How to Inhabit the Time Machine with Disability
In 2014 I arrived in Aeyang Pyŏngwŏn (the Wilson Leprosy Center and Reha-
bilitation Hospital, usually called Aeyangwŏn) in the southern coastal city of
Yŏsu. The biographical film The Litany of Hope (discussed in chapter 4) falsely
depicted the poet Han Ha- un, who had Hansen’s disease, undergoing eyebrow
transplants and hand surgery here from an American doctor and then rejoin-
ing his love, thereby completing the cure narrative. I spend the night in the
house in which women with Hansen’s disease lived in isolation during and
after their treatment. The renovated homes and gardens on the coast, now
named the Forest of Cure, are open for tourists. The house’s interior, fully
equipped with contemporary amenities, probably bears little resemblance to
how it was as the women’s residence. The two photos hanging on the wall offer
the only glimpse of the past (see figure
The one on top is a black- and-
white shot of the building before its renovation. Gnarled tree branches, bare in
the wintertime, reach over the decrepit house. Taken from slightly above, the
photo shows the large roof surface that weighs down the house, as if it were
suppressing imaginings about the life inside. The house’s slanted angle does
not invite viewers in. The other picture, in color, shows the house I am occupy-
ing after its reconstruction. The leafy trees in varied autumn colors frame the
house warmly, with the bright open sky in the middle of the photo. Only part
of the original stone outer wall remains, as a façade without a roof. What was
formerly a closed window is now an entryway under an arch. Next to it stands
a house in the form of a steel box, directly facing the camera.
How does time appear on this wall where the two photos are hanging in
front of me? The black- and-white photo reminds me of the notion of “an
anachronistic space . . . out of place in the historical time of modernity,”1 even
though the homes were created in the midst of an international flow of co-
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