Documentary film about people who are neither South nor North Korean

One of the most frequently asked questions of Koreans traveling abroad is: “Are you from the North or the South?”

The protagonists of Kim Cheol-min’s independent documentary film “I am from Chosun” would answer the question by saying that they are both, or perhaps neither.

Kim’s documentary describes his journey of learning from the Zainichi people in Japan, who are ethnic Koreans who moved to Japan primarily in the early 1900s before the Korean peninsula was divided into south and north in the late 1900s. Second World War.

“I first met them (Zainichi) in 2002 in Kumgangsan (North Korea) and was shocked to find that I was so ignorant about their history,” Kim said at a conference. press held at CGV Yongsan in Seoul on Tuesday.

The director added that he started planning the film after meeting fellow Zainichi in Japan in 2016.

The film centers on the first generation of Zainichi and their descendants who identify as “Chosun” people, referring to the pre-war Korean peninsula, and neither South Koreans nor North Koreans. The film exposes the many difficulties faced by Zainichi living in Japan.

“I Am From Chosun” won the Jury Prize at the 2020 DMZ International Documentary Film Festival, where it premiered.

The film begins with violent scenes of Japanese expressing their anger towards a Chosun school created to preserve the heritage of the Zainichi people. The Japanese group members shout hateful terms at the Zainichi and urge them to leave Japan, also vandalizing school property.

“My two sons and my grandchildren were also students at Chosun schools, so seeing them being discriminated against in Japan brought me to tears,” said Lee Dong-seok, one of the Zainichi who appears in the film. , during the press conference.

Lee was introduced in the film as having come to South Korea to study, but spent his youth in prison after being falsely accused here of being a spy for North Korea.

Kang Jong-hun, another man who attended the press conference, was falsely accused of the same crime. They were later found innocent.

“I spent 13 years in prison in South Korea. There were times when I thought about what my existence means to this country and why I had to receive the death penalty. I had a personal hatred towards the people who tortured me and also towards the judges who sentenced me to death,” Kang said.

However, he later came to believe that holding grudges is not constructive and is best to properly channel anger that can be shared with people who are willing to make changes.

“To improve my country (Chosun) from the current situation and become unified. I think it is more constructive to come together with people who can turn anger into energy for fighting. I believe that is the way to live and make the world a better place.

During the lecture, the director pointed out that it is meaningful for him to learn more about Zainichi and make a movie that can spread historical information to people, especially Koreans.

“My film was screened in 11 different cities in Japan. It was also screened 30 to 40 times this year in Japan,” added the director. “There was an old lady who told me that the movie made her look back on her life and feel proud to have lived as a Chosun person. She was around 80 years old and her comments were touching.

The director seems overwhelmed with the new information he’s learned about the Zainichi people, as the film continually introduces new faces and different instances of discrimination throughout its 94 minutes.

“I Am From Chosun” will be released in local theaters on December 9.

By Song Seung-hyun (