Spray-painted Ber­lin Wall — art or van­dal­ism?

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Lee Suh-yoon sylee@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

New graf­fiti has ap­peared on a sec­tion of the Ber­lin Wall on dis­play next to Cheong­gye Stream in down­town Seoul.

The 28-year-old artist sur­named Jung, who did this, claimed on a now-deleted In­sta­gram post the graf­fiti holds a good­will mes­sage pro­mot­ing peace on the Korean Penin­sula.

But some crit­i­cized his ac­tions, say­ing he de­lib­er­ately dam­aged a gift Ger­many gave to Seoul in 2005. Ber­lin gave the wall seg­ments to wish for the two Koreas’ re­uni­fi­ca­tion.

Con­tro­versy arose with both sides scratch­ing their heads and ask­ing: Is it art or van­dal­ism?

As the po­lice have launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter, Jung-gu Of­fice wants the pub­lic to see Jung’s ac­tion as van­dal­ism.

The district of­fice man­ages the gift owned by the city govern­ment. Po­lice sum­moned both Jung-gu of­fi­cials and the artist for ques­tion­ing ear­lier this week.

“The pre­vi­ous mark­ings on the wall are no longer dis­tin­guish­able,” said Shin Seong-yeong, a district of­fi­cial. The wall pre­vi­ously bore traces of graf­fiti dat­ing back to when it di­vided Ber­lin. “Though it is not of­fi­cially reg­is­tered as a cul­tural mon­u­ment, it still holds sig­nif­i­cant mean­ing. The per­son who did this lacks his­tor­i­cal con­scious­ness.”

Last Fri­day, Jung, whose pseudo- nym is HIDEYES, cov­ered the con­crete slabs with flu­o­res­cent stripes and white pat­terns of the Korean flag. Also, at the bot­tom, he wrote: “SAVE OUR PLANET.” Ac­cord­ing to Jung, the graf­fiti presents a mes­sage of free­dom to the “present and fu­ture of Korea, the last di­vided na­tion.”

Jung says it was art and was in­spired by the East Side Gallery, an open-air mu­ral dis­play painted on the rem­nants of the Ber­lin Wall, dur­ing his visit to Ber­lin 15 years ago.

He, how­ever, apol­o­gized for his ac­tion and caus­ing a com­mo­tion.

“I’m sorry, it won’t hap­pen again,” he said on his so­cial me­dia ac­count. “I would also like to apol­o­gize to other hard-work­ing graf­fiti artists for wors­en­ing so­cial per­cep­tion to­ward graf­fiti.” Jung’s in­ten­tions may be good.

But some are not im­pressed. “It is im­pos­si­ble to guess the mean­ing of his graf­fiti. It looks like junk,” an In­sta­gram user posted.

On Cheong Wa Dae’s web­site, a pub­lic pe­ti­tions call­ing for Jung to be pun­ished for van­dal­iz­ing the wall reached over 11,000 sig­na­tures.

“This is not art, it an act of com­mer­cial self-brand­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing that erases cul­tural her­itage,” one pe­ti­tioner wrote on the web­site.

An­other pe­ti­tioner who claimed to be a Ger­man liv­ing in Korea also de­nounced Jung’s ac­tions.

“Gen­er­ally, I do not con­sider graf­fiti as a crime. But in this par­tic­u­lar case, there needs to be pun­ish­ment,” the pe­ti­tioner said. “The Ber­lin Wall rem­nants are a his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ment and a sym­bol of Ger­many’s peace­ful rev­o­lu­tion.”


A sec­tion of the Ber­lin Wall dis­played next to Cheong­gye Stream is cov­ered with graf­fiti.

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