Finding a place to call your own – My Place

My Place Eng Poster

I’ve been asked to pass on the following:

[Press statement]

Finding a place to call your own – My Place

Foreigners in Korea often find themselves caught between cultures. Whether you are adjusting to your new English teaching job, working with Korean colleagues, in a relationship with a Korean partner, or even just travelling as a tourist, you are sometimes baffled, at times intrigued, and certainly trying to navigate through the differences you encounter. For people who find themselves in a transnational context, the documentary <My Place> will speak volumes.

The heart-felt film, <My Place>, depicts an intimate portrait of the director’s own family struggling to overcome past wounds of reverse migration from Canada to Korea. Family members, each in a different way, had to deal with the hurdles of societal norms, a repressive education system, and gender inequality dealt to them by the Korean society. This illuminating film explores clashes between Western and Eastern cultures, traditional values versus the contemporary, and broader themes of societal normalcy, identity, and belonging.

The film begins when the director’s little sister decides to become an unwed single mom. The little sister decides to raise the child in Canada as she never felt welcome in her parent’s homeland, South Korea. As the film progresses, the lives of parents, intertwined with Korea’s modern history is discovered, while family members try to come together to face the challenges of raising a new baby outside of the traditional family form. While following the trajectories of family members, constantly on the move in search of their own place, the film seemingly concludes that ‘My place’ isn’t so much a spot on the map, but a place that lies in the relationships that one holds close to their heart.

After touring the film festival circuit, while winning numerous awards on its way (among others, Jeonju International Film Festival – Audience Critics’ Prize, Seoul Independent Film Festival – Jury Prize) the film is now preparing for its theatrical release on January 30th. The film has also won the Audience Award, at last year’s Chewsock Film Festival – as the name implies, a film festival for expats bored during the Chuseok holiday in Korea – proving that the honesty of this deeply personal documentary and universal theme of yearning for a place in this world, transcends language barriers and cultural differences, while its subtle commentary on the differences between Eastern and Western cultures seem to speak to the experiences of expats in Korea.

To cater to the needs of foreigners, English subtitles will be provided for all screenings at the KT&G Sangsang Madang Theater in Hongdae district, and Indieplus near Sinsa Station. One other theater in Seoul ― IndieSpace near Gwanghwamun Station ― will also provide English subs for screenings from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, during the Lunar New Year Holiday(Sulnal).

*KT&G SangsangMadang Cinema (Hongdae) : 02-330-6200 http://www.sangsangmadang.com/cinema/

*INDIEPLUS (Sinsa) : 02-3447-0650 http://www.indieplus.or.kr/jsp2/index.jsp

*INDIESPACE (Gwangwhamoon) : 02-738-0366 http://indiespace.tistory.com/1715

*For more info on Screenings with English subtitles : https://www.facebook.com/AllInKoreanWithEnglishSubsPlease

*More info on film:

https://www.facebook.com/DocumentaryMyPlace (Korean with some English)

https://www.facebook.com/ssmadangcinema (Korean)

https://twitter.com/sangsangfilm (Korean)

Upcoming Events: 7th Korea-America Student Conference, Fundraising for Seoul LGBT Teens, and Hollaback Korea Launch Party!

Korea-America Student Conference 2014

(Source)

First up, for Korean speakers, this Friday there is an information session at Pusan National University about next July’s Korea-America Student Conference (sorry that I was too late to mention today’s session in Seoul). Alternatively, for those English-speakers among you who are hearing about the conference for the first time, it’s:

…a student-led, academic and cultural exchange program launched in 2008 to build closer ties between young leaders in both countries. Each year, an equal number of students from the U.S. and Korea are competitively selected to spend one summer month together, studying and analyzing Korea-U.S. relations while visiting four diverse regions in the host country. KASC alternates its host country every year, emphasizing the personal connections between two distinct cultures gathered together in one place.

And next year it will be held in Korea. See here and here for more information and application details respectively (deadline: March 1), or watch the following short video:

Update: There is also an information session at Kangwon National University on Thursday the 5th.

(Full disclosure: I gave a presentation to the 2011/4th conference participants, who were a great audience; everyone I know who’s participated raves about it; and many former participants are regular readers of and {awesome} commenters on my blog!)

Rainbow Teen Safe Space in Korea(Source)

Next, also on Friday, there is a fundraising event for the creation of a safe space for Seoul LGBT teens. As The Kimchi Queen explains:

The Rainbow Teen Safe Space is sponsored by Solidarity for Human Rights in Korea. The Open Doors Community Church is hosting this event and it is located feet from my old home. Unfortunately, I’m in San Diego. Luckily, I can donate to the organization directly and then get back to my finals.

If you’d like to donate directly to the Rainbow Teen Safe Space, you can do so on the Global Giving website. If you’d like to attend the fundraising event, head to the Open Door’s Event Facebook page.

See any of the above links for more information, or alternatively The Kimchi Queen itself for a small graphic explaining everything at a glance (apologies for the copy and paste of the post!).

Update: Here is the English promotional video for the project (again via The Kimchi Queen):

Hollaback Korea Offical Launch Party(Source)

Finally, next Saturday sees the official launch of Hollaback Korea, in Mapo-gu in Seoul. See the FB event page, their FB group page, or their Twitter for further details, and make sure to check their blog also, just launched yesterday! :)

Update: Click here and here for Hollaback Korea’s press releases (PDF) in English and Korean respectively.

Radio Interview on Australian Immigration Tonight, 7pm

White Australia Policy(Source)

Tonight I’ll be on Busan e-FM’s Let’s Talk Busan again, this time talking about Australian immigration, working holidays, and multiculturalism, prompted by the recent, possibly racially-motivated murder of a Korean woman in Brisbane. You can listen live on the radio at 90.5, online here (please note that you’ll have to download Windows Media Player 10 first), or via an archived version here later in the week.

Unfortunately(?), there are precious few links to Korean feminism, sexuality, or pop-culture to explore, except perhaps in so far as Australia has become a destination for Korean sex-trafficking. As The Joongang Daily explains, “some data say that about one-sixth of all women providing sex for money in Australia are Korean,” a surge in 2012 “largely attributed to legal loopholes in the working holiday visa system and a lack of administrative monitoring” according to The Korea Times. From experience though, probably there’ll be little time or opportunity to cover that angle, especially as the emphasis will be on racially-motivated attacks.

One personal link however, is that by coincidence my last job was teaching English to and preparing students for working holidays in Brisbane, just like the victim was doing. Teaching them for 4 to 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, I got to know them very well, and read the recent news with wide-eyed alarm, before remembering that they’ve all long since returned.

Another link is that as a former immigrant there myself, Australian immigration policies and multiculturalism have long been big interests of mine, and I devoured Stephen Castles’ books on the subjects as an undergraduate. Likely, many readers themselves have heard of the White Australia Policy (1901-1973), which figures prominently in Australia’s history. So, in keeping with the themes of this bog, let me pass on an interesting Australian ABC podcast about how its contradictions coalesced in a national “rapture” over Chinese-Amercian Anna May Wong’s visit in the late-1930s. Fascinating in her own right, I’d appreciate any suggestions for how and where to watch her movies:

Annie May Wong Australia(Source)

Anna May Wong was Hollywood’s first Chinese-American star. Her career started in the silent movie era, peaked in the interwar talkies and faded in the early years of television. Racist censorship laws meant she could never be cast as the romantic lead, instead she shone in sinister vamp and villain roles alongside the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Douglas Fairbanks. It’s a little known fact that this icon of Hollywood’s golden age spent three months in Australia on the eve of the Second World War.

Anna May Wong was at a crossroads in her career when she came to Australia to appear on stage as the star attraction in a vaudeville show on the Tivoli circuit, Highlights from Hollywood. She was sick of the typecasting and wanted a chance to reflect on her career at a distance from Hollywood. As it turned out, Australia was her last taste of the high life.

Since Federation, Australian national identity had been formed around the exclusion of the Chinese, but for Anna May Wong the red carpet came out. This feature traces the vivid details of her time in Australia and explores the contradictions of White Australia’s rapture over Anna May Wong.

Naturally, as Koreans’ experiences of racism in Australia will be very different to my own, and as I haven’t actually lived there since 1990 (my father still does; my last visit was in 2008), then during the show itself I’ll be deferring to other guests for most of time, particularly one who has just returned from a working holiday in Australia. Here’s looking forward to learning some new perspectives tonight!

Reader Request: Looking for people to share stories about relationships in Korea

Couple ShoesI’ve been asked to pass on the following:

Looking for people to share stories about relationships in Korea

*********Have you fallen in love in South Korea? Battled cultural differences and other pressures to be with someone you never would have met anywhere else? Found the freedom to do things, meet people, or be someone you wouldn’t have dared to at home? Kept things going long-term and long-distance? Decided that dating in Korea is just too daunting and put that side of your life on hold while you’re here? Worn a couple shirt?

If you have a great story you’d like to share about dating, relationships and sex in Korea, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m making a documentary about how living in Korea can affect relationships, and I’d like to interview people with experiences that been delightful and difficult, wonderful and weird, sour and sweet.

It would be great to speak to partnered and single, cis- and trans-gender people, from a variety of backgrounds, and with a range of preferences and interests, including:

  • Korean people with experiences with other Korean people and people from other countries;
  • Non-Korean people with experiences with people from Korea and other countries;
  • People in monogamous and non-monogamous relationships with one or more partners;
  • People happy or unhappy not to be in a relationship;
  • People who have made their homes in Korea;
  • People who are in Korea on a temporary basis.

The film will be inclusive, non-judgemental and sex-positive, allowing the stories to act as an honest look at the unique experience of looking for, holding onto and losing companionship in Korea. To this end, and because I intend it for gallery screenings, the film probably won’t be a traditional talking-heads documentary. Instead, I’ll try to respond creatively to the themes of the stories people tell me, especially when the storytellers wish to remain anonymous. If you’re happy to appear on camera, that’s great, but if you’d like to share your story and would rather not have your face, voice or name be part of the film, I’ll find ways to accommodate those wishes.

I hope to collect stories in December and January, and am happy to travel anywhere in Korea to conduct interviews.

If you’d like to know more, or if you’re interested in taking part, please get in touch at relationshipsinkorea@gmail.com

Ben

Korean Sociological Image #78: Multicultural Families in Korean Textbooks

Korean Mulitcultural Family Korean Ethics Textbook

Over at Korean Circle and Squares, Emanuel Pastreich has scanned some pages of the Korean ethics textbook currently used in Korean elementary schools. He comments that the very existence of such an old-fashioned class is remarkable (as part of the daily program no less), and was especially struck by the efforts to address multicultural issues and the children of “multicultural families.” For example, the page above-right:

…relates a diary entry by Jeonghyeon, an elementary school student whose mother is Vietnamese. Jeonghyeon says she has no memories of her Vietnamese grandmother and grandfather and seems not to actually live in that complex multicultural family. Nevertheless, it is a tremendous improvement to create this space in which multicultural kids can exist within the official textbooks.

Ethnic Nationalism in KoreaClick on the image for more examples. Also remarkable about them is how, just 5 years ago, textbooks stressed how important it was that Korea remain ethnically homogenous instead. As described by Matt of Gusts of Popular Feeling in December 2008:

Korea’s ethics textbooks are to change, however — in part due to Hines Ward’s first visit to Korea after being named MVP in the Superbowl in 2006 — and North Korea, which has taken these ideas to frightening extremes, was not happy:

The words themselves take a knife to the feeling of our people, but even more serious is that this anti-national theory of “multiethnic, multiracial society” has already gone beyond the stage of discussion. Already, they’ve decided that from 2009, content related to “multiracial, multiethnic culture” would be included in elementary, middle and high school textbooks that have until now stressed that Koreans are the “descendents of Dangun,” “of one blood line” and “one race,” and to change the terms “families of international marriage” and “families of foreign laborers” to “multicultural families.” This is an outrage that makes it impossible to repress the rage of the people/race.

More recently, these issues again gained prominence with the election of Ms. Lee (born Jasmine Bacurnay in the Philippines) to South Korea’s National Assembly in April last year, the first naturalized citizen — and the first nonethnic Korean — to do so. As Choe Sang-hun wrote in The New York Times, public opinion is still is still far behind official policy:

And this year, for the first time, South Korea began accepting multiethnic Korean citizens into its armed forces. Before, the military had maintained that a different skin color would make them stand out and hurt unity.

But if government support has improved, Ms. Lee says, popular sentiment seems to have cooled. Korean men who sponsored foreign women as brides, only to find themselves abandoned by women who exploited them to immigrate to and work in South Korea, have organized against the government’s multicultural policy. Meanwhile, low-income Koreans accuse migrant workers of stealing their jobs.

The government itself stands accused of fostering xenophobia by requiring foreigners who come to South Korea to teach English to undergo H.I.V. tests, but not requiring the same of South Koreans in the same jobs. Last year, an Uzbek-born Korean made news when she was denied entry to a public bath whose proprietor cited fear of H.I.V. among foreigners.

Korean Woman's DNA DifferentThe Korean media also has some way to go, Matt noticing (in 2010) the headline “Korean Women’s DNA is Different” for instance:

Well now, I guess that may explain why Roboseyo “personally was told “foreign blood and Korean blood together has problems” [by] one of the nurses at a blood clinic[.]” It all makes sense now – Koreans’ DNA is different. What a simple, obvious explanation.

Actually, while the article tells us that “Questions arise each time Korean female athletes accomplish great things on the world stage,” it (sadly) does not follow up on the promise of the headline, instead dwelling on more mundane cultural and social influences. Mind you, the fact that “Korean women’s DNA is different” was a headline on the front page of a newspaper should go to show that the idea of genes and bloodlines was dominating the writer (or editor)’s thinking, and that they figured others would agree.

Fortunately, my Korean wife and I have met very few Koreans (openly) expressing that idea of pure genes and bloodlines, and fewer still that harassed us for mixing them. Also, as one of those “muliticultural families,” we’ve benefited from our youngest daughter jumping ahead in the waiting list for a place in a state-run kindergarten (albeit something which “ordinary” Korean parents may justifiably resent), and both our daughters receive a great deal of friendly attention when we’re out with them (not so much when they’re just with me — you’d never guess they had a Korean mother). Part of that is likely because half-Korean celebrities were very much in vogue a few years ago, but this popularity may now be waning.

How about any readers in interracial relationships or multicultural families? What positive or negative experiences have you had specifically because of this bloodlines-based view of nationalism, and/or related government policies?

Update: If you’ve come this far, I recommend following-up with The Culture Muncher’sA Multicultural Korea: Inevitable or Impossible?” also.

Update 2: Thanks to @dacfrazer, who passed on the must-read “There is more to my son than the fact he’s a ‘half’” at The Japan Times.

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Image series, see here)

Growing up Adopted: Asian Premiere Production of “Between”

A one-woman show about adoption by Amy Mihyang, Between:

…encapsulates her experiences as a Korean American woman, a New Yorker, and most of all, a transracial adoptee. Bringing the audience with her on the plane en route from NYC to Korea, the author contrasts her journey with the echoes of other adoptees and those touched by the act of adoption.  Mihyang makes us ask ourselves, “Do we need to know where we came from in order to know where we’re going?”

And as The Korea Herald describes her performance:

Mihyang adeptly embraces her characters ― from a confused young girl, desperate to assimilate in America, to a distraught woman confronting a forbidden pregnancy in Korea ― with heart-felt conviction, shifting the audience from empathy-laden sadness to laughter with ease.

For more details, see the press release here, or click on the poster below:

Apologies to readers for not mentioning the show earlier, but fortunately there’s still many chances to see it later this week!^^

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