in Korea, September 1950. From This Is War!, p. 24. Courtesy of David Douglas Duncan and Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.
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Figure 3. 

American Marines Race Past a Dead Enemy Soldier in Korea, September 1950. From This Is War!, p. 24. Courtesy of David Douglas Duncan and Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

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United States gained numerous military and political advantages in the Northeast Asian region. According to Yi Wanbŏm, a historian of modern and contemporary South Korea, the Korean War furthered the militarization of the United States across the globe, positioning it as the primary counterpart to the Soviet Union while Western Europe’s global influence waned. Around the time of the Korean War, the United States signed treaties with forty-two allies, which enabled it to establish over twenty-seven hundred military bases outside the United States.44 For the United States, the Korean War was neither a World War II–type victory, nor was it a response to a Pearl Harbor–style attack on its own territory; in addition it was not a lost and seemingly futile conflict such as the Vietnam War. That the Korean War did not fall into such defined categories explains, in part, why the circulation of Korean War images largely disappeared over the following decades. Not only did the general American public find insufficient reason to remind themselves of the war, but federal authorities had no need to consolidate Korean War memories or shape a collective memory. With no strong ideological need for an American consciousness of the Korean War, the memories have been allowed to fade, resulting in the Korean War being America’s “Forgotten War.”

A further discrepancy between the United States and South Korea’s respective responses to Korean War photographs is linked to timeliness. While the US military and media published photographs of the war during the military conflict itself, South Korean news outlets were largely cut off from reporting on the action. After North Korean and Chinese attacks destroyed newspaper company offices, journalists fled Seoul. Having lost the ability to transmit images via newspapers, there were virtually no national vehicles through which to view Korean War photographs during the fighting itself, except at exhibitions held at the United States Information Service (USIS) in Pusan. South Korea began publishing Korean War photographs decades later during the Park Chung Hee era as photographic texts.45 As most of the South Korean media were under the direct control of the military government, or other government agencies, newspapers in general were heavily censored for anticommunist propaganda.46 Thus, while the United States experienced Korean War photographs as part of the news of the day and forgot about them when the news was deemed irrelevant, South Koreans experienced these same photographs ex post facto. The new prerogatives of the regime in power, the temporal and generational gaps between the experience of the war, and the experience of the war’s photographs mediated the way in which South Koreans absorbed and interpreted Korean War photographs.

Korean War Orphan Photographs

In April 2010, a prominent South Korean Internet news website revealed a compilation of allegedly never-before-seen color photographs of the Korean War, taken by American war correspondent John Rich between 1950 and 1953.47 Although online [End Page 347] sources tout Rich’s photographs several times as being “newly discovered,” the incredible detail and vibrant color of the images stand out from the black-and-white pictures dominating most Korean War photography.48 Online, the digitized Kodachrome photographs are crisp and slide-like and appear as if they had been taken using the latest digital camera technology.49 An exhibition of Rich’s photographs opened in 2010 at the Blue House, the official residence and office of the South Korean president, before traveling throughout South Korea. The accompanying book, Korean War in Color: A Correspondent’s Retrospective on a Forgotten War, was published in 2010 with full-spread photographs on high-quality matte paper.50

Similar to Tak’yument’ari Han’guk chŏnjaeng, which emphasized both the North and South as the victims of war by focusing on photographs of civilians and their daily lives,51 Korean War in Color eschews the subject matter comprising the majority of extant Korean War photographs—combat, casualties on both sides (particularly fallen allies), and the mass executions of civilians who had no choice but to comply with the enemy to avoid executions. The decision to exclude photographs of executions or combats follows the changes in the subject matter of photography books and exhibitions since the late 1980s. Kim Hyŏnggon, examining the content of books published on Korean War photography in South Korea and commemorative photography exhibitions at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul, found that the photographs circulated from the 1960s on include less front line combat imagery and more everyday civilian activity.52 The scarcity of iconic war photographs depicting combatants is itself telling: the highly descriptive nature of many of the photographs revealed too much about the casualties of war on both sides and jeopardized the military governments’ anticommunist reconstruction of memory. Hence, photographs of military camps, combat, and civilians and their residential areas were selectively included in or excluded from publications and exhibitions in order to suit specific governmental commemoration agendas.53

Korean War in Color follows this trend, focusing on non-combatant photographs and forgoing imagery of immediate violence. The cover photograph is of a South Korean boy posing on a fallen North Korean fighter plane. Waving his hand at the camera, the boy, with a shaven head and dirt-covered clothes, smiles widely for the camera. The book includes chapters titled “Memories and Faces” and “Resilient People” and highlights photographs of South Korean civilians and their experiences of war—people at a market, an organized display of high school girls cheering Syngman Rhee’s second-term inauguration in 1952, a fashionably dressed bourgeois couple, old men in traditional attire, and orphans taken into military camps for temporary residence. This range of demographics among the photographic subjects is deliberate, selected by the organizer of the book to represent how a nation devastated by the casualties of the war would, thanks to its citizens’ resiliency, soon recover.

Photographs of Korean War orphans in books and exhibitions starkly illuminate such demographic manipulation. Orphans were the subject of a large number of photographs taken by foreign war correspondents, as over 100,000 children [End Page 348] had been orphaned by the time the Armistice was signed in 1953.54 These orphan photographs have been used explicitly and extensively to construct a memory of the war. A prime example is the photograph of an orphan boy in Seoul taken by Im Ŭngsik (1912–2001)—Chŏnjaeng koa (War orphan), T’aep’yŏngno, Sŏul (figure 4). This is one of the better-known photographs of mid-twentieth-century Korea.55 In the photograph, a boy—his head shaven—looks utterly haggard: his clothes are torn, his face and body completely covered with dirt, his knees scarred. To his right sits an open can that appears to be a military container; his hand is in his mouth as if he had just picked something edible from the can. Looking straight into the camera lens, the boy’s forehead wrinkles like that of an old man. The shot tightly frames the boy and the brick wall behind him, but the ground littered with trash reveals to the viewer the conditions the boy is living in.56

Other than the general information that the photograph was taken on the boulevard T’aep’yŏngno, it is impossible to find any further information about the boy or his circumstances as Im does not expose any details that could come between the viewer and the subject. This lack of other details in the photograph

Chŏnjaeng koa (A war orphan), T’aep’yŏngno, Sŏul by Im Ŭngsik, 1950. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Nunbit Publishing Company.
Click for larger view
Figure 4. 

Chŏnjaeng koa (A war orphan), T’aep’yŏngno, Sŏul by Im Ŭngsik, 1950. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Nunbit Publishing Company.

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is precisely what allows it to achieve the level of symbolism necessary to represent the general tragedy of war.57 Rather than explicating the circumstances of the specific orphan pictured, Im Ŭngsik’s photograph generalizes the experience of war, calling attention to the atrocities of the Korean War “by paying less attention to their [Im’s photographs] effectiveness as referential documents … in a specific place and time, and more to their effectiveness as symbols of the atrocities at their most generalized and universal level.”58 This image has therefore been propagated as a powerful symbol of the Korean War by curators and critics of photography. It has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions with catalog publications, including the latest major retrospective at the Tŏksugung Misulgwan from December 21, 2011–February 12, 2012, which coincided with the hundredth anniversary of Im Ŭngsik’s birth.59 With each new wave of exposure, according to photography critic and historian Im Yŏnggyun, the photograph becomes “a site of humanity in danger within a massive social structure” and therefore represents the devastation of the war-stricken nation.60

Another photograph of a child’s suffering during the war is housed in the Korean War records at the National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC (figure 5). The photograph shows a girl sitting on the ground with

Orphan girl in Inch’ŏn after the Inch’ŏn Landing Operation, September 1950. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo no. War & Conflict 1486.
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Figure 5. 

Orphan girl in Inch’ŏn after the Inch’ŏn Landing Operation, September 1950. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo no. War & Conflict 1486.

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her right leg stretched out, crying with her mouth wide open. She wears traditional Korean clothes (common attire at the time), but does not seem to be wearing much underneath. This photograph, unlike the others, provides information as to its time and space. According to the plaque by the gate, the building behind her was once used for industrial manufacturing in Inch’ŏn, a port city made famous by General Douglas MacArthur’s Inch’ŏn Landing Operation (September 10–19, 1950) reclaiming Seoul from the North Korean People’s Army.61 Nevertheless, the symbolic power of the effect of war, in general, on children overpowers the photograph as a referential document, as the little girl’s cry echoes in the viewer.

The symbolic meaning of the images of children is clear: the most tragic victims are the children affected by the aftermath of war and other socio-political unrest. The T’aep’yŏngno and Inch’ŏn photographs conjure up not only sympathy but also shame, frustration, guilt, and helplessness on the part of the viewer. Thus, the orphans pictured begin to personify the nation itself, stripped of security, resource, independence, and even a viable future. Many South Koreans believe that they were the most victimized group during the war, because the North initiated the war and, fundamentally, the fighting on the Korean peninsula was a power struggle between outside superpowers.62 Despite the tremendous economic success achieved by South Korea since the war, the two Koreas are still divided by the thirty-eighth parallel. Tensions have worsened as the conservative ruling party of South Korea has toughened its rhetoric and curtailed diplomatic relations with North Korea since 2008. And the North Korean people remain cut off from the rest of the world. Hence, the orphan photographs convey the collective memory of the Korean War as an “orphanizing” experience for the South Korean nation and people.63 Kwŏn Myŏnga, a scholar of contemporary South Korean literature, argues that sunansa (history of suffering) encourages the South Korean public’s self-victimization—the collective subconsciousness of war victims—and at the same time homogenizes divergent experiences of the Korean War. As a result, through the medium of the orphan photographs, South Korean individuals can identify themselves as minjok sunanja (national/ethnic sufferers).64

Less well-known are photographs of groups of Korean orphans taken in front of or at orphanages, many of which are part of the special collections kept at NARA. Some show children brought into US military camps to live with soldiers.65 Others show those taken into orphanages operated by foreign Christian charity groups and US military units. In these photographs, orphans stand in front of plaques identifying the orphanages or military bases. In one photograph, a group of male children with an American chaplain and a Korean chaplain stand in front of a chapel, basically an oval-shaped tent with a cross on top and a sign that reads “Chapel on the Parallel” (referring to the thirty-eighth parallel dividing South and North Korea) (figure 6). The children, wearing baggy clothes, likely received from soldiers in the camps, appear to be in better condition than, for instance, Im’s war orphan. In another photograph, two US Marines are handing bundles of clothing to a man in a suit (figure 7). Next to them are small [End Page 351] children, with their backs to the camera, looking at what the men are doing; a sign behind the Korean man reads “US MARINE MEMORIAL ORPHANAGE [and] P’ohang … Aeyugwŏn (P’ohang … Orphanage).” The subjects posed for the photograph to commemorate the charitable acts of the US Marines.

Orphans at a military chapel with ministers, October 1951. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo no. 111-SC-383159.
Click for larger view
Figure 6. 

Orphans at a military chapel with ministers, October 1951. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo no. 111-SC-383159.

Although the photographs housed at NARA have not been reproduced or exhibited as widely as Im’s orphan photograph, by focusing on the photographs of civilians, especially on the most helpless members, these orphan photographs exemplify trends in the propagation of Korean War photography. These have been selected for a Korean publication of Korean War photographs from NARA, in Kim Wonil et al., Narŭl ullin Han’guk chŏnjaeng 100 changmyŏn (A hundred Korean War scenes that made me cry, figure 5) and Rijiwei Maesyu (Ridgeway, Matthew B.), Kŭdŭl i pon Han’guk chŏnjaeng 3: Migun kwa Yuen’gun 1951–1953 (The Korean War as they saw it Vol. 3: The American and UN forces, 1951– 1953, figures 67).66 Interestingly, the subject matter featured in this publication includes Korean War photographs documenting combat, casualties on both sides, war prisoners, and mass executions of civilians. Such photographs show [End Page 352] the casualties of the North and its allies and conjure collective sympathy toward all parties involved in the war. Including the orphan photographs in this collection serves an agenda: images of orphans provide a counterpart to the violent scenes in the other photographs—the children personify the South Korean nation as the innocent victim of the war and supersede sympathy that the viewer might feel for other casualties.

Marines helping out an orphanage in Pohang, March 1953. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo no. 127-GK-16-A345279.
Click for larger view
Figure 7. 

Marines helping out an orphanage in Pohang, March 1953. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo no. 127-GK-16-A345279.

The orphan photographs of the Korean War thus demonstrate how images can undergo symbolization and become a medium of the collective memory of suffering. However, these images do not merely evoke empathy for universal suffering but rather show how South Koreans transformed themselves into “national/ethnic sufferers.” Furthermore, this “orphanizing” of both South Korean individuals and the South Korean nation has allowed related issues, such as the fate of mixed-race war orphans of GIs and Korean women and the adoption of war orphans both within Korea and internationally (by non-Koreans), to be suppressed to an extreme degree by the military regimes of Park, Chŏn, and No (Roh Tae Woo).67 It was not until the 1990s that publications and exhibitions of mixed-race orphans began to receive greater public attention. The most notable of these are Chu Myŏngdŏk’s 1966 series of photographs Sŏkyŏjin irŭmdŭl (Mixed names), taken at the Holt Orphanage.68 [End Page 353]

Saenghwalchuŭi Realism: Memories of Life After War

The photographic movements that arose after the Korean War were greatly affected by the experience of the war, and, like the formation of the memory of the war, by the swirl of the political changes occurring since the signing of the Armistice. This, in turn, also influenced the shaping of the South Korean collective memory of the Korean War in the subsequent decades. Saenghwalchuŭi Realism—in its focus on the subject of the everyday—and thus its conjuring of minjok sunansa—gained considerable clout as the prevailing photography movement in the years immediately following the war. This popularity helped establish the concept of photographic Realism in South Korea. Furthermore, because the movement also contributed to an aestheticization of postwar suffering, works emerging from Saenghwalchuŭi Realism retrospectively affected discourses on prewar photography movements.

The Korean War, like most other wars, inhibited the creative activities of many citizens. Some wealthy artists and intellectuals fled to Japan, Europe, and the United States. However, some scholars consider the Korean War and its aftermath critical to the development of Korean photographers’ “photographic aesthetics.”69 Before the war, photographers such as Yi Kyŏngmo, who photographed popular uprisings—such as the Yŏsu-Sunchŏn Uprising—were exceptions to the rule. Most Korean photographers worked with pictorialist or experimental styles, submitting their pictures to kongmojŏn (juried competition), photography competitions organized by sallon (generally photography organizations), or newspaper competitions.70 These photographers aspired to highly composed and stylized landscape photographs such as those by Im Ŭngsik.71 However, the war halted such activities entirely as photographers lost studios and equipment or were drafted into the armed forces.72

As a result, many photographers faced an inevitable challenge to their aesthetic. Im Ŭngsik, for example, eventually became a leading member of the postwar Realist movement. When war broke out, Im was living and working in Pusan, insulated from the destruction occurring in cities farther north.73 He became president of the Pusan Yesul sajin Yŏn’guhoe (the Pusan Research Council of Art Photography) in 1947.74 After the war began, Eugene Knez, the director of the USIS, encouraged Im to become a war correspondent for the US State Department. In that capacity, Im worked alongside Hank Walker, a photographer for Life magazine. They were present at the critical Inch’ŏn Landing Operation,75 and Im photographed the reclamation of Seoul on September 28, 1950. Im Ŭngsik ended his stint as war correspondent in October of the same year, although he continued to take photographs throughout the war.76 Like others who photographed the war, Im saw himself as a mediator between the world of reality—the war-stricken nation—and the general public.

Before the war, Im appropriated the photographic style Pit kwa haejo (light and tide), which was influenced by the Japanese photographer Fukuhara Shinzō’s [End Page 354] pictorialist approach of “light with its harmony.”77 Pit kwa haejo and other variations of pictorialism are generally described as yesul sajin (art photography), which focuses on the painterly effect of light and composition as well as on pastoral and abstract subject matter. The style could not be further removed from the realities of war. In his autobiography, Im states he was unaware of the tasks of a war correspondent when he took on the role.78 Previously his experience of the Korean War had been limited to hearing the remote sounds of bombs and witnessing the arrival of war refugees and wounded soldiers into Pusan.79 Im recalled that he was unable to photograph anything for four days upon his arrival in Seoul following the reclamation80 ; what he experienced and witnessed at the front was simply too horrific to photograph in his usual manner.

The changes in Im’s work and that of others in the photography movement became more distinct after the war. Im coined the term Saenghwalchuŭi (literally: everyday life-ism) Realism to signify how photographers focused on scenes of “the everyday” in their work, and the movement became the dominant style of South Korean photography during the late 1950s and 1960s.81 The movement generally came to include photographs documenting life after the war, such as those of Chong Pomt’ae and Ch’oe Minsik whose works mostly depicted the hardships of everyday life and basic activities such as eating.

One of the most frequently and widely reproduced works of Saenghwalchuŭi Realism, Im’s Kujik (1953), shows his move toward Saenghwalchuŭi Realism (figure 8).82 In the black and white photograph (gelatin silver print), a man leans against a reflective marble wall on the street. Behind him is a group of pedestrians in business suits. The man leaning against the wall wears oversized pants with what appears to be a mismatched combination of a denim jacket and a woman’s hat, the rim of which covers his eyes almost completely. The button-down jacket, with its sleeves rolled up, also seems too big. But what stands out most is a sign written on a small piece of cardboard tied to his waist: “kujik,” meaning, “seeking a job.” A tall man in a dark suit walking past turns to look at the man with the sign, whose head is lowered and posture lethargic as if ashamed of being there. Ahead of the tall man are two other men in business suits, shaking hands with polite smiles as if meeting accidentally on the street. Behind them are more pedestrians, all seemingly men in suits. The man with the sign is the odd one out in this street scene, whose other participants all appear employed, presumably in white-collar jobs requiring that they wear suits.

The photograph, taken immediately after the Korean War, reveals a major social problem in postwar Korea—unemployment—and does so with a sense of melancholy.83 Upon close observation of the image, it does not seem dramatized; the action of the man with the sign in lowering his head, potentially hiding from identification by the camera, does not look entirely coincidental. As an established art photographer prior to the Korean War, Im Ŭngsik’s photographs of people and everyday life on the streets have generally been received as artistic creations, rather than carrying the journalistic context of his war correspondent [End Page 355] photography. Indeed, his artistic sensibilities are inevitably imbued by his prewar practices. Yet as a proponent of realism, Im advocated straight photography—a term used for objective, unmanipulated photography84 —arguing that the true value of photography lies in its capacity for realism.85

Kujik (Seeking work) by Yim Ŭngsik, 1953. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Nunbit Publishing Company.
Click for larger view
Figure 8. 

Kujik (Seeking work) by Yim Ŭngsik, 1953. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Nunbit Publishing Company.

In another photograph taken in 1950, Im shows a woman and a man against a wall on which a sign reads “Keep Clear—No Parking i kot e itchi masiyo Red Cross Only Miguk … ŭi hanham” (figure 9). The sign and the title of the photograph, Kŭmji kuyŏk (Restricted area), hint that there is a military camp and a Red Cross office nearby. The woman seems to be mending a garment while the child on her back tilts his or her head toward the wall. The man on her left is apparently sitting on the ground, and is fixated on what appears to be a newspaper. It appears that he may be looking at classified ads in search of a job; they may be a couple. While the English, directed toward US and UN soldiers, reads “Keep Clear—No Parking,” the Korean translates literally to “Don’t be here.” It is intended to discourage not only drivers or movers but also pedestrians and people loitering like the photographic subjects. Im encapsulates several features of wartime Korea within a single image: the presence of the US Army, other UN forces, and the [End Page 356] Red Cross in civilian spaces, gendered activities, the more authoritative and subjectifying language used to address the native population, and the odd peacefulness of the scene so soon after the violent outbreak of the war.

Kŭmji kuyŏk (Restricted area) by Yim Ŭngsik, 1951. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Nunbit Publishing Company.
Click for larger view
Figure 9. 

Kŭmji kuyŏk (Restricted area) by Yim Ŭngsik, 1951. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Nunbit Publishing Company.

Im’s photographs thus depict the mundane scenes of life, yet also inform the viewer of something very specific to the photograph, especially regarding the subject’s state of being—war-stricken, struggling to survive, dislocated within their environment. In the three photographs by Im discussed here—Chŏnjaeng koa, Kujik, and Kŭmji kuyŏk—the presence of aesthetic humanism underlies the images. Such humanism was a major interest for adherents of Saenghwalchuŭi Realism.86 They treated photography as a medium for portraying the reality of postwar South Korea, “a record that describes historical contents concretely so that it was important to express things in view of their reality in time and in space.”87 The movement, therefore, emphasized the indexical power of the photographic medium, while at the same time prizing the medium’s capacity to conjure humanistic emotions such as sympathy and familial love. Im believed that the movement thus offered “an opportunity to confirm a social impact of photography.”88 [End Page 357]

The work of photographers associated with Saenghwalchuŭi Realism tend to be juxtaposed against the styles dubbed yesul sajin (art photography) and sallong sajin (salon photography), roughly equated with pictorialist and composed photographs. Two historians of photography, Pak P’yŏngjong and Yi Kyŏngmin argue that Saenghwalchuŭi Realists mainly used these terms to differentiate the aims of their own work.89 Yet by generalizing—and trivializing—the work of photographers outside the movement, Saenghwalchuŭi Realists simplified and de-intellectualized sallong sajin while elevating the status of Saenghwalchuŭi.90 Thus, through the discourse of Saenghwalchuŭi Realism, photography in South Korea was dichotomized as Realism vs. Salon-ism. As a result, the photographs of the Korean War by photographers associated with Saenghwalchuŭi Realism were also aestheticized.

The rise of Saenghwalchuŭi Realism established a documentary approach as the prominent artistic style of photography in South Korea. The photographers of the movement became important figures in photographic circles by publishing their own monographs.91 This, however, did not lead to the wide reproduction and circulation of Korean War photographs taken by the movements’ artists. Very few photographs, Im’s Chŏnjaeng koa and Kujik, for example, became iconic and were exposed to the public in exhibitions and exhibition catalogs. Because of the outsized influence of a select few images, they aestheticized South Korean collective suffering during the postwar period.

In consequence, the term Realism—as a photographic movement in South Korea—should not be used to merely depict real objects, people, or things, but instead it encompasses the larger “scene” of the everyday and can thus symbolize life during the postwar period in South Korea. A favorite subject of the Saenghwalchuŭi Realists was the everyday struggle of the people affected the most by the Korean War. Therefore, while the photographers of the movement aspired to achieve straight photography, they searched for scenes that evoked sentimental values. As is evident in Im’s photographs, Saenghwalchuŭi Realism is a combination of yesul sajin and Realism, rather than a completely new movement antithetical to salon photography. The work of Saenghwalchuŭi Realism cannot simply be pitted against the overtly generalized genre of yesul sajin.92 Rather, the emphasis on Realism in the movement asserts members’ desires to differentiate themselves from the artistic practices (salon photography and yesul sajin) prevalent during the prewar period.

The rise of Saenghwalchuŭi Realism was, however, also affected by the anticommunist/anti-leftist politics and sentiments prevalent in all aspects of postwar South Korean life. As pointed out by Cho Usŏk, a historian of Korean photography, Im modified Realism with Saenghwalchuŭi to avoid possible association with the Socialist Realism technique used by the Japanese photographer Domon Ken93 ; the military regime severely persecuted anybody purported to have Communist or Socialist connections.94 For instance, photographer Ch’oe Minsik tells stories of his numerous arrests by undercover police officers during the Park [End Page 358] Chung Hee military regime, due to his efforts to photograph underprivileged neighborhoods in Pusan where he was based.95 Ch’oe claims that the military government persecuted any cultural production that would potentially bring visibility to poverty and other types of inequality to the wider public.96

The situation of the Saenghwalchuŭi Realists is thus comparable to that of the Photo League in the United States during the height of McCarthyism. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC, 1938–1975), an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives, targeted individuals and organizations suspected of Communist intent or influence. The Photo League, placed on the US Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations as early as 1947, was “vulnerable because of its dedication to documentary photography.”97 The League disbanded in 1951 after the stigma of Communist intent led to a substantial reduction in its membership.98 Saenghwalchuŭi Realism, however, was not an organization in South Korea. It was a term for an aesthetic approach to photography. By accentuating the humanistic and artistic values, rather than the critical and social aspects crucial to documentary photography, the Saenghwalchuŭi Realism movement avoided more severe levels of persecution. Therefore, life in the immediate post-Korean War period, as captured by the Saenghwalchuŭi photographers, retrospectively influenced the ways in which Korean society visualized the legacy of the Korean War, whether as an outcome of direct experience or postmemory. Nonetheless, the numbers of artists participating in the Saenghwalchuŭi Realism movement also declined by the late 1960s, just as various photography associations emerged.

Conclusion: Making Memories of the Korean War

This article has delineated some of the factors contributing to the iconic photographs of the Korean War being civilian “victim” photographs rather than that of combat or politics and has considered the Saenghwalchuŭi Realism movement’s transformation of the artistic current of Korean photography in the 1950s. As the movement collapsed the concepts of art and documentary photography into Realism photography, it, in turn, influenced the reception and promulgation of Korean War photographs. Recent treatment of Korean War photographs continues South Korean official efforts to instill ideology in the South Korean collective memory of the Korean War. Over the past several years stories of “new” Korean War photographs, such as those by John Rich, have tended to surface almost annually between April and June, suggesting that these are orchestrated “reveals” meant to conjure up memories of the war in advance of the anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War on June 25. However, these purportedly newly discovered photographs often come from public and private collections in the United States, and in some cases from the Korean War records of the US National Archives and Records Administration, indicating a careful curating of the photographs chosen. [End Page 359]

Although propagandistic intentions are writ large in these annual pre-June photo discoveries, they are, in fact, one of the few occasions when Internet users can encounter historic photographs in digital format without visiting museums or war memorials. The limited exposure of the South Korean public to Korean War photographs contributes to the credibility of the claims by the South Korean media to have “discovered” photographs. In truth, thousands of images exist in the archives of South Korea and the United States. Indeed, archives outside South Korea such as NARA have become go-to sites for certain individuals and journalists to find materials they can then claim as longlost photographs of great historical value.99 Most likely, a reporter went to an archive, selected a number of photographs, and paid a reproduction fee to a collector. Then, in the spirit of sensationalism, the images were packaged and revealed as if they had materialized from thin air. Nonetheless, the images were not hidden (though some were kept as confidential in the archive) or stolen. And the discovered photographs managed to stay on South Korean Internet news websites for several days before and after June 25th. Such productions are intended to evoke, and even create, sentiment and memories surrounding the Korean War in citizens who are the most likely to lack defenses against such propagandist tactics—those being, for the most part, from the postwar generations encountering the photographs for the first time on their computer screens, tablets, and cellphones.

The fact that Korean War photographs can be continuously claimed as “new” reflects the scarcity of familiar images of the Korean War in South Korea. This in turn, points to the problematic state of the discourse and visual culture of the war and on the continuing state of the Armistice. Halbwachs argues that one cannot “think about the events of one’s past without discoursing upon them”100 ; yet rather than cultivate such discourse, the military regimes repressed the events. The South Korean collective memory of the Korean War has thus been a space of contested ideologies and opinions about the war as well as the accumulative events that have occurred since. There has been, however, a dramatic rise in the number of books devoted to the collections of Korean War photographs in the last decade. This is due, in part, because of the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary in 2010 of the beginning of the Korean War, as well as increased interest in the war’s visual culture. These “new” photographs may not become as iconic as Im’s Chŏnjaeng koa or Kujik; nonetheless, they will shed light on how Korean War memories are shaped in the future.

Jung Joon Lee  

Jung Joon Lee is assistant professor of art history at Queensborough Community College, The City University of New York. Lee’s recent research examines photography, memory, and gender in relation to the US military presence in East Asia.


I am grateful to Charles Armstrong and Tracy Stober for their support. This article is indebted to the critical insights of two anonymous reviewers for The Journal of Korean Studies. [End Page 360]

1. For instance, North Korea reacted against the United Nations Security Council’s decision to impose further sanctions with an announcement that “it was nullifying all nonaggression agreements with South Korea,” referring to the 1953 Armistice Agreement, on March 8, 2013. See Sang-Hun Ch’oe and Rick Gladstone, “After Sanctions Vote, 2 Koreas Ratchet Up Attack Threats.”

2. The term “collective memory” was coined by the French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs and popularized in the mid-twentieth century with the posthumous publication of his book on the topic, published in French in 1952 after his original publication in 1925. Maurice Halbwachs and Lewis A. Coser, On Collective Memory.

3. See Alan Radley, “Artifacts, Memory, and a Sense of the Past”; Barbie Zelizer, “From the Image of Record to the Image of Memory.”

4. Barbie Zelizer, Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory through the Camera’s Eye, 3. Referenced in Kim Hyŏnggon, “1970-nyŏndae palgandoen sajin hwabojip ŭi Han’guk chŏnjaeng sajin ǔi taehan yŏn’gu,” 146.

5. Maurice Halbwachs and Lewis A. Coser, On Collective Memory, 25.

6. Ulrich Keller, The Ultimate Spectacle: A Visual History of the Crimean War, 133, as referenced in Larry J. Schaaf and Roger Taylor, Roger Fenton, 68. Ulrich Keller, Susan Sontag, and Thomas Barfield argued that Fenton was unsatisfied with the first photograph and together with his assistant Marcus Sparling gathered and rearranged the cannonballs to produce a satisfactory shot. See Thomas Barfield, ed., War Photography, 15; and Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, 53. However, Larry J. Schaaf argues that Fenton “photographed exactly what he saw.” See Larry J. Schaaf and Roger Taylor, Roger Fenton, 68. In his three-part investigative essays published in the New York Times’ online Opinionator, Errol Morris maintains that it is impossible to prove that Fenton wished to manipulate the scene of the photograph for sensationalism, as argued by Keller and Sontag; this is, of course, possible, but not adequate proof for the chronology. See Errol Morris, “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? (Part One)”; Errol Morris, “Which Came First? (Part Three): Can George, Lionel, and Marmaduke Help Us Order the Fenton Photographs?”

7. In all of the essays written by the historians and critics discussed above, none of them have actually found Fenton’s photographs useful for the study of the major battle that occurred at the site but have used it to explore the possibility of photographic manipulation and manipulation’s significance in the history of war photography.

8. Helen Gee, Photography of the Fifties, 2.

9. Barbie Zelizer, “From the Image of Record to the Image of Memory,” 100.

10. Ibid.

11. Helen Gee, Photography of the Fifties, 2.

12. Michael Griffin, “The Great War Photographs,” 122.

13. Ibid., 139.

14. Alyssa Adams and Hal Buell, Eddie Adams: Vietnam, 140.

15. Ibid., 144. For example, the New York Times published Adams’s photograph on the front page the next morning, along with the picture of a South Vietnamese officer holding his dead child, murdered by the Vietcong earlier on February 1; the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Des Moines Tribune, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, and many other newspapers in the United States printed the photograph on the front page or on page one. [End Page 361]

16. Ibid.

17. David Chandler, “Pictures at an Execution,” 22.

18. Alyssa Adams and Hal Buell, Eddie Adams: Vietnam, 147.

19. Ibid. After the Tet Offensive and the wide circulation of Adams’s photograph, American approval of President Johnson’s overall performance fell from 48 to 36 percent. Approval of his handling of the war fell from 40 to 26 percent. See Vicki Goldberg, The Power of Photography, 228.

20. Photographer Eddie Adams, who followed the captured man and photographed the event in sequence, initially thought that he was witnessing an attempt at intimidation of the captured soldier. The click of the shutter coincided with the gunshot without his realization. Adams said he did not think much about the photograph until it was developed and sent to the Associated Press office. See Alyssa Adams and Hal Buell, Eddie Adams: Vietnam, 144.

21. Ibid., 147.

22. Vicki Goldberg, The Power of Photography, 229.

23. Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, “Restaging the War,” 102.

24. Michael Griffin, “The Great War Photographs,” 147.

25. Lewis A. Coser, “Introduction,” in Maurice Halbwachs and Lewis A. Coser, On Collective Memory, 24.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Harrell Fletcher, “The American War,” Harrell Fletcher, November 2005. Accessed March 24, 2013. http://www.harrellfletcher.com/2006/index3b.html.

29. Ibid.

30. Marianne Hirsch, Family Frames, 22.

31. Ibid.

32. Cho Hŭiyŏn, “Pan’gong kyuyul sahoehyŏng chabonjuŭi palchŏn kwajŏng esŏ ŭi nodongja kyegŭp ŭi ‘kusŏngjŏk ch’ulhŏn,’ ” 142–43.

33. Maurice Halbwachs and Lewis A. Coser, On Collective Memory, 52.

34. See, for example, the photographs of mass executions of civilians by the South Korean Army in Maegadŏ Tŏgŭllŏsŭ [MacArthur, Douglas]. Kŭdŭl i pon Han’guk chŏnjaeng 2: Migun kwa Yuen’gun 1945–1950.

35. Keibiesŭ 6.25 40-chunyŏn T’ŭkpyŏl Chejakpan, Tak’yument’ŏri Han’guk chŏnjaeng; and Kim Hyŏnggon, “1980-nyŏndae wa 1990-nyŏndae ŭi Han’guk chŏnjaeng sajin hwabojip e nat’anan chaehyŏn ŭi ch’ai e taehan yŏn’gu,” 103.

36. Yi Minju, “Ilche sigi kŏmyŏlgwandŭl ŭi Chosŏnŏ midiŏ wa kŏmyŏl ŏmmu e taehan insik,” 189.

37. For Japanese censorship on newspaper photographs, see Kim Yeji, “Ilche kangjŏmgi sajin kwallyŏn sinmun kisa yŏn’gu,” 21–22; for fine art, see Chŏng Hyŏngmin, “1920–1930-nyŏndae Ch’ongdokpu ŭi misul kŏmyŏl,” 403–42.

38. Chang Ch’ungjong, Han’guk sinmun sajinron, 59–60.

39. Ibid., 60.

40. Helen Gee, Photography of the Fifties, 1.

41. Ibid. David Douglas Duncan photographed the activities of GIs in Korea in 1950 and published a book the next year. Life magazine commissioned Duncan to photograph the war with Carl Mydans and Hank Walker. Having served in the South Pacific islands [End Page 362] and Tokyo Bay as a US Marine during World War II, Duncan was empathetic and understood the US Marines and wanted to photograph their battles in Korea. See David Douglas Duncan, This Is War! For David Douglas Duncan’s Korean War photographs, see the Harry Ransom Center’s online gallery: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/ddd/gallery/war/korea.html.

42. Helen Gee, Photography of the Fifties, 26.

43. Kim Hyŏnggon, Han’guk chŏnjaeng ŭi kiŏkkwa sajin, 75. Kim refers to the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington stating that American troops participating in the Korean War expressed extremely low interest in the war’s political purpose. See Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State, 389.

44. Yi Wanbŏm, “Han’guk chŏnjaeng ŭi chŏngch’ijŏk yŏnghyang,” 8–9. This political change is referred to as “Globalization of Containment Policy.”

45. The publications include the following: Pak Ch’anhyŏn, Korea isimnyŏn; Siryŏn kwa yŏnggwang ŭi minjoksa; Han’guk Ilbo, Sajin ŭro pon kwangbok 36 nyŏn; Chŏng Pyŏnggyu, Chŏngbu surip 40 nyŏn.

46. Chang Ch’ungjong, Han’guk sinmun sajillon, 61. According to Chang, editors and journalists were frequently arrested, inducing self-censorship.

47. “Ch’oech’o konggae, ‘kŏlŏ ro ponŭn Han’guk chŏnjaeng’—Kukkundŭl.”

48. The Korean War photography books published in 2010 include Kyŏnggi Munhwa Chaedan, ed., 1950 0625 Han’guk chŏnjaeng sajinjip; Ch’oe Pyŏnggwan, Hanguk ŭi pimujang chidae; Sin Sujin, ed., Kyŏnggye esŏ; and T’ongilbu, ed. 6.25 chŏngjaeng 60-chunyŏn kinyŏm p’yŏnghwa t’ongil sajinjŏn.

49. Kodachrome, a type of color film, was introduced by the Eastman Kodak Company in 1935. Due to a sharp decrease in demand, it was discontinued in 2009.

50. John Rich, Korean War in Color.

51. Kim Hyŏnggon, “1980-nyŏndae wa 1990-nyŏndae ŭi Han’guk chŏnjaeng sajin hwabojip e na’anan chaehyŏn ŭi ch’ai e taehan yŏn’gu,” 107–108, 113.

52. Ibid. See also, Kim Hyŏnggon, “1970-nyŏndae e palgandoen sajin hwaboji pŭi Han’guk chŏnjaeng sajin e taehan yŏn’gu.”

53. Kim Hyŏnggon, “Hanguk chŏnjaeng sajin kwa chiphap kiŏk,” 80–81.

54. “Orphanages of Korea during the Korean War,” Korean War Children’s Memorial. Accessed March 22, 2013. http://www.koreanchildren.org/docs/orphanages.html. This website, operated and edited by Mr. George F. Drake, a Korean War veteran, is dedicated to “the American servicemen and women who, during the Korean War and the years following, rendered compassionate humanitarian aid to the children of that war torn nation.” The website includes stories and photographs taken between 1950 and 1954 of GIs and Korean orphans.

55. Exhibitions in which Im’s photograph was shown include Im Ŭngsik sajinjŏn at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, South Korea, from September 2002 to July 2003; Han’guk sajin 60 nyŏn at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, South Korea, from August to October, 2008; and Im Ŭngsik: Kirok ŭi yesul, yesul ŭi kirok at Tŏksugung Misulgwan, South Korea from December 2011 to February 2012.

56. Similar images of war orphans have been published elsewhere. LIFE at War, originally published by the American publisher Time-Life Books in 1975, included an image of a smiling boy tightly holding a military can in Seoul. See LIFE at War.

57. Barbie Zelizer, “From the Image of Record to the Image of Memory, ” 107. [End Page 363]

58. Ibid., 101. I am actually referring to Zelizer’s assessment of the symbolization of Holocaust photographs, which is closely relevant to the photographs of Korean War orphans.

59. Im Ŭngsik, Im Ŭngsik: Kirok ŭi yesul, yesul ŭi kirok; Im Ŭngsik, Im Ŭngsik. Earlier publications on Im include Im Ŭngsik, Im Ŭngsik sajinjip; and Im Ŭngsik, Nae ka kŏrŏ on Han’guk sadan: Im Ŭngsik hoegorok.

60. Im Yŏnggyun and Chŏng Hun, “Im Ŭngsik ŭi sajillon kwa sajinjŏk silchŏn chae ilkki,” 43; See also Pak P’yŏngjong, Han’guk sajin ŭi sŏn gujadŭl, 101.

61. The Inch’ŏn Landing Operation is also known as the Battle of Inch’ŏn in English, code name Operation Chromite.

62. Yi Wanbŏm, “Han’guk chŏnjaeng ŭi chŏngch’ijŏk yŏnghyang,” 8–10.

63. Tobias Hübinette, for example, uses the analogy of an “orphaned nation” in his discussion of popular representations of international Korean adoptees in his study. Tobias Hübinette, “Comforting an Orphaned Nation.”

64. Kwŏn Myŏnga, “Munye yŏnghwa wa kongyu kiŏk mandŭlgi,” 335–65. Referenced in Kim Hyŏnggon, Han’guk chŏnjaeng ŭi kiŏkkwa sajin, 62. Also see Kim Sangmi, “Han’guk chŏnjaenggi Han’guk sajin’ga ŭi sajinsajŏk wisang,” 456. The difficulty in translating the term minjok into English is acknowledged here. Minjok generally refers to a group of people sharing the same ethnicity, but many Koreans use this term interchangeably with “national,” which can be traced back to Syngman Rhee’s (Yi Sŭngman) propagation of ilminjuŭi—that Koreans have been united by their single ethnicity.

65. Orphans brought into the camps were called hausŭboi (house boys). Many pictures of orphans in the NARA Korean War records depict soldiers and the boys together, exchanging warm gestures and smiles. Pak To, ed., Chiulsu ŏmnŭn imiji 3: Han’guk chŏnjaengi namgin kŏttŭl.

66. Kim Wŏnil et al., Na rŭl ullin Han’guk chŏnjaeng 100 changmyŏn; and Rijiwei Maesyu, Kŭdŭl i pon Han’guk chŏnjaeng 3: Migun kwa Yuen’gun 1951–1953.

67. Since the 1990s a growing number of books and articles on these issues have been published in South Korea and the United States. For discussions on the issues of war orphan adoptions in English, see, for example, Patti Duncan, “Genealogies of Unbelonging,” 277–307; Arissa Oh, “A New Kind of Missionary Work,” 161–88; and a memoir by Elizabeth Kim, Ten Thousand Sorrows.

68. Chu Myŏngdŏk, Sŏkkyŏjin irŭmdŭl. Holt Orphanage changed its name and is now known as Holt International Children’s Services.

69. Im Yŏnggyun, Sajinga wa ŭi taehwa 3: 14. In a more recent article co-authored with Chŏng Hun, Im argues that this change did not merely reflect the necessary effect of the war but Im Ŭngsik’s activist approach to “modernizing” art photography. See Im Yŏnggyun and Chŏng Hun, “Im Ŭngsik ŭi sajillon kwa sajinjŏk silchŏn chae ilkki,” 33–34.

70. Pak P’yŏngjong, Han’guk sajin ŭi chasaengnyŏk, 15; Im Yŏnggyun and Chŏng Hun, “Im Ŭngsik ŭi sajillon kwa sajinjŏk silchŏn chae ilkki,” 33, see footnote 6.

71. Im Ŭngsik criticizes how Korean photography grew out of amateurish pleasure characterized by the conventional “salon style” and acknowledges how the changes in society after the Korean War resulted in a positive impact on the field of photography in South Korea. Im Ŭngsik, “Sadan ŭi hyŏnje wa changnae: Saenghwalchuŭi sajin ŭi saengsan ŭl wihayŏ.” Referenced in Im Yŏnggyun and Chŏng Hun, “Im Ŭngsik ŭi sajillon kwa sajinjŏk silchŏn chae ilkki,” 33.

72. Im Yŏnggyun, Sajin’ga wa ŭi taehwa 3: 68. [End Page 364]

73. Im Ŭngsik, Nae ka kŏrŏ on Han’guk sadan, 77–80.

74. Kwŏn T’aegyun, Sajin’ga Im Ŭngsik: K’amera ro chinsil ŭl malhada, 20.

75. Im Ŭngsik, Nae ka kŏrŏ on Han’guk sadan, 82–103.

76. Im Ŭngsik, Nae ka kŏrŏ on Han’guk sadan, 82–103; and Kwŏn T’aegyun, Sajin’ga Im Ŭngsik, 22–24.

77. In Japanese, Pit kwa haejo is called hikarito sono kaichō. See Anne Wilkes Tucker et al., The History of Japanese Photography.

78. Im Ŭngsik, Nae ka kŏrŏ on Han’guk sadan, 81–85.

79. Ibid., 81.

80. Ibid., 138.

81. Im founded the Han’guk Sajin Chakka Hyŏphoe [Korean Photographers Association] in 1952, which became the springboard for recognition of the movement.

82. More recent public exposure to the Kujik photograph includes the aforementioned retrospective in Seoul and an exhibition at New York City’s Korea Society Gallery titled Traces of Life: Seen through Korean Eyes, 1945–1992, curated by Yi Ch’angje (September 12–December 7, 2012). Each exhibition published its own exhibition catalog.

83. Kim Sangmi argues that the man in the Kujik photograph differs from children, women, and elders depicted during the war and that the photograph “represents Koreans who are capable of recovering from the war without [foreign] aid.” See Kim Sangmi, “Han’guk chŏnjaenggi Han’guk sajin’ga ŭi sajinsajŏk wisang,” 460–61.

84. Straight photography refers to objective and truthful photography without manipulation of the subject and print process.

85. Kwŏn T’aegyun, Sajin’ga Im Ŭngsik: K’amera ro chinsil ŭl malhada, 24.

86. Pak P’yŏngjong, Han’guk sajin ŭi sŏn’gujadŭl, 101.

87. In-jin Choi and Juseok Park, The Century of Korean Photography: Images from the Land of Morning Calm, 97.

88. Ibid.

89. Pak P’yŏngjong, Han ’guk sajin ŭi chasaengnyŏk, 16–17; Yi Kyŏngmin, Han guk kŭndae yesul sajin ak’aibŭ (1910–1945), 11–12. I have also encountered the mixed use of salong sajin, yesul sajin, and misul sajin (art/aesthetic photography).

90. As mentioned earlier, however, Im took photographs during the prewar period that are now considered salong sajin. Examination of Im’s photographs before and after the Korean War shows a common focus on isolating the human subject in the photograph from the surroundings. The photographs show that Im’s compositional approach to photography had not transformed completely from the years he practiced salong sajin. This was also pointed out by Pak P’yŏngjong in his biographies of Korean photographers in Han’guk sajin ŭi sŏn’gujadŭl. Pak argued that the Im’s work during the postwar period tends to mix salon photography and documentary photography. See Pak P’yŏngjong, Han’guk sajin ŭi sŏn’gujadŭl, 102–3.

91. In addition to the monographs of Im Ŭngsik, see monographs of Sŏng Tugyŏng, Yi Kyŏngmo, and Yi Hyŏngnok. Sŏng Tugyŏng, Tasi torawa pon Sŏul; Yi Kyŏngmo, Kyŏktonggi ŭi yŏnjang; and Yi Hyŏngnok, Yi Hyŏngnok sajinjip.

92. Ch’oe Min, “Sŭtŭreit’ŭ p’oto, riŏllijŭm, tak’yument’ŏri,” 7. Pak P’yŏngjong contends that salon competitions had a long-lasting impact on photographers; these photographs tend to focus on single subjects and rely on dramatic compositional or narrative [End Page 365] effects rather than depicting the environment of which the subject is a part. See Pak P’yŏngjong, Han’guk sajin ŭi sŏn’gujadŭl, 128.

93. Cho Usŏk , Hanguk sajin’garon, 94, 97.

94. Ibid., 94–95. See also the photographer Han Yŏngsu’s testimony in Im Yŏnggyun, Sajin’ga wa ŭi taehwa 3, 155–56. Referenced in Im Yŏnggyun and Chŏng Hun, “Im Ŭngsik ŭi sajillon kwa sajinjŏk silchŏn chae ilkki,” 35.

95. Ch’oe Minsik, Najŭn taero imhan sajin, 22, 49–50.

96. Ibid., 40.

97. Helen Gee, Photography of the Fifties, 2. The Attorney General in charge of creating the list was Francis Biddle.

98. Ibid.

99. Pak To conducted research at NARA and in 2004 began publishing a series of books on what he considered valuable historical materials. See Pak To, ed., Chiulsu ŏmnŭn imiji 3: Han’guk chŏnjaeng i namgin kŏttŭl.

100. Maurice Halbwachs and Lewis A. Coser, On Collective Memory, 53.


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