Mountains have all the time been central to Korean id. In Korean mythology, the god Hwanung came down from heaven to rule Earth from Mount Taebaek. North Korean propaganda teaches that Kim Jong-il was born on Mount Paektu, the peninsula’s highest peak; the Kim dynasty is known as the Mount Paektu Bloodline. In South Korea, the place mountaineering is a nationwide pastime, an estimated one in three people go mountaineering no less than twice a month. Even inside the concrete sprawl of Seoul, synthetic mountains have risen to embellish parks, eating places, and procuring malls.
Round a decade in the past, South Korean photographer Seunggu Kim started noticing a brand new pattern of luxurious house complexes in Seoul being constructed round elaborate re-creations of well-known Korean mountains. Actual property builders use the factitious mountains to promote every complicated’s sturdy feng shui, with slogans invoking the mountains’ mystical properties. (“Mount Kumgang has the drive that makes every thing alive on the planet!” “Mount Seoraksan is the cradle of divine life!”) One of many South Korean landscaping firms that builds such mountains—that are typically made out of polystyrene cores topped with actual rocks and vegetation—even copyrighted the time period “Jingyeong Sansu” (actual panorama portray), after a 17th-century Korean art movement that emphasised depictions of precise mountains reasonably than imaginary ones.
Costing as much as $1.5 million and taking months to assemble, these extremely detailed alpine simulacra enchantment to city Koreans’ love of pure surroundings. “I’d see folks strolling quietly round these mountains, like they have been below a spell,” Kim says.
Photographing the websites wasn’t straightforward. Safety guards typically kicked Kim out, telling him that the residents had paid for the mountain and he had no proper to take footage of it. “Individuals need to personal the surroundings,” he notes. To evade detection, he snuck into the complexes on weekends or holidays when safety was extra lax. It took him 9 years to assemble the pictures within the collection.
To Kim, the faux mountains characterize an try by rich South Koreans to mediate the connection between the nation’s extremely urbanized current and a rural, quasi-mythical previous. “My images are all concerning the contradiction between the pure and the man-made,” he says. “They present how the spirit of the previous lives on in the midst of the fashionable metropolis.”