Imagining a Unified Korea Through Augmented Reality
New media artist and developer Mark Skwarek has generated considerable buzz online with his latest creation, the verbosely-titled Augmented Reality Korean Unification Project, which imagines a unified Korea through a mobile app that removes “weapons, checkpoints, fortifications, barriers, walls, and all reminders of the ongoing conflict from the Korean landscape.”
The project makes use of Skwarek’s erasAR technology, which has previously been used to “erase” the New York City skyline and the Virginia coal mountains. By downloading the free ARKUP app, iOS and Android users may visit a number of designated viewing locations along the border to visualize what the two Koreas might look like as a single country, “erasing” the DMZ—the most heavily militarized border in the world—from plain sight. According to the official project description on the ARKUP website:
The project tries to heal the scars left by years of conflict in the Korean peninsula by removing the Korean Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] and returning it to its natural state before Korea was divided. The public may view Korea as a unified country as it once was… This vision hopes to strengthen the people of Korea’s resolve for a peaceful unification.
Promo vid for the project:
Yes, these goals are excessively idealistic—if decades of animosity could be erased with just one mobile app, Apple would have singlehandedly brought about world peace by now. But it’s an interesting concept, to say the least: by allowing people to tangibly see an alternate reality, it gets them to think about the possibilities in a much more visceral way—an application of “augmented reality” that certainly lives up to the name of the technology.
Of course, reconciliation is something that will have to come from both sides of the border, and although one of the project’s advertised “viewing locations” is on the North Korean side, it doesn’t seem particularly likely that the average North Korean citizen would own an iPad. The vast majority of people using this app will be (a) South Koreans, or more likely, (b) tourists who read about the Augmented Reality Korean Unification Project on the internet.
If only Skwarek’s app could “erase” Kim Jong-il or the threat of nuclear war—now that would be an achievement! At its current state, the technology is little more than another way of blinding, in ways more than one, ourselves from reality. But then again, as history has shown, whether through poetry or protest, music or mobile apps: the ways in which we imagine peace should never be underestimated.
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TAGS: augmented reality • Augmented Reality Korean Unification Project • DMZ • Korean unification • North Korea • South Korea
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