The sketches of Im Gyeong-jae

My father is now losing words
and deleting his memories.

The untold stories swarm,
and the pent-up feelings inside,
how did you deal with them for those long years?
See, the drawings you began exhaling one day
depict the nights of bitter grief: the past century of this nation.
As if wishing to forget this life, forget the wear and tear of time,
father is now losing his speech and deleting his memories.

Sketches titled ‘Nights of Bitter Grief’

Im Gyeong-jae testifies through his sketch series titled “Nights of Bitter Grief.”
The trauma experienced during the massacre is expressed in drawings with annotations such as: “I haven’t heard about my father since he was taken away two nights ago.”
Im’s 60-year-old untold story of the massacre is intensely moving.

Sketches by Im Gyeong-jae

Im Gyeong-jae
“Ten years ago when my father visited me at my work, I asked him to draw something while he waited for me. When I returned to him, I was very surprised. He drew some sketches with a pen in only one stroke. In order not to ruin something I thought could be important, I encouraged him to keep drawing. He was 75, and he started pouring out sketches for the following six years. In 2014, he became bedridden. Now, he can’t draw any longer.
This sketch describes the so-called red-hunting after the scorched earth operations. Nominally, the counterinsurgency forces were supposed to be hunting roe deer. But the truth is that they were searching for communists. It looks like my father, being a teenager, was immensely shocked at 4·3. While painting his memories, he had different expressions on his face and was totally immersed in the process. He cried a lot, too. I believe that painting them helped heal many of the hidden wounds in his mind.”

A tale of 4·3 from Im Gyeong-jae’s sketchbook

This passage from the sketchbook is an interview with Im Gyeong-jae conducted by his daughter, Im Ae-deok. It describes the time when his siblings took refuge at his aunt’s after Im Gyeong-jae’s father went missing and his mother had a breakdown.

“I haven’t heard about my father since he was taken away two nights ago. (…) I am worried, on and on. It’s not only about my father. I sent my younger brother, Hyuk-jae, and my younger sister, Jeong-ja, to my aunt’s in the village of Josu, but there is no way I can hear news from them. (…) My mother started talking nonsense, sitting on the wooden porch. When I stood up and took one step toward the stairway, I was stunned. My grandfather was weeping bitterly, lying flat on the ground under the stairway. His daughter went insane and couldn’t even recognize him. I can’t even imagine how heartbreaking it could be.”