Addressing ‘Difficult Heritage’ in contemporary society is a complex and challenging issue not simply because of its association with painful and traumatic past but also because of possible disputes among diverse stakeholders with conflicting memories and multiple interpretations. The conventional top-down approach in its public representation tends to be subject to selective remembering, framing, manipulation and even a complete erasure to form a more anodyne present and future, and to construct a more positive and self-affirming contemporary identity. Taking into consideration the historical lack of critical engagement with difficult heritage conservation in East Asia, especially in South Korea, this thesis aims to subvert a strong top-down narrative and provide a sustainable conservation strategy for South Korea’s difficult heritage site, Sorok-do (island).
This thesis examines Sorok-do’s multifaceted and shifting processes within its history, cultural diversity, and management structure, and hence, offers a new set of criteria for long-term sustainability and conservation of the site. It seeks to reimagine Sorok-do’s new identity through various modes of intervention that will potentially foster a holistic understanding and celebrate its diversity. New masterplan of the island highlights the old zoning within the site while further classifying them into different zones with varying degree of conservation. Also, reconstruction of six piers aims to conserve site’s socio-functional integrity and hence, bring back site’s diminishing ‘island-ness’. The new isolation condition acts as an agent of development, and a catalyst for expansion of tourism industry, new community, and eventually a self-sufficiency of Sorok-do.
History is a layering process, and keeping the historical truth, including painful episodes in a nation’s history, is essential for educating the present and future generation. Sorokdo keeps the painful memory of the tragic past of human rights abuse committed under the pretext of medical modernity and colonialism. Dong Eun’s position to keep the natural, cultural, and historical sanctity of the island’s tangible and intangible layers is commendable. She developed a good strategy by proposing the water trail around the island and pier architecture as an interface between the land and the sea, between environmental preservation and economic development.- Assoc. Prof. Johannes Widodo (Dr.)