The Divided Brothers of the Korean War

On 25 June 1950 North Korea surprised its southern neighbour with a sudden invasion, sparking the start of the Korean War. As the United States entered the fray on the side of South Korea, while China lent support to its communist ally, a bloody battle ensued that lasted until 1953.

In 1994 the War Memorial of Korea opened in Seoul. As visitors approach they are greeted by the eye-catching Statue of Brothers by Choi Young-jeep. The 11-metre-high sculpture shows two soldiers in a desperate embrace as they stand on a split dome landscape. The nearby panel tells the fictional story of two brothers meeting in battle during the Korean War: the elder an officer of the Republic of Korea (South Korea); the younger a North Korean soldier. As they recognise their fraternal love and reconcile, the statue symbolises the desire of the two peoples of Korea for reunification, while the cracked dome represents their ongoing division.

However, the statue also has a more ominous and provocative meaning. The larger, older brother is armed while the younger brother appears defenceless and weak. While the personification of South Korea looks down with a heroic, determined expression, North Korea looks up with admiration and gratitude. The sculptor has described the South Korean soldier’s embrace as “forgiving”, further emphasising the statue’s alternative role of glorifying the inevitable defeat of communism and the victory of democracy.

Statue of Brothers

Images: Choi Young-jeep, Statue of Brothers, 1994. War Memorial of Korea, Seoul.

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