CHICAGO — Last December, rumors about a North Korean unicorn lair circulated on the internet. Word got out that an ancient Korean king once rode this mythical beast. But soon it was discovered that this “unicorn” was not an actual unicorn, but rather an English mistranslation of the word “unicorn.” According to a report on International Business Times, the animal was actually a “beast with a dragon’s head, a deer’s body, the tail of a cow, hooves and a mane.” Because North Korea is known in the US for mysteries like these, and because the internet loves to consume bizarre or “weird” news, headlines about the supposed mythical unicorn creature lived for a while in readers’ minds.
Misperceptions of North Korea, as well as the country’s past, do more than momentarily haunt artist Young Sun Han. In the Korean-American artist’s upcoming solo show in New Zealand (where he also holds citizenship), the artist deals with the ancestral ghosts of his North Korean family. Young, who was runner-up on Bravo’s second and last season of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, continues where he left off at the end of the show, when death and an autobiographical focus took hold of his work. His biological father passed away, and with him went stories of a Korean refugee. The ghosts remain, and they are the focus of Young’s new exhibition Peripheral Fantom Index. We talked with Young about these new works.