Keywords: warfare, colonialism, archival practice
Despite Japan’s status as a global economic force and its significance in popular culture, history education in the West rarely covers the modern wartime atrocities Japan perpetrated in other Asian countries. Beyond geographic distance and lack of direct conflict, perhaps ignorance is to blame for the West’s tolerance of the Japan’s Nationalist ‘Liberal Democratic Party’ members’ adoration of imperial campaigns and war criminals as heroes and gods. Following the colonial invasion, Korea suffered through the Korean War that caused further destruction, and was followed by utilitarian, industrial, and aggressive expansions led by a series of iron fist dictators. Under the name of progress, surviving traditional buildings across Seoul have been bulldozed down. Most of historical Seoul has been destroyed and what remains now in the urban environment are mostly the palaces, which are only used as a park or as film sets.
My project focuses on recreating a section of Jongro in Seoul, a boulevard running perpendicular to the processional road from Gwanghwamun, the main gate to the royal palace. I have compiled photographs, maps, and films from an existing archive to aid the visualisation process. The medium I chose to use is a game engine. Video games benefit from immersion through interactivity. Thematically, I am inspired by the Assassin’s Creed Franchise, which was critically acclaimed for its architectural accuracy in portraying ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy, and more. However, stylistically, this project takes inspiration from the 32-bit, top-down, sprite-and-tile aesthetics of the Gameboy Advance. I wish to use this iconic style utilised in many classic titles released by Nintendo, with humorous and subversive intentions: to use contemporary culture with strong connections to Japan in this critique of its past imperial campaign.
The narrative of the game I have created follows a peaceful national demonstration that occurred against the Japanese rule from March 1919. Its failure to achieve independence and international sanctions led to formation of the first organised resistance groups utilising tactical violence since the disbanding of the army in 1907 and massacre of civil militants in 1909. This is envisaged as the prologue to the ‘main game’, formation of 의열단 Uiyeoldan in November 1919. The presentation of the project highlights an aspect of the militant rule which led to the March demonstration - the Japanese military’s right to bypass jurisdiction and revival of corporal punishment. A specific section of Jongro (contemporary Jongro 2-ga) has been selected to stylise a variety of spaces. These spaces show significance of different fields: the Tapgol Park is the root of March demonstrations and Jongro Police Station is the headquarter and a symbol of military policing and torture. The YMCA building is a symbol of the Western influence in 19th-20th century Korea, and Shijeon (market ran by traders endorsed and authorised by the Korean government) is an example of Korean culture withstanding.