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Korean photographer AHAE and Ahae Press express profound sadness to Sewol ferry victims and condolences to the families of those lost and injured

NEW YORK, April 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Ahae Press and the noted photographer who goes by the name AHAE (Byung Eun Yoo) and whose works have been shown at the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles, were shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of life in the Sewol ferry disaster last week, and share in the great grief the victims and their families are experiencing from this devastating tragedy.

While reports have noted correctly that Mr. Yoo's two sons are investors in I-One-I Holdings, one of the shareholders of Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., the operator of the Sewol ferry, the elder Mr. Yoo, age 73, does not own any shares, direct or indirect, of Chonghaejin nor is he involved in the company's management.  He has devoted his last several years exclusively to his artistic endeavors.

"Mr. Yoo's artistic photography is exhibited and marketed by Ahae Press, Inc.," said Michael Ham, who is the Managing Director. "Mr. Yoo does not have any involvement in the management or day-to-day operations of Chonghaejin Marine Co. I am dismayed at the media reports linking him to the Sewol incident and suggesting that he is directly responsible for this tragedy. These claims cannot be further from the truth. I know that he has been spending every single day of the past four to five years focusing on his photography work."

The Yoo sons are also deeply saddened and concerned about those hurt in this major tragedy, as reflected in the statement they issued last week in Korea through Attorney Son Byoung-gi, the legal representative of I-One-I Holdings:  "We and our families would like to express our deep sorrow," and confirm a commitment and understanding to help ease the "mental shock, pain, anguish and rage of the families of the victims and the missing passengers," Mr. Son stated. 

While the Korean authorities investigating the ferry tragedy have issued a travel ban for 30 to 40 officials associated with Chonghaejin ownership, including members of the Yoo family, this blanket approach is standard for investigations by Korean regulators.

Ahae Press stated that it wishes that all efforts be devoted to both helping and honoring the victims of this tragedy, and that it is concerned inaccurate media reporting has diverted this focus, turning it into an undeserved attack against AHAE, his character and his credentials as an artist.

Mr. Ham noted that "AHAE's work brings much pride to his country. I have witnessed the substantial emotional impact his art has had on the hundreds of thousands of visitors who have attended his exhibitions. I have read countless notes and letters from visitors expressing their enthusiasm and love toward his photographs." 

AHAE, which means "child" in old Korean language, has exhibited his photography recently at a pavilion in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, hosted by the Louvre Museum. He is also the first Korean artist ever to have been invited to exhibit his artworks at the Palace of Versailles.

Ahae Press expressed concern that unwarranted accusations have been made by the Korean media questioning AHAE's standing as an artist, and unfairly challenging the value of his art.

Prof. Milan. Knizak, director general of the National Gallery in Prague from 1999 to 2011, and currently a professor at Prague's Academy of Fine Arts, issued a statement noting the importance and value of AHAE's work, saying: "AHAE is a remarkable artistic personality... AHAE in his photographs brings plain, unadorned observation of reality, trying not to deform anything he sees."

"After a series of exhibitions and presentations in a few European and American art museums and galleries, his art became famous," said Prof. Knizak. "Today, AHAE belongs to a very few Korean artists widely known, one of them being my old friend and colleague Nam June Paik.  AHAE's prices move on reasonable levels and never jumped too high. This is also a sign of AHAE's strength, dignity, and humbleness. Korea should be proud of people like AHAE."

Further support for the importance and genuine value of AHAE's art comes from Mike von Joel, Editor-in-Chief of State Magazine, the largest circulation art and photography magazine based in London.

"AHAE has recently completed an exhibition program that began modestly in Prague under the auspices of one of the Czech Republic's leading curators, museum director, critic and artist [and] culminated with a major exhibition in Paris under the umbrella of the Louvre with a personal citation by the Director of the Louvre, Mr. Henri Loyrette," Mr. von Joel stated.

"It has apparently been claimed that these were somehow 'bogus' exhibitions and the result of AHAE's associates 'buying' favours with these organizations," he stated. "No artist, however exalted, can 'bribe' a historical and world renowned institution such as the Louvre. Ask the simple question: why would the Louvre jeopardize its centuries old reputation for any individual that happened to offer financial inducements? It is an organ of the French State and dedicated to superior works of art across all disciplines. The sole reason AHAE enjoyed a collaboration with this august institution was on the basis of merit – supported by the opinion of a number of eminent critics who have witnessed the development of AHAE photographic works over the last three years or so... I am personally appalled at the grotesque distortions being aimed at the artist AHAE all of which appear to be completely fabricated and without foundation."

Ahae Press noted that some other media reports, including those that inaccurately state that Mr. Yoo is "the de facto owner" of the ferry company, have dredged up past events that serve only to divert everyone from what should be a singular focus on helping those hurt by this tragedy. For instance, recent media reports have brought back painful memories from 1991 to Mr. Yoo when he was the undeserved focus of a frenzied media circus, and then subsequently fully exonerated, showing the media reports were speculative and inaccurate.

The irresponsible news reports at that time speculatively associated Mr. Yoo, who was then the head of the Semo Corporation, with a major mass suicide scandal related to a religious cult. Korean authorities thoroughly investigated the incident and determined that Mr. Yoo had no link to the mass suicide. But the media attacks left a painful and lasting impression on the Korean public, which has been further exacerbated by the reports from this past week, many of which repeated the inaccurate and unsubstantiated reports of more than 20 years ago.

As aiding the victims and their families must be the paramount concern and focus, Ahae Press is committed to being vigilant in providing accurate information to the media, so that further inaccurate media reports will not divert focus away from the urgent needs of those harmed in this tragedy as well as their families.

For Prof. Milan. Knizak letter, click here.
For Mike von Joel statement, click here.

SOURCE Ahae Press, Inc.

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