Seoul, b.1951

Youngsun Suh

The Living Past in Suh Yongsun’s Paintings

Hong KAL (Associate professor, York University, Canada)

Visual art that addresses the violent past is a particular mode of historical testimony. The complication of testimony – when, as Cathy Caruth states, “To speak is impossible and not to speak is impossible” – is revealed through the artistic imagination.(1) In this regard, gaps, ruptures, and contradictions in artworks that bear witness to horrific events indicate not necessarily the limits of representation but the complexity inherent in testimony. In the discussion of visualizing violence, there is criticism about the ability of visual images to represent traumatic events adequately and ethically. This skepticism is revealed in the documentary film Shoah (1985), directed by Claude Lanzmann, which presents more than nine hours of just interviews with survivors...

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The Living Past in Suh Yongsun’s Paintings

Hong KAL (Associate professor, York University, Canada)

Visual art that addresses the violent past is a particular mode of historical testimony. The complication of testimony – when, as Cathy Caruth states, “To speak is impossible and not to speak is impossible” – is revealed through the artistic imagination.(1) In this regard, gaps, ruptures, and contradictions in artworks that bear witness to horrific events indicate not necessarily the limits of representation but the complexity inherent in testimony. In the discussion of visualizing violence, there is criticism about the ability of visual images to represent traumatic events adequately and ethically. This skepticism is revealed in the documentary film Shoah (1985), directed by Claude Lanzmann, which presents more than nine hours of just interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, with no use of any visual images of the Holocaust’s atrocities. On the other hand, more recently, the concern has been raised that an emphasis on the unrepresentable character of traumatic violence may push it into being something untouchable, unreachable, and even mysterious, and run the risk of moral censure. It is notable that this debate has seen a shift from the issue of representability to the question of the relative capability of representation.(2)

In her study of mediated trauma, E. Ann Kaplan confirms the necessity of representation. She argues that visual representations of trauma can transform viewers into witnesses, opening up a space for “ethical witnessing,” which may change the ways viewers think about the social structure of injustice and make them feel obliged to take responsibility for remembering traumatic events and preventing future occurrences.(3) In the discussion of historical and social violence and trauma, the concept of “witnessing” is expanded. Beyond its traditionally defined meaning as seeing something with one’s own eyes at the exact point in time when it happened, witnessing is considered to be a relational practice of communication. In this regard, artists, who may have or may have not experienced traumatic events, can evoke, testify to, and give a communal meaning to them. In this process, images are not just used as a means for communication but they perform with the agency of a living subject. In the edited volume The Image- and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture, contributors imbue artworks with agency and examine how images seduce us to feel and act in specific ways.(4)

Visual representations have the power to express historical and social traumas through critical, imaginative, and affective forms. Visual art, in particular, has its own creative modes by which people can get closer to and recount the complexities of the past violence and the present trauma. It is thus important to look into how artists recreate historical and social traumas in artworks that allow viewers to participate in the intersubjective process of witnessing through images and to engage in the rethinking of repressed memory and forgotten history.

The Korean War, its Wrongful Deaths, and Open Secrets

Over the last two decades, remains of civilian victims who were brutally murdered and buried during the Korean War have been exhumed. The images of their unearthed remains, along with objects like a ring, a belt, pairs of shoes, as well as bullets, were circulated in the media and shocked the public. The images testify to the country’s past violence. South Korea as the anti-communist state was built on the bloody history of civilian killings, which were initiated in Cheju in 1948 and culminated in the Korean War (1950-1953). The killings of civilians were perpetrated by state terrorism. During the Korean War, there were numerous atrocities committed against civilians on both sides, in North Korea and South Korea. In this regards, scholars argue that the Korean War was not necessarily a violent struggle between competing ideologies and armed forces but rather the struggle of unarmed civilians for survival against the indiscriminate violence perpetrated by the state forces of all sides. In South Korea, hundreds of thousands civilians – mostly those who were suspected of being communist collaborators and their families – were killed in the “red hunt” organized by military, police, and right-wing youth groups. Most of victims were unarmed, ordinary civilians with no claims to any ideological position. Their deaths are not just tragic, but wrongful and unjust. The murdered bodies were treated as brutally as they were killed: they were thrown together and buried indiscriminately. In some few cases, they were reburied secretly by family members and relatives. Yet, in most cases, especially when the bodies could not be found or when a whole family was killed, they did not receive ancestral rites or any commemorative rituals.(5)

The Korean War came to an end in the Armistice Agreement in 1953, leaving the largest number of casualties in the country’s history. The civilian deaths committed by state terrorism were covered up for more than half a century. The bereaved families of victims demanded investigation into the illegal executions when the regime was collapsed with the forced resignation of the then president Syngman Rhee during the April 19 Revolution in 1960. However, their efforts were soon disrupted by the May 16 military coup in 1961. Following the coup, the bereaved families’ organizations were classified as a pro-communist threat to the state and their leaders were arrested and prosecuted. Any attempt to raise questions regarding unjust deaths of civilians was subject to prosecution under the political atmosphere of frantic anti-communism. In the postwar period, the victims and their surviving families suffered severe discrimination and systematic marginalization. They were stigmatized as “reds.” They were not allowed to express their pains, wounds, and losses. They were denied the right to be sad. The victims were violated multiple times: their lives were taken in the massacres; their dead bodies were disposed of cruelly; their deaths were disgraced, un-mourned, unacknowledged; and their family members and relatives were severely stigmatized and marginalized.(6)

In this collectively forced amnesia, South Koreans were unable to remember the victims of wrongful deaths. After many years of petitions from victims’ families in support of civil advocate groups, special commissions were established. In particular, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (2005-2010) was the most comprehensive and largest official endeavor on this front. The TRC as a broad project of memory, accountability, justice, and recognition focused on the cases of historical injustice committed by the state institutions before and during the Korean War. It sought to acquire testimonies and documents, restore the dignity of the stigmatized victims and their surviving families, and conduct excavations of burial sites. Despite its achievements, it left more questions about how to cope with historical grievances when surviving victims, witnesses, and their memories are disappearing, perpetrators are denying their crimes, documents are inaccessible, and the present-day politics of the past remain polarized.(7) What are the meanings and boundaries of truth in moral, legal, and historical realms? What are the possibilities of reconciliation? Who are the subjects of reconciliation?

The War on Memory and the Questions of Representation

In his book This is the War on Memory, sociologist Kim Dong-chun recalls that what shocked him in his interviews with victims of the Korean War was not only the cruelty of atrocities but also the silence, erasure, and ignorance imposed by the state and the society. The immense scale of civilian massacres became an open secret.(8) When survivors pass away and memories disappear, how and what can the next generation remember? This is a war on memory.

In Korea, as elsewhere, the official work of memory serves as the foundation of nation-building. This is done through representations including history textbooks, history museums, and war memorials.(9) In the consistency of the foundational narratives of national memory, no space is given to the wrongful deaths or injured bodies of unknown civilian victims. They are never fully acknowledged or identified in the official work of national memory. In the repressive atmosphere, marginalized memories were avoided as a subject of taboo by artists. In this regard, what is at stake in the representation of the Korean War is different from that of the Holocaust. While the latter has seen contestation over visualizations of “un-representable” atrocities, the former suffers the absence of representation due to political oppression and legal censorship. In the currently changing political climates, once-censored images have been shown in public and even staged in art festivals. However, in such a celebration of images as spectacle, there is no space for the memory of loss and grief. In this sense, it is meaningful to look into the artworks of Suh Yongsun that confront the uncomfortable past, expand repositories of memory beyond official narratives of history, and grapple with the possibilities of visually representing repressed and recurring wounds.

Suh Yongsun’s Work of Remembering and Witnessing

Suh Yongsun is a renowned artist who produced a number of artworks that portray landscapes, social tensions, and historical events in expressive, bold, and intensive pictorial languages. His paintings render suffering and struggles of individuals placed in especially catastrophic situations (Figure 1). According to art historian Chung Young-mok, his works not only narrate historical events but, more importantly, represents what has been ignored and forgotten.(10) For the last 20 years, he has paid critical attention to the Korean War. This is probably because his birth itself was intertwined with the intensive time of the war. He was born during the war in 1951 and grew up on the outskirts of Seoul, a city that was heavily destroyed and crowded with refugees and returnees from evacuation. Like other children, he wandered around the alleys of the ruined city.(11) He remembers stories that he heard from his parents and neighbors and scenes that he saw on the streets: the anxious moment of his parents waiting for a boat near the Han River to give birth to him (Figure 2); his father hiding under the floor to avoid a forced mobilization (Figure 3); his mother’s hardships in raising five children; people suffering from severe poverty; disabled soldiers begging on the streets; dead bodies in the nearby public cemetery; skeletons and bones left in the school playground (Figure 4); and his neighbors, sitting in the alleyway, endlessly talking about what they had witnessed, such as tragic deaths. While living near the public cemetery, Suh’s father often told him, he recalls, “don’t be afraid of death.”(12) From his early childhood, Suh perhaps had already learned that death is part of human life. He also remembers pieces of words from the stories that he heard over and over again: “refugees, baby-faced North Korean soldiers, Syngman Rhee [the then president of South Korea], General MacArthur, the Eighth US Army, Korea Liaison Office, provincial registration card, Kim Il-sung [the then leader of North Korea], Stalin, Mao Zedong, January 4 Retreat, and September 28 Seoul Reclamation.” Such fragments of words, stories, and images remain as his memory of the war and they were later recreated in his artworks. He recalls, “my paintings are an outcome of the curiosity and confusion that I had in my childhood.”(13)

In between the first generation and the second generation of the war, Suh’s memory is embedded in experiences that are both individual and collective, and both direct and indirect. As he went through the turbulent postwar period under the rule of an authoritarian dictatorship, his memory of the war became more intertwined with the official history of the war. He seeks to engage in the process by which memory and the history of the war overlap and/or conflict with each other and form knowledge and consciousness. His intervention is made through artistic experiments and interdisciplinary approaches, which include site visits, archival research, meetings with involved people, and the study of visual cultural images. His works are experiential, analytical, and affective.

These elements are visible in his works presented in the exhibition entitled Memory, Representation: Suh Yongsun and 6.25 [the Korean War] held in 2013 at Korea University Museum in Seoul on the 60th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement of the Korean War (Figure 5). In the exhibition catalogue, Chung wrote that Suh showed a history of the war seen from his eyes with the insight of humanities.(14) In Landing in Incheon shows the landscape of the city’s port. On the right are portrayed the figures of General MacArthur and other political and military leaders who seem to make important decisions, while on the left are outlined a group of people with their hands behind their heads as if they are being taken away. While the figures on the right, backgrounded by the port landscape, look like enlarged and re-composed documentary photos, those on the left look like ghosts disappearing (Figure 6). The painting is not about the historical landing operation but it is a memory work in which remembrance, documentation, and imagination are overlapped and juxtaposed. In Sacrifice depicts people terrified by and grieving for deaths, which are suggested by the image of a decapitated head. The bottom right shows a wrecked bridge (Figure 7). The bridge is reminiscent of the famous Pulitzer prize-winning press photograph, taken by a photographer for Associated Press, which captured a scene of thousands of refugees crossing the shattered girders of a bridge in the freezing winter of December 1950. As art historian Eun-yeong Park elaborates, in Korea, the photograph was widely reproduced in textbooks and documentaries related to the Korean War, became an iconic image of “an exile for freedom,” and was utilized as a symbol of the nation as an anti-communist country. In this process, the suffering of refugees was seen as a sublime sacrifice for freedom.(15) Suh also drew the image of this destroyed bridge in his painting series entitled Refugees (Figure 8). As implied in the title, his interest is not in the spectacle of human suffering but in pains inflicted on bodies of individuals who struggled to cross the wrecked bridge in the freezing winter temperatures in order to survive. What we witness in his painting is not monumental sacrifice but people’s struggles for survival (Figure 9). Suh’s paintings invite viewers to contemplate on what people had experienced with entangled senses of fear, grief, anguish, despair, and longing.

Suh’s paintings testify to violent, unjust, and wrongful deaths. In The Geochang Incident, viewers are confronted by decapitated heads floating in a river and their bodies standing with bare feet on the riverbed (Figure 10). The buried and forgotten deaths return as images and confront us. The dead victims testify to their traumatic deaths and the violence enacted on their bodies, and they ask us to bear witness. The painting Nogeunri (2001) shows a man and small children screaming and stretching their hands up in fear. The bullet holes on the bridge wall tell their unavoidable destiny before their imminent death (Figure 11). Another painting with the same title, Nogeunri (2019), locates the tragedy in the particular context of killing. There are people hiding under the bridge but they are falling to the bullets showering from above and the front. Outside of the tunnel are soldiers shooting at the people, busy with their duties, and observing the killing. In front of this large-scale painting, viewers are turned into witnesses (Figure 12). What they witness is not only the tragic moment of the massacre but also the historical amnesia of it which is just as brutal as the crime.

The Portrait of Others and Us

The bold, condensed, and intensive expressions in Suh’s artworks attract viewers and at the same time make them pause. What viewers encounter is a portrait of the past which resonates with the present. His painting The Wounded Soldier portrays a man in military uniform standing with only one leg (Figure 13). While painting this work, Suh was thinking about Kim Hak-cheol (1906-2001), who he had heard about during his visit to Yanbian, a Korean autonomous prefecture in the Jilin Province in China, bordered in the south by North Korea.(116) Kim was born in the northern part of Korea during the Japanese colonial rule and went to China to join the Korean independent army and fight against the Japanese imperial army; was imprisoned in Japan, where he had to amputate one of his legs; came to Korea after the liberation and soon moved to China where he was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution. During his journey across borders, he wrote novels that bear witness to what he had gone through during the turbulent historical moments. The Wounded Soldier depicts Kim floating like a ghost but gazing somewhere off in the distance. This is a portrait of a man who lived a difficult life in the turbulent years while carrying through his belief.

People in military uniform often appear in Suh’s paintings. In his large-scale wall painting entitled The Prisoners, figures in military uniform are standing in lines (Figure 14). As suggested in the title, the collective figures may represent the prisoners of the Korean War. In front of the enlarged collective figures, Korean viewers may feel like they are becoming part of them. It has been almost 70 years since the war came to an end. Yet, in the lingering legacy of the politically mobilized ideological conflicts, the die-hard red-complex, the remaining militarized culture of repression, and the continuing unjust deaths, Korean viewers may find themselves as prisoners of the unending war. In this sense, The Prisoners may be the portrait of present-day Koreans. It brings us back to Suh’s earlier painting, The Self-Portrait with Red Eyes, in which a man in green with bloodshot eyes gazes at viewers outside the picture, probably at the same time staring at his own reflection in the mirror (Figure 15). What viewers and he face is perhaps the spectre of bad deaths (Figure 16). In her study of the Cheju 4.3 massacre, anthropologist Seong-nae Kim argues, “The pain of the living is the legacy of the dead. The dead and the living perceive their pain identically. This is because as long as the pain of the dead remains unhealed, the living cannot go on living in peace.” While the dead is confined in the placeless liminality, the living endures the physical wound, the forced silence, and the repressed traumatic memory. In the communicative work of mourning, Kim argues, the living has an ethical responsibility to remember, acknowledge, and thus help the dead to be liberated from their grievous confinement in the liminality.(17) Suh’s paintings make viewers ask questions: How can we mourn victims of mass killings in the state of perpetual grievance? How can we remember them as individuals? (Figure 17)

In 2014, Suh returned to drawing portraits. In June 2014, Suh decided to take an art residency on the island of Hauido, about 40 minutes from the site of the Sewol Ferry disaster in which 304 passengers, including 250 high school students, drowned. Almost every day he went to Pengmok Port. The surrounding nature – the sea, sky, trees, and mountains – no longer felt like a familiar scene. He felt a profound sense of absence of those who had disappeared into the deep sea. He could not even breathe in the atmosphere of grief that enveloped the whole area. When he visited the collective memorial altar set up in Pengmok Port, he said, he could not look at the neatly posed portraits of young victims who lost their lives in their adolescent years. The deaths of young victims brought him back his own loss of his younger sister. In his painting series Children 2 & 3 (Figures 18, 19), Suh portrays a girl who looks outside behind the window frame of the cabin where she is trapped. It is not clear whether she is alive or already dead. She looks at viewers, as if asking, “Why have I been left to die? Why did this happen?” The expressionless, still face with thick, dark brown shadows against the static grey-toned wall in Children suggests that the girl in the painting has no chance at life. Nevertheless, Suh said that he could not draw her dead since she would remain alive in the memory of loved ones who would never let her go.(18) The Sewol Ferry victims’ parents have struggled to find ways to reconnect themselves with their deceased children. They often said that they too had died in the moment of their children’s deaths. But they could not let go of their children.(19)

The state of mourning in which life and death merge is felt in Suh’s small painting The Sewol Pilgrimage, which renders people looking like ghosts, almost buried in the surrounding landscape, but continuing with their journey to somewhere (Figure 20). This image reappears in his large-scale work The News and the Event, 2014, which was shown in an exhibition in memory of the Sewol Ferry disaster victims, held in 2016 at the Gyeonggi Museum of Art. The News and the Event, 2014, created through repeated actions of carving, marking, and painting on fourteen 2.7-meter-long pine tree planks, presents visual icons associated with the disaster and public perceptions of it (Figure 21). In the upper-right corner re-emerge the marchers walking towards somewhere outside the picture frame, disappearing from view. The center of the painting shows a blown-up image of the capsized ferry. Below are a police vehicle and a group of riot police who are looking not at the sinking ship but at something else, probably protesting families. Both sides of the painting show images of figures suggestive of those who are in authority and responsible for the catastrophe. Many questions are left to the viewer to reflect upon: How to relate scattered icons, how to make sense of the tragedy, and how to mourn its vanished victims.

Historian Han Hong-gu, who has investigated cases of civilian killings by state terrorism, argues that the course of the Sewol Ferry catastrophe traces back to the wrongdoings committed in the Korean War.(20) He points out the recurring features of this violence: The atrocity that instructed people to stay put; the unresolved truth; the failure to punish perpetrators; and the suffering of bereaved families as well as the violation of their human rights. Suh’s artworks related to atrocities and disasters bring back the violent deaths. His expressive, affective, and analytical paintings, approached from multiple positions of victims and witnesses, elicit entangled feelings of pain, horror, anger, grief, and despair. There is no guarantee that art of historical and social trauma can possibly translate the suffering of victims that is singular, specific, unrepeatable, and incommensurable. Nevertheless, in Suh’s paintings, the past comes to life with traumatic memories that are resolutely an issue of the present. The ghostly return testifies to the destruction of lives and, further, a crisis in the social foundation of humanity for both the dead and the living.

(1)Cathy Caruth [ed.], Trauma: Explorations in Memory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), p. 154.
(2)David Bathrick, Brad parger, and Michael D. Richardson [eds], Visualizing the Holocaust: Documents, Aethetics, Memory (Rocester, NY, Camden House: 2008).
(3)E. Ann Kaplan, Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature (New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London, Rutgers University: 2005).
(4)Frances Guerin and Roger Halla, The Image and The Witness: Truama, Memory and Visual Culture (London & New York, Wallflower Press: 2007).
(5)Kim Dong-chun, This is the War on Memory: The Korean War and the Massacre. Seeking for the Truth (Sagyejeol, Korea: 2013).
(6)An Byeong-uk, “The current issues of the resolution of the Korean historical problems,” History and Criticism, 2010, pp. 32-60.
(7)Kim, This is the War on Memory.
(8)Kim, This is the War on Memory. p. 23.
(9)Hong Kal, “Commemoration and the construction of nationalism: War memorial museums in Korea and Japan,” The Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, September 2008.
(10)Chung Young-mok, “Memory, representation: Suh Yongsun and 6.25,” Memory, Representation: Suh Yongsun and 6.25 (Korean University Museum: 2013), p.13.
(11)Suh Yongsun, “Memory and painting,” a public talk at YYZ gallery in Toronto, organized by Hong Kal at York University on May 18, 2018.
(12)Suh Yongsun, March 2, 2018, author interview.
(13)Suh, “Memory and painting.”
(14)Chung, “Memory, representation: Suh Yongsun and the Korean War,” p. 13.
(15)Park Eun-young, “The reception and interpretation of the Korean War photography,” Art History Criticism, 29, 2009, pp. 51-78.
(16)Suh Yongsun, January 27, 2019, author interview.
(17)Seong-nae Kim, “The work of memory: Ritual laments of the dead and Korea’s Cheju massacre,” in J. Boddy & M. Lambek [eds], A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion (John Wiley and Sons, Inc: 2013), p. 226.
(18)Suh Yongsun, March 2, 2018, author interview.
(19)Hong Kal, “The art of witnessing: The Sewol Ferry Disaster in Hong Sung-dam's paintings,” Korean Studies, 43, 2019, pp.96-119.
(20)Han Hong-gu, “The Korean War and the civilian massacre,” YouTube video, downloaded on September 20, 219.

Related Categories

20th Century Art / 21st Century Art / Acrylic on Canvas / Acrylic on Linen / Acrylic Paint / Acrylic Painting / Art of the 1980s / Art of the 1990s / Art of the 2000s / Art of the 2010s / Asian Art / Canvas / Contemporary Asian Art / Contemporary Korean Art / Dak Paper / Expressionism / Figurative Painting / Historical Events / Individual and Society / Inspired by National History / Korean Art / Linen / Modern and Contemporary Korean History / Primary Colors / Short and Quick Brushstrokes / Social Activism / Socio-political Issues / Surrounding Environment / Urban Landscape / War and Military

Curriculum Vitae


  • 1982

    MFA Seoul National University, Seoul

  • 1979

    BFA Seoul National University, Seoul

Solo Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Pain, Symptoms, and Signs: The Remaking of History in Suh Yongsun's Painting, Art Center White Block, Paju, Korea

  • Suh Yongsun, City of Velocity, Niche Gallery, Tokyo

  • Suh Yongsun, Time passing with mountains, Nook Gallery, Seoul

Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Sung, Fantastic City, SuweonIpark Museum, Suweon

  • Inwangsan Aheycheup -Useosangi, Boan, Seoul

  • Gongjae and Portraits, Haengchon Museum, Haenam, Korea

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Curriculum Vitae

The artist CV shows the details after 2000s.
To access the artist’s full CV, please click the download button at the end.


  • 1982

    MFA Seoul National University, Seoul

  • 1979

    BFA Seoul National University, Seoul

Solo Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Pain, Symptoms, and Signs: The Remaking of History in Suh Yongsun's Painting, Art Center White Block, Paju, Korea

  • Suh Yongsun, City of Velocity, Niche Gallery, Tokyo

  • Suh Yongsun, Time passing with mountains, Nook Gallery, Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun, Utopia’s delay, The Painter and The Metropolis, Mizuma, Kips & Wada Art, NewYork

  • 2018

    Self-Portrait by Suh Yongsun, Reflection, Gallery JJ, Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun,View of the City a Phenomenological approach, Gallery Shilla, Daegu

  • Suh Yongsun, City and History of Landscape, MK Gallery, Vienna, VA, USA

  • 2017

    My Place, Fukuzumi Gallery, Osaka, Japan

  • Suh Yongsun - 37 rue de Montreuil Paris / 222 main Street New Jersey, La Galerie La ville A des Arts, Paris

  • Suh Yongsun- Crossing Worlds, Art Mora gallery, New York

  • Drawn by the Thought- Suh Yongsun, Bongsan Cultural Center, Daegu, Korea

  • 2016

    Suh Yongsun,Ryumijae Artpark, Yangpyeung, Korea

  • Color色 and Voide空 - Suh Yongsun: Kim ChongYung Museum, Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun’s Inwangsan, Nook gallery, Seoul

  • Expanding lines- Suh Yongsun Drawing, 2016 Representative Artist, Arko Art Center, Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun and Masan,Art Studio at Masan Fruit &Vegetable Wholesales Market, Changwon, Korea

  • 2015

    Suh Yongsun- Self portrait, Gallery Imazoo, Seoul

  • Utopia's Delay- the Painter and the Metropolis, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul; Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul

  • 2014

    Broken color, Art Center KUH. Daejeon, Korea

  • Suh Yongsun, LEE EUGEAN Gallery. Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun’s Heterotopia- The Forfeiture of myth, the 26th Lee Jung sub Art Prize, Chosun Ilbo Art museum, Seoul

  • Embodied and Embeded Things- Self Portraits and Scenes, Gallery Fukuzumi, Osaka, Japan

  • Historical Imagination- The King Danjong Stories by Suh Yongsun, Art Center White Block, Paju, Korea

  • Suh Yongsun: DAAD(Deutscher Akademischer Austaush Dienst), Bonn, Germany

  • 2013

    Suh Yongsun, Kips Gallery, New York

  • Suh Yongsun, Koreanishes Kulturzentrum, Berlin

  • Memory, Representation, Suh Yongsun and 6.25, Korea University Museum, Seoul

  • Moving, Unmoving: Gallery Imazoo, Seoul

  • 2012

    Odaesan Mt. Landscape, Dongsanbang Gallery, Seoul; Lee C Gallery, Seoul

  • Territory: Kips Gallery, New York

  • 2011

    Jirisan Mt. Landscape, Lee C gallery, Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun, RMIT School of art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

  • Suh Yongsun, son galerie, Berlin

  • The man who paints, Shin Wha Gallery, Hong Kong

  • Touch, Gallery Fukuzumi, Osaka, Japan

  • Politics of Gaze, Hakgojae gallery, Seoul

  • 2010

    Landscapes by Suh Yongsun, Lee C gallery, Seoul

  • Men in the History, gallery 604J ; 604H, Busan, Korea

  • Men in the History, Space Hongji. (curated by 604 gallery), Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun, Gallery Imazoo, Seoul

  • 6Down Town, Kips Gallery, New York

  • 2009

    Suh Yongsun: Tong-In Auction Gallery, Seoul

  • Memories of the Future: Park Soo Keun Museum of Art, Yanggoo, Korea

  • Mountain and Water: Lee C gallery, Seoul

  • Artist of the Year 2009: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Gwacheon, Korea

  • Figure: Fukuzumi gallery, Osaka, Japan

  • 2008

    Self Portrait, Gallery Godo, Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun, Gallery A-story, Seoul; Busan Art Center (Curated by Kim Jaesu Gallery), Busan, Korea

  • 2007

    Maeweoldang Kim Si-soup, Gallery Godo, Seoul

  • Nosan-gun Diary Ⅲ, O's gallery, Jeunju, Korea

  • Nosan-gun Diary, Gallery Fukuzumi, Osaka, Japan

  • 2006

    Ideology and Places, Gallery Godo, Seoul

  • Suh Yongsun,Cheoram Railroad Station, Taebaek, Korea

  • Suh Yongsun, Crecloo art Gallery, New York

  • 2004

    Taebaek, Cheoram, Suka Art Space, Busan, Korea

  • Suh Yongsun, Rho Gallery, Seoul

  • The Memories of the Future, Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul

  • 2002

    Solid, Drawing, Rho Gallery, Seoul

Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Sung, Fantastic City, SuweonIpark Museum, Suweon

  • Inwangsan Aheycheup -Useosangi, Boan, Seoul

  • Gongjae and Portraits, Haengchon Museum, Haenam, Korea

  • Peace, We are one, Odu Mountain Unification Observatory, Paju

  • Immortality in the Cloud, Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul

  • Visioni di Paesaggi contemporanei dal mondo, Museo di Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Valmotone

  • An Era of Peace, A Peaceful Land, Incheon Culture & Arts Center, Incheon

  • 2018

    The Sea and The Island, Sanghai Korean Cultural Center, Sanghai. China

  • The Bookshelves of the Artists, Goyang Aramnuri, Aram art Museum, Goyang

  • Duet Show, MK Gallery, Vienna, Va., USA

  • The Aesthetics of Dokdo, Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Seoul

  • Red Earth, Blue River, Black Tideland, Origin of Muan Culture, Muan Seungwoo Oh Museum of Art, Muan

  • Peace, A Flower Blooms,Seoul National University Alumni Association Building, Seoul

  • Gyunggi Archive-Now,Gyunggi Sangsang Canpus, Suweon

  • Changwon Sculpture Biennale, Seongsan Art Hall, Changwon

  • A New Era of Peace and a Peaceful Land, Grebel Gallery at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Canada

  • We the People, Ozaneaux ArtSpace, NewYork

  • From Vietnam to Berlin, Asia Culture Center, Gwangju

  • Trahere Selfportrait of Painter, Art Center White Block, Paju

  • Gangweon The Story, Gangneung ArtCenter, Gangneung

  • Blooming at the Junction 接點開花, HongKong Korean Cultural Center, Hong Kong

  • 2017

    The Passion, Yangpyung Museum, Yangpyung

  • Two Reflections, Korean and American Artists Confront Humanity and Nature, Korean Cultural Art Center, Washington, D.C.

  • Miwhangsa-temple, Hakgogai Gallery, Seoul

  • The Secret Garden of Prince Anpyengdaegun, Zaha Museum, Seoul

  • Revisiting Painting Arts- Modern Figurative Paintings by Korean Artists, Cyan Art Museum, Yongcheon, Korea

  • Expression of Landscape, Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea

  • The Portrait of Youth, National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, Seoul

  • Art and Vimukti, Santaku-ji Temple, Shizuoka, Japan

  • Buddha Art Festival - Seoul International Buddhism Expo, SETEC, Seoul

  • Commodity & Ideology, Queens College, Klapper Art Gallery, NewYork

  • The Portrait of Youth, National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, Seoul

  • Rediscovery of Colors, Museum San, Wonju, Korea

  • Ugry As Art, Museum of Art, Seoul National University, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul

  • 2016

    Donghak, Jeonbuk Museum of Art, Wanju, Korea

  • 2016-Connect, JARFO Kyoto Gallery, Kyoto, Japan

  • Six Perspectives Looking at the Landscape, Muan Seungwoo Oh Museum of Art, Muan

  • How to sit, Indipress, Seoul

  • Republic on O-sang, Gwangju Biennale Organizing Committee, Gwangju, Korea

  • As the Moon Waxes and Wanes -MMCA Gwacheon 30 Years 1986-2006, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Gwacheon, Korea

  • South Korean Art, Examining Life Through Social Realities, American University Museum, Washington

  • April the Eternal Voyage- MV Sewol-Memorial Exhibition, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan, Korea

  • A! Unification, Seoul Arts Center, Seoul

  • Cultural Conversations, Gallery LVS, Seoul / Korean Cultural Centre, Sydney, Australia

  • 2015

    Rediscovery of Baekje Dynasty-Reported by Contemporary Art, Jeonbuk Museum of Art, Wanju, Korea

  • Symphony of lives-The special planning exhibition for the 1200thanniversary of Mountain Koya’s Founding, Kongobuji, KAISO1200thGallery, Wakayama, Japan

  • Searching for the Origin of Namdo Culture, Shinsegye Gallery, Gwangju, Korea

  • 2015 The World Heritage in Andong, Munhajeunhoe, Andong Culture & Arts Center, Andong, Korea / Ulsan culture art center, Ulsan, Korea

  • 2015 Pyungryunamdo Art project, Haengchon Museum, Haenam, Korea

  • The Scenery of Spring, Muan SeunguOh Museum, Muan, Korea

  • Prince Anpyung Period, Bom Farmers Garden, Ryumijae Gallery, Yangpyung, Korea

  • 2014

    Jirisan Project, Universe · Art ·Zip, Sungsimwon, Sanchong, Korea

  • A Form as Thingking - Rediscovery of Drawing, Museum San, Wonju, Korea

  • We are sorry, We Won’t Forget, Mitte-ugro, Gwangju, Korea

  • Gyeomjae Jeongseun and Beautiful Bihaedang Garden, Gyeomjae Jeongseun Museum, Seoul

  • Choe Chiwon - Poongyu, Calligraphy Museum of Seoul Arts center, Seoul

  • Ars Activa 2014-Arts & Their Communities, Gangneung Museum of Art. Gangneung, Korea

  • What makes the Wind Away, Busan Art Museum, Busan, Korea

  • Redrawing, Gallery 3, Seoul

  • Museum Image, Dongduk Women’s Universtiy Museum, Seoul / Dongduk Art Gallery, Seoul

  • 2013

    33 Korean Contemporary Painters, Gangdong Art Center, Seoul

  • Thinkable Cure of Daily Life, Gallery Indeco, Seoul

  • Myth and Legend, Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Center, Goyang, Korea

  • The 3rd IRAP Sea of Peace, Baekryeungdo - interview ‘525,600 hours, Inchon Art Platform, Incheon, Korea

  • 60 Anniversary of Ceasefire Exhibition –Remembrance of Things Past, OCI Museum, Seoul

  • Figures Panorama, Jeonbuk Museum of Art, Wanju, Korea

  • 2012

    The power of Art – People, The Tumen River Art Center, Tumen, China

  • Landscape of South and North Korea, Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Center, Goyang, Korea

  • Through Your Eyes, Sydney Korean Cultural Office, Sydney, Australia

  • Korean Archetype, Daegue Art Museum, Daegu, Korea

  • Korean Painting Now, Taiwan National Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan

  • 2011

    Art and Environment, The Taebaek Paleozoic Museum, Taeback, Korea

  • Nature, Life, Human, Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea

  • Artist of the Year 1995-2010, National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea, Gwacheon, Korea

  • The 1st IPAP Sea of the Peace, Inchon Art Platform, Inchon, Korea

  • Triangle Project 2011-Cheolam, Cheoram Gallery, Taebaek, Korea

  • Rhetoric of the Images, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul

  • Seoul, City Exploration, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul

  • Festart osaka 2011 (with Gallery Fukuzumi), Osaka, Japan

  • Korean Rhapsody-A Montage of History and Memory, Leeum Samsung Museum art, Seoul

  • Korean art show 2011( with Gallery Godo), New York

  • 2010

    The Flower on the Snow-Art of National Division, Daejeon Museum of Art , Daejeon, Korea

  • Korean Art Festival - In and With, Contemporary Korean Art, Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Harverford College, Philadelphia, USA

  • We went to Geoje Island, Geoje Art Center, Geoje, Korea

  • Korean Avant-Garde Drawing 1970~2000, Seoul Olimpic Museum of Art, Seoul

  • OFF the Wall - Boundary between Architecture and Ceramic, Clayarch Gimhae Museum, Gimhae, Korea

  • Gangjin Celadon Art Project 2010, GangJin Celadon Museum, GangJin, Korea

  • People and Nature in Tottori - Iwami International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Iwami Studio 652, Iwami Station, Iwami, Japan

  • Eternal Blinking- Contemporary Art of Korea, Gallery of Hawaii University Art, Mānoa, USA

  • The 100th anniversary of the Cheoram Grigi,Taebaek art center, Taebaek, Korea

  • 2009

    Transformation Defense Security Command, Pre- National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Seoul

  • 2009 Cheongju International Craft Biennale-Outside the Box, Cheongju International Craft Biennale Organizing Committee, Cheongju, Korea

  • Gallery Sobab Inaugural, Gallery Sobab, Yangpyung, Korea

  • 20th Anniversary Fall of the Wall in Berlin, 20th Anniversary Fall of the Wall in Berlin Organizing Committee, Brandenburg Gate etc. Berlin / Goethe Institute, Seoul

  • 70,80 Ode to Youth –History of Contemporary Korean art, Chosun Ilbo Art Museum, Seoul

  • 2008

    Painting, illustrating Literature, Cheongju National Museum, Cheongju, Korea

  • In 1970s, Korean art-National Art Exhibition and Private Art Exhibition,Seoul Arts Center, Seoul

  • 2007

    Art Fair 21_Cologne (with Gallery Godo), Cologne, Germany

  • 2006

    Today’s Our Figures, Gimhae Cultural Center and Yusel museum, Gimhae, Korea

  • Dok island, Dok do, Jeonbuk Museum of Art, Wanju, Korea

  • Art & Education, Contemporary Museum of Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea

  • Berlin Paintings Dialog Berlin –Korea, Kommunale Galerie, Berlin

  • 2005

    Berlin to DMZ, Seoul Olympic Museum of Art, Seoul

  • Seoul Grand Art, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul

  • Korean Art 100 years, National Contemporary and Modern Art, Gwacheon, Korea

  • 2004

    Mapp_Media Workshop, (Online, http,//

  • Contemporary Korean Artists, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul

  • Declaration, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Gwacheon, Korea

  • Dark See, Umbra, Sungkok Museum, Seoul

  • 2003

    Exploration for Light & Color, Seoul Arts Center, Seoul

  • Landscape Prints of Dokdo, Seoul National University Museum, Seoul

  • Crossing 2003 Korea, Hawaii, Gallery 'Iolani, Hawaii, U.S.A

  • 2 Artists, Press and Culture Department Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Berlin

  • Seoul Art, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul

  • Deep-Painting, Alternative Space Pool, Seoul

  • I, You, Us, Sungkok Museum, Seoul

  • 2002

    Landscape Prints of Dokdo, Seoul National University Museum, Seoul

  • History and Concern, Dokdo Jingyung, Independence Memorial Hall, Cheonan, Korea

  • Self- Portrait of Contemporary Korean Art, Sejong Center, Seoul

  • Gwangju International Biennale P_A_U_S_E, Project 3-Stay of Execution, 5.18, Memorial Park, Gwangju, Korea

  • 2001

    Korean Art 2001, Reinstatement of painting, National Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art Korea, Gwacheon, Korea / Guangzhou, China

  • 1st Cheoram Grigi, Taebaek Coal Museum, Taebaek, Korea

  • Sabulsan Yunpilam,The Road for the Cultural Society, Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul

  • Korean Art Prize(Hanguk Ilbo), National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Gwacheon, Korea

  • 2000

    33 Korea Artists, Gallery Mac, Seoul

  • Little Narrative –Artists in the 80's Small Groups, (the Korean Culture & Arts Foundation) Seoul Arts Center, Seoul

  • Contemporary Art from Korea,Unesco Palace , Kuwait, Lebanon/Beirut, Israel, etc.

  • Expression of era –Eyes and Hands, Seoul Arts Center, Seoul


  • 2016

    Representative Artist, Arko Art Center, Seoul

  • 2014

    Lee Jung Seop Art Award. Chosun Ilbo Art Museum, Seoul

  • 2009

    Artist of the Year, Contemporary Art

  • Artist of the Year, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea


  • 2018

    Torpedo Factory ArtCenter, Alexandria, VA, USA

  • 2016

    Art Mora, New Jersey, USA

  • Masan Art Studio, Changwon, Korea

  • 2015

    Haengchon Museum and Foundation for Arts and Culture, Imhado, Henam, Korea

  • 2012

    Sydney University, Sydney, Australia

  • 2011

    RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

  • 2010

    RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

  • 2006

    Visiting Professor/Artist Program at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

  • 2004

    Exchange Professor, University Sorbonne / Gana Art Gallery, Cité International Program, Paris

  • 2001

    Invited Professor / international Artist workshop program, Hamburg, Germany


  • National Museum of Modern and Contemporary of Art, Korea, Gwacheon

  • Seoul City Museum, Seoul

  • Busan Museum of Modern art, Busan

  • Daegu University, Daegu

  • Korea University Museum, Seoul

  • Seoul National University,Seoul

  • Seoul National University Museum, Seoul

  • Choogcheong University, Cheongju

  • Moran Musuem, Namyangju

  • OCI Museum, Seoul


  • 2016

    Emeritus Professor at Seoul National University (2016-present)