SEOUL – A Japanese artist has recently completed a mural inside a highly restricted South Korean military installation on the outskirts of Seoul.
Hoping to spread the message of peace, Shinichiro Higashi, 45, drew two white pigeons, each holding a flower in their beaks.
It is rare for foreigners to be permitted to create art in a South Korean military facility, but the military, which was initially cautious, eventually agreed to let him paint.
“I felt that everyone’s feeling toward peace is the same,” said Higashi, who is from Makurazaki, Kagoshima Prefecture.
Higashi has decorated walls in other countries, including Egypt, India and Australia, but this was his first time painting in a military facility.
He asked a South Korean friend he met through music-related activities if he knew of a place in South Korea where he could paint something.
His friend, Kim Bom-su, 27, was in the midst of his compulsory military service. He suggested Higashi paint at the unit where he was based and told the top brass there about the artist and his plans.
According to South Korean military officials, they considered the matter carefully, including the artist’s intentions and drawing plans, and gave permission this spring after determining it would not pose any security problems and that the painting would change the atmosphere for the better.
On May 31 and June 1, Higashi, his wife, Kaori, 33, and Kim used spray paint to draw the pigeons on a space about 2 meters tall and 14 meters wide.
Higashi said that while he thought about the 70th anniversary this year of the division of the Korean Peninsula, he did not express any specific situation in his work.
The drawing sends a “universal message that when both sides feel like they want to offer flowers to each other, peace will come about,” he said.
“I’d be happy if young people serving in the military find out that the drawing is about peace and feel something after seeing it,” he added.
For security reasons, the military refused to let Higashi photograph his own work.
As he will probably never be able to see his work in South Korea again, Higashi drew a similar painting at his relative’s residence in Kagoshima Prefecture after returning to Japan.