Gilchun Koh (b. 1956) is one of the most internationally recognized artists from Jeju Island, South Korea. This landscape of breathtaking volcanic beauty is also the site of centuries of conflict, due in part to its strategic location between Korea, Japan and China. Throughout its history, Jeju island faced waves of invasion and colonization, then violent suppression by the Korean government in the 1940s, culminating with the killing of over 30,000 Jeju villagers in what is now known as the April 3rd ‘Sasam’ massacre.
One of a group of prominent political artists known as ‘Sasam artists,’ Gilchun Koh blends art and activism throughout his work in multiple media. In addition to creating works commemorating and honoring the history of Jeju island, he makes work to create awareness of the growing impact that military activities and commercialization are having on the environment and local species.
Koh received his BFA (painting) in 1982 from Chosun University in Kwangju and MFA (printmaking) in 2006 from Hong-Ik University in Seoul. He has taught extensively in Korea and the US. In September of 2011 he was a visiting guest lecturer along with Noam Chomsky at Boston College and Wentworth University of Boston, later with Gloria Steinem at New York University and New York Theological College, on the subject of art and its role in political protest.
Koh’s work has been recognized internationally with numerous awards and exhibitions, including permanent commissioned works for the April 3rd Peace Park Memorial Hall and a 2018 solo exhibition at the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art. He was a 2010 artist in residence at Centrum in Washington State (USA) and is represented in the US by ArtXchange Gallery (Seattle, WA).