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Copyright © 2017 by OUT

The border that divides North and South Korea is the most heavily militarized border in the world. The two Koreas exist as extreme mirrors of each other as the last remnant of the Cold War. Border skirmishes occur often and news related to the Korean border is always surmounted with warlike urgency and immanent military disaster. But what is of interest to us are not only the differences of the two halves but its unmistakable similitudes. Since its division after the Korean War of 1950-53, the parallelism of the two halves provides an intriguing juxtaposition of escalated reification of dreams that are uncannily similar and closely interdependent of each other. The border zone of the two Koreas is ripe with conflicting yet intertwined desires. While accelerated collaborative economic development progress through Special Economic and Tourism Zones along the border, its productivity and profitability oscillates between extremes based on election cycles and political power shifts of its central governments. The looming military presence become tactical tools to pursue internal and external policies, while the border territories remain pawns in an ongoing military standoff. In such extremities, reality and fiction are blurred through the political apparatus and spatial products become its main agencies and organizers.


Scenarios for the Korean border require strategies of reflexive flexibility to accommodate the extremities of its political environment. Transformative qualities of natural and artificial ecological systems of the site are utilized as active agencies of negotiation for the diverse political, social, economic scenarios. As Ulrich Beck notes, “(in the risk society) questions of the development and employment of technologies are being eclipsed by questions of the political and economic ‘management’ of the risks of actually or potentially utilized technologies.” Rather than proposing facilities and technology to solve immediate problems, the projects intervene with applicable programs of scientific research, habitat conservation, sustainable agriculture and fishing, and adaptable maintenance to reinterpret systems of governance, management and production to create a basis for a sustainable infrastructure of natural and artificial ecologies and continued collaboration that is adaptable and reflexive to the political atmosphere. In the geopolitical territories of transborder conditions, Space becomes a critical mechanism of control and architecture becomes its key organizer that negotiates and navigates between the human and non-human agencies of extreme political indeterminacy.

 

Three representative typologies of the border conditions as defined by the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement have been specified as the three sites:

The first type is on land and is what we now call the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). According to the Armistice, “A military demarcation line shall be fixed and both sides shall withdraw two (2) kilometers from this line so as to establish a demilitarized zone between the opposing forces.”

The second type is the Han River Estuary. Once the DMZ intersects the Imjin River, the border widens into the thickness of the river itself and connects into the Han River. Per the Armistice, “The waters of the Han River Estuary shall be open to civil shipping of both sides wherever one bank is controlled by one side and the other bank is controlled by the other side.”

The third type is in the open waters of the Yellow Sea. “...(A)ll the islands lying to the north and west of the provincial boundary line between Hwanghae-do and Kyonggi-do shall be under the military control of the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army and the Commander of the Chinese People’s volunteers, except the island groups of Paengyong-do, Taechongdo, Sochong-do, Yonpyong-do, and U-do, which shall remain under the military control of the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command. All the island on the west coast of Korea lying south of the above-mentioned boundary line shall remain under the military control of the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command.”

 

 

Program Investigators
Burcu Bicer, Michael Cabrera, David Chessrown, Caroline Corbett, Patricia Echeverria, Aura Maria Jaramillo, Christine Kim, Yihua Li, Tansy Mak, Denise Pereira, Aiheidan Rouzi, Alexander Smith, Jeremy Tan

Parallel Utopias / Spatial Scenarios / Strategies of Normalcy and Exception

Program: Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Dept. of Architecture, Fall 2011 Option Studio
Program Director: Yehre Suh
Advisory Critics: Saleem H. Ali, Kyong Park
Local Advisor: Eun-Jin Park, Gyeonggi Research Institute, Suwon Korea
Site: Transboundary Zone between North and South Korea
Status: Funded by the 2011 Rotch Foundation Traveling Studio Grant and the 2008 Graham Foundation Research Grant