Rami Hyun’s Project-Soldier: Remember the Forgotten Soldiers

기사승인 [352호] 2021.12.06  


Rami Hyun is a photographer that captures not only the presence of what stands in front of the camera but what lies beyond that; the feelings and messages hidden in the eyes. Project-Soldier captures the present day of soldiers and veterans that fought in the Korean war and portrays the past. Photographer Rami Hyun presses his shutter, hoping to spread his message not to forget those who sacrificed themselves to fight for freedom. He shares a quote from the Dead Poet’s Society; ‘Carpe Diem, Seize the day’, saying to always keep your dreams in mind no matter what the circumstances are. The Hanyang Journal met Rami Hyun to hear his voyage of recording the present for it not to be forgotten.


# Photographer Rami Hyun

Q. Hello. Please introduce yourself.

A. Hello. My name is Rami Hyun, the photographer of ‘Project-Soldier.’


Q. What inspired you to become a photographer?

A. I was actually a student that studied history in the Department of Humanities, at Hanyang University. I went to the military and served in the ComputerB a s e d Tr a i n i n g ( C B T ) p o s i t i o n , where I had to deal with computers. After that, I went to Academy of Arts University(AAU) in San Francisco to study computer graphics for special effects in movies, and discovered the joy of taking photos in the photography course that I took as a freshman. After learning to take photos and watching myself through the process, I decided to switch my major to photography instead of visual effects(VFX) and graduated as a photography major.


Q. What comes to your mind when pressing the shutter, and what do you try to portray through your lens?

A. I just try to portray what I see through my eyes. Sometimes I want to take a masterpiece and constantly want to take a better picture, but I always try to take a picture that can show my true feelings towards whatever and whoever is in front of my camera.


# Project-Soldier.

Q. Tell us about ‘Project Soldier’ .

A. Project Soldier is a project starring soldiers, veterans, and people who served their country. We thank them and record their appearance and story in photos and videos and deliver them to the next generation. At first I worked alone, but now Director Hedy helps me with the overall planning and video editing.


Q. Is there a special reason why you chose to photograph people who have served the country?

A. I have also served my duty in the military as a Korean citizen. However, as a reserved sergeant, I have more negative perceptions of the military than positive ones. In an interview, one sergeant said, “I am not ashamed of serving for the country for 28 years, but I am ashamed as a father and husband of a family.” He showed tears during the interview and said that he couldn’t spend much time with his family because of his work and felt very sorry. When I asked him what his wish was, he said, “I’m about to be discharged from the military after serving for 30 years. My wish is to go on a family trip for the first time.” When I heard his words, I felt ashamed of myself. I thought of what I could do for the soldiers, and decided to record them with my small ability to take pictures to express my gratitude.


Q. Many veterans that fought in the Korean war seem to be featured in Project-Soldier.

A. In 2016, I visited a military uniform exhibition and met Salvador Scalato, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran that fought in the Korean war. I looked into his eyes and saw “pride”, which I couldn’t understand from a soldier that came to fight in another country. Taking pictures of overseas veterans was a journey to find the answer to my questions, and as I gradually understood the reason for their pride, I felt that someone should record the values that they have kept and sacrifices that they made to pass on to the next generation. This is why I decided to spend all my time and energy to photograph veterans at least until 2023, which is the 70th anniversary of the Korean War. Many of them are old and don’t have much time left.


Q. It seems that you often go abroad to take photos. Is there a special reason why you choose to go on your own?

A. 71 years have passed since the Korean War and most veterans are 90 years old. If I don’t visit them in person, I’ll have fewer opportunities to meet them. So I am visiting them one by one before it becomes too late.


Q. Were there any difficulties during the project?

A. In 2020, I went to the United States, the home of 1.8 million people that came to Korea during the Korean war. My original plan was to buy an RV with the money from the sponsors supporting our project to travel around 50 states. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I stayed in Atlanta, Washington, etc. and visited about 50 veterans and family members who personally contacted me. We usually drove for about 10 hours back and forth. Though there were many difficulties, people’s perspective towards our project was the hardest part. Some would ask “How much do you get paid for each photoshoot?”, and some would say that there wouldn’t be any reason for me to do this project if I weren’t earning money out of it. The reality where 10 out of 10 people would be talking about money was heartbreaking for me, when it really isn’t about the money.


Q. On the contrary, there must have been moments when you felt proud handing the veterans their photos.

A. My photography comes from my small talent but when I show the veterans their photos, they seem extremely satisfied, as if they are being rewarded for the sacrifices they have made throughout their lives. They feel grateful about the fact that a young photographer from a country where they participated in war more than 70 years ago has come to thank them. It seemed more meaningful because, as they say, they were the “forgotten veterans.” Pictures show what stands in front of us, but it also shows their inside; their thoughts and feelings. Many veterans say that the real heroes are the comrades who died there during the war, and that they survived because they were  cowards. However, one veteran told me that now that they see themselves in the pictures, he feels that they are the heroes we are talking about. Moreover, their wish is for us to remember one thing; that they fought for Korea.


Q. When the veterans ask the price of the photographs, you always reply “You have already paid the price many years ago.” What does this mean?

A. Most UN veterans participated in war at the age of 18 to protect Korea. So I think that we owe them for the freedom that we are living in today. This is why I tell them that they’ve already paid for the photographs.


# Rami Hyun’s 2021 & 2022

Q. What does “photography” mean to you?

A. I define myself as photography; photography is my life. I keep capturing moments of life as it goes by.


Q. How was your 2021?

A. In 2020, I seriously injured my back, ran out of money, and much of my equipment were in bad condition. I thought everything was over but in 2021, I got featured in TVN’s You Quiz on the Block where I had a chance to share the story of veterans with many people, which became a new start to visit more people.


Q. Do you have any goals for 2022?

A. In 2022, I’m planning to travel around 50 states in the United States. If I visit one state per week, I will be able to meet over 3000 veterans in a year.


Q. How do you want Rami Hyun and Project Soldier to be remembered? Do you have a message for the veterans?

A. This project is still in progress. Until the 70th anniversary of the ceasefire of the Korean War in 2023, I will visit all 22 countries that participated and supported Korea during the war to express my gratitude and record everything. Please support this project so that we can keep going. Sometimes you can see veterans wearing caps that have in engravements like ‘Korean War Veterans’, thanking them for their service in the Korean war. Don’t just pass by and thank them for protecting our country. Tell them “Thank you for your service.” Additionally, to the dear veterans all over the world, please stay healthy. I’ll try my best to visit in the near future.


Q. Thank you for the interview. Do you have any last words for your Hanyang University juniors?

A. I have two things I’d like to say. Mr. Keating in the Dead Poets Society says “Carpe Diem. Seize the day.” Tomorrow comes because we live today. Though our surroundings and environment make things harder, you must always keep your dreams in mind, and this will one day lead to hope for tomorrow. Second, no one expected me to be on You Quiz on the Block. Life is full of unexpected surprises. We live and learn: Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

Son Hyeonyu

<저작권자 © 한양저널 무단전재 및 재배포금지>




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