Piano made with barbed wire from Korean DMZ

The Unification Ministry and Cheil Worldwide Inc., the advertising arm of Samsung Group, have collaborated to create the "Piano of Unification," a piano made with barbed wire from the inter-Korean border for its strings, sources told The Korea Herald.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula and Korea's liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, the two sides launched the symbolic project in April to underscore the nation's long-cherished hopes for national reunification.

The organizers of the project plan to unveil the piano on the sidelines of an exhibition, titled "N.K. Project," at Seoul Museum of Art in central Seoul next Tuesday.

The exhibition, which runs until Sept. 29, features a wide variety of artwork including oil paintings, posters and stamps, which were made by North Koreans and collected by one South Korean and two Dutch collectors.

The organizers also plan to use the piano for a musical performance with the National Chorus of Korea on Aug. 15, Korea's Liberation Day. They are in talks with the chorus to determine how the piano will be used for the commemorative performance.

GongMyoung, a renowned Korean performing arts group and producer of creative musical instruments, has undertaken what was initially seen as an impossible process -- building a piano made of rusty, pointy wires that were collected in co-operation with a frontline army unit.

The group has built two pianos with the border wires . All of the wires used in the piano for display are from the border fence while some changes were made to one of the pianos to allow it a greater range and sound accuracy.

"Though it was a challenging undertaking for us to create a piano with the barbed wire, it was a rewarding and very meaningful process given that we could create a musical harmony for unification through the barbed wire of the truce line, a symbol of the tragic war and longstanding cross-border standoff," said Park Seung-won, the leader of GongMyoung.

Established in 1997, GongMyoung has undertaken a series of challenging tasks to make unique instruments such as an electric "janggu" (an hourglass-shaped Korean drum). The projects were born out of their hopes to "internationalize" Korean music.

However, the creation of a piano using barbed wire was a physical challenge, Park noted.

"The tension of the border wire is very strong, not to mention the rough, sharp points of the barbed wire. Everybody who was involved in the making of the piano has suffered cuts on their fingers," he said.

"The toughest part was to get the piano to produce the exact sounds we needed. We initially aimed to give the piano a range of a little over one octave. But we have given it up to two octaves and produced a very unique sound," he added.

The project to make the piano was first proposed by Cheil Worldwide Inc. as part of the firm's efforts to advance its cause of corporate social responsibility. The firm is to release its promotional materials about the piano later this week.

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