I was born in 1938.
New York, NY* (Longer description below my "Own Words")
My name card says, “writer/filmmaker.” So I must be that.
I am a north Korea born American who crossed the 38th parallel on foot in the winter of 1945 with my family. I was told that we had to leave our home to look for democracy in south Korea. It was from Seoul that I came to the United States in 1962 as a foreign student on F1 visa. Back then, there weren’t too many Koreans. So we were almost a rarity to look at.
I had no intentions of spending the rest of my life here but Park Chung Hee military regime brought me back to the States after spending a summer in 1970 in Seoul. I was to chicken to choose to stay in Korea and protest at the risk of being thrown to prison. Further, I could have become a top 5 % wealthy intellectual, representing Korea at international conferences, etc., as a woman with a Ph.D in religion and a year of teaching at a prestigious Women’s Ivy League, Mount Holyoke College. None of these sound impressive now since there are so many Ph.Ds but back then a very few women were America educated Ph.Ds and could speak English distinguishing Rs and Ls. Well, if I was too afraid to protest, I had delicate conscience to enjoy luxurious living when there was so much poverty. So I hauled my arse back to Mount Holyoke College where they had left my position open.
Thus far I was flippant about my stay in the States but I believe that I was destined to live here since I met Don, my late husband and built our life together. We were true soul mates and coming from different backgrounds as a day and night, we felt like as if we were “shoulder friends,” friends who grew up together.
I have not been faithful to Korean dictum that one should learn “to dig one well.” I had three careers in my life –college teaching (I also did some high school teaching at Ewha), federal and state bureaucrat and finally a filmmaker/writer.
With the loving support of Don, I was able to make some films. And this year the Korean American Film Festival in New York (KAFFNY) is presenting retrospective of my films.
I have mixed feelings about it. All this commotion around me makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m used to asking the questions and presenting people’s stories; I don’t like being the subject, which is one of the reasons why you rarely hear my voice or see me in my films.
But I am glad that they are showing my films since they deal with neglected and forgotten people and issues that need to be brought back –racism, war time sexual slavery, forced labor, migration, etc.
Check for more information at kaffny.com
Thanks for reading my rambling.
*Longer description of my location: I live in northern Manhattan, close to the Cloisters, Medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and on the hill over-looking the Hudson River and Palisades Park in New Jersey. Most fantastic and beautiful river view. The rich folks on the East side think they have a good river view but theirs is chicken shit in comparison with what we have here. I make our neighborhood sound like a wealthy area. Actually, my late husband and I moved into this area in late 2002 because we could not afford a place in Harlem where we had first looked. The apartments in this area, now entitled Hudson Heights, were cheaper than those in Harlem then but now the secret is out and everybody is moving in!
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