Monday, July 15, 2013

Color photos of both Koreas taken between 1953 and 1956

There is a Royal Asiatic Society lecture tonight which sounds quite interesting, as it will feature recently discovered photos taken in North and South Korea between 1953 and 1956 by Czechoslovak members of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC).
Several NNSC members were especially skilled photo-amateurs with some of the best high-quality cameras of the time. Fortunately in 1953-55 they were still able to travel to South Korea where they could obtain quality Kodak film. In addition their photos were professionally developed in the South, often in the US bases. Thanks to this, even after 60 years, many of the slides retain their vivid colour and brightness.

For the Czechoslovaks everything that they encountered in Korea was a novelty. The scope of their photographs was varied, documenting their own travels and ordinary daily life in Panmunejom and its surrounds. They recorded their Swiss, Swedish and US army “adversaries”, both for professional reasons and out of simple curiosity. We find many photos of daily life on the American bases. They were also attracted to Korean daily life and a significant number show various local ceremonies such as marriages, or historical sites. Also popular were images of the hard work in the rice fields and the challenging life of women selling goods at the markets, both in North and South Korea. The impact of the Korean War was widely documented.

The photographic records document not only the DMZ and nearby Kaesong, but there are many others of Incheon, Busan, Daegu, Gangneung and Gunsan, as well as Manpo, Sinanju, Heungnam, Sinuiju, Cheongjin and occasionally Pyongyang were all captured. These usually date to 1953/4 when inspections of the main entry ports were routine. Unfortunately this unique window of opportunity to document such rarely photographed places was soon to close. In 1956 inspections were suspended.
There's lots more information here.

The lecture will be held at 7:30 pm Tuesday night in the Residents' Lounge on the 2nd floor of the Somerset Palace in Seoul, which is behind Jogyesa Temple, and is 7,000 won for non-members and free for members. 

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