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Korean American Explores Ancestral Home Through Film

2010/11/22 | 209 views | Permalink | Source

Liz Chae came to Korea last December on a Fulbright scholarship after graduating from the Columbia University School of the Arts. The 42-year-old Korean American is a visiting researcher at Seoul National University's Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies and lives at a residence hall for foreign students.

Mainly she is busy writing the screenplay for a film about the poet Gosan Yun Seon-do from mid-Chosun Dynasty.

Chae has been visiting the poet's hometown of Haenam, South Jeolla Province, about once a month. The tentative title of her film is "Finding Iodo: The Sea Woman and the Man in Exile". The story of Yun, a woman diver and a second-generation overseas Korean, is being shot in Haenam.

Chae was born in Jamaica where her parents, who are doctors, stayed before moving to the United States. They moved when she was six years old, and she became a New York citizen. "My parents are from South Jeolla Province. I grew up listening to my parents' stories of Korea mixed with women divers, poets and the sea", she recollected. Her mother, who is a distant descendant of Yun, talked about the poet a lot.

"Yun Seon-do's character is very attractive. Although he was a high-ranking official, after he finished his years in exile he declined the offer of going back to the high office and returned to his hometown", said Chae. "He preferred the life of an ordinary man to political ambition".

It is not the first time Chae has made a film about Korea. In 2007, she shot a short documentary called "The Last Mermaid", portraying the women sea divers of Jeju Island who have been carrying on the tradition for over 2,000 years. It premiered in the 13th Pusan International Film Festival in 2008.

"The divers are connected to the image of my mother in my mind. To me, Korea is my "Mother" and where my identity comes from", she says.

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