Suin Line Inside Us That is Anywhere but Also Nowhere

art critic_Park, Seok-Tae

Suin Railroad 1

I was simply led by my parents and ended up living in Incheon without thinking too much. Incheon was not very different from Guro-dong, Seoul, where my family used to live. Strangely enough, there were a gray wall covered in dust, a factory chimney in front of my house working hard to puff out white smoke, and our narrow alley which adults criticized. And there was an open space that was always empty and relaxing, too. However, I visited Sorae one day and found it quite different. It remains in my memory as bleak yellow, faded gray, and peculiar red colors that unknown plants in the mudflat. On a beautiful sunny day in the summer, there was a little slow-moving train that wandered, staggering the railroad that seemed narrow even to a young child. On an old railroad bridge where the gray seawater flew like a brook, people often trotted to move away from a slow train. I believe I thought, " "Will anyone die when they get hit by that train?" I do not remember where my destination was. The deep, fuzzy salty tang of Sorae Station and Songdo Station, where I used to wait for the train, is still in my memory as the symbol of the places. Now I know that it was the smell of salted seafood resembling our life, which is salty due to the harshness. This is how my long relationship with Suin Line began.

 

Suin Railroad 2

Hogupo was named for its terrain that looks like a tiger's mouth. One of the 'newly created Suin Line' stations was developed there. I was over thirty when I moved near Hogupo Station. Suin Line, which became a double-track line, was obviously bleak. At sunset, the silhouette of Songdo New City appeared like a ghost in the backdrop of the western sky. Hogupo, when overlooked from the 14th floor of a rental apartment with a strong smell of newly-built buildings, grass grown carelessly at the smelly waterside and the organized look of the neighboring park which seemed to hide such raunch coexisted in a strange way. I could only infer that there was a port there through the neon sign of the station, and in fact it was full of uniform incongruity and life experiences led by it that I could encounter anywhere in Suin Line. When the wind blows in from 'Namdong Induspark Station', which sounds internationally renowned, not shabby 'Namdong Gongdan Station', the sour and smoky smell came into the apartment through the windows. In terms of smell, the one of Namdong Gongdan was not that different from that of the classy Namdong Induspark. During my four-year rental period, I hopped on the subway passing Suin Line which was "still" under construction, going through Namdong Gongdan, passing through Woninjae Station and Yeonsu Station, then got off at Songdo Station and took the bus to Incheon Station near my work. Finally, since the construction is over now, we can call the railroad to Incheon Station "Suin Line." If I had still lived there, I would not take the bus.

 

Ko, Jung-nam, and Suin Line When I saw the "Suin Line" series, I responded to the imaginary smell from them first, rather than concentrating on the images of his photographs. It was neither the fishy smell of salted fish nor salty smell of the foreshore that I knew before. It was not the fresh smell from the shadow of weeping willow that stood somewhere in a countryside station where the sunshine was in full bloom. It was the smell of dry dust blowing in the wind every time a dump truck in his photo "Yamok Station" passed, and it also was the smell from damp concrete with photos of Kosaek Station and Bongdam Station. However, the smell does not really touch Suin Line. It would be the olfactory sign of the 'construction' image that people living here now are more than familiar to. Therefore, the smell in his photo is common to us. Salty things like shells that women had once scooped up would now shatter under the heavy wheels of trucks. The name Banwol on the signposts around Yamok Station and Eocheon Station is plaintive. Not only that, the water tank or oil tank, which has clearly been left for long in the Songdo Station, has already changed into a place where the vitality of plants is shown off. Now that we have created a new line, the pier and railroad bridge of Yamok Station, which are no longer used, are plain just like a ruined temple site. It is a strange contrast to the large high-rise apartment complexes that boast an efficient floor area ratio. His camera only captures such spectacular scenes. He does not force you to feel like that. He just suggests.

 

Ko, Jung-nam, Suin Line, and People This is a somewhat dry story. Suin Line, as its name implies, connects Suwon and Incheon. It passes through Ansan and Siheung in the middle. It was discontinued in December 1995 and was reborn in 20 years. Suin Line was placed as an industrial railway for the export of high quality Yeoju rice and solar salt from Sorae salt pond, which has been loaded through the 'Suryeo Line' which connected Yeoju to Suwon in the period of Japanese occupation, through Incheon Port. It was called a narrow-gauge train or a little train because it was about half the width of a regular railroad. Liberation came, and Suin Line penetrated small towns in southern Gyeonggi that was wide open because there was nothing between Incheon and Suwon, and looked at the slow changes in the city. Then, the story of Suin Line, which carry people and therefore make people's long stories bloom, began. Shouldn't there be people's stories where there are roads? Ko, Jung-nam's camera moves its focus on such stories of people. They are the stories of those in which the history of the Suin Line permeated. Thus, the characters in his photographs are part of the Suin Line story. Shinpo Station shows a middle-aged man with the background of a Japanese-style house that looks like a countertop house. It seems like construction is about to start as there are construction materials and heavy equipment in front of the house. Ko, Jung-nam summons the name of the history of 'Shinpo Station,' and at the same time may ask the question of what modernity is like by superimposing a male figure. This is another photo of Shinpo Station. A girl, who looks like a middle school student, stares at the camera with a little smile while holding her puppy. The dramatic contrast of the trace of time due to the old structure's change and the girl with a cute smile is rather impressive. This is how he does it. He just suggests. The logo "Nippon Express Co., Ltd." is clear on the cart next to middle-aged man captured in Incheon Station. Through this, he naturally shows the historical context of Incheon Station. Therefore, 'the portrait of a middle-aged man' serves as a device to help the sign of 'Japan Express.' 3 Asian migrant workers in Woninjae Station stand in the background of an old pier of the Suin Line railroad bridge and lush weeds underneath. Like a memorial picture taken at a famous tourist destination, they are posing "sincerely." They are too sincere so rather funny, but we know this is also the life of those who pass Suin Line. In addition, people who farm along Suin Line suddenly pop out here and there. Examples include a young urban farmer couple in Eocheon Station and elderly people and couples in Wolgot Station. The mixed appearance of Suin Line's unique industrialized form and traditional lifestyle seems to be a short story of our society. Ko, Jung-nam brings them out without prejudice. Ko, Jung-nam never fancifies and collects and mixes our refracted modernity and rapidly progressive, fragmentary images. In other words, he presents photographs that attempt to create a minimalistic presentation of his historical perception, or reveal the development and desire of capital. In Woninjae Station, the record cover in the weeds is printed in the center of the peninsula and the islands of Japan, and "Nipponophone Company" is printed around it. This is reminiscent of the Honam tourist map that was published in 1921 in the previous Honam Line series, and naturally gives a historical background to the construction of the Suin Line through the record cover of "Nipponophone Company". Sari Station seems to be boasting to this growth and competition-centered society by showing the scene using the school banners around in the furrows to cultivate crops. But still, it is never heavy.

 

Landscape That is Anywhere but Also Nowhere Ko, Jung-nam's Suin Line series is a type of delightful but deep visual report on the railroad track and people around it. The so-called 'suburb' named Suin Line was mixed with the sad modern memory and the desire of the group. However, it still appears to be a miniature of our society, where life has continued to rely on them. It is more eye-catching because it is not a sophisticated and refined way of 'the centre.' Could the untidy and mysterious landscape from Ki, Hyung-do's poem quoted at the beginning of the poem 「Sagangri」 have looked like this? 'Crunchy landscapes where dust is blow off from a slope cut by wind and yellow ochre pebbles roll down appear today outside the windows of the Suwon Line subway. Ko, Jung-nam records our common landscapes from the perspective of a sincere creator. Therefore, the landscape of the Suin Line seen through the eyes of Ki, Hyung-do's pen and Ko, Jung-nam are anywhere but also nowhere around us. Now, wouldn't it be nice if we could create our own landscapes that have always existed but have never been meaningful? Like a narrow, slow train finally filled with the stories of people after connecting here and there.

© photo by kojungnam