YIDFF 2009 Islands / I Lands—Cinemas in Exile
Foreign Sky
An Interview with Kum Soni (Director)

Untangling Han

Q: What kind of influence do you think that growing up as a zainichi (resident) Korean has had on you?

KS: When I was going to the Korean School, most of the people around me had been brought up in the same circumstances, so up until high school I didn’t have any problems at all. But when I entered university in Japan, whenever I introduced myself, people always asked me to repeat my name and then would ask why I was in Japan. I began to wonder why no one knew, so that was definitely a culture shock. When I talked to my Japanese friends, I didn’t want to be antagonistic towards them because they were my “friends.” However, there were many times when their thoughtless actions or behavior was oppressive. And because I had no friends that I could share this with, I had to think about all of these things and deal with them by myself. Because the songs I’d learned when I was little, and the history I’d learned at school was totally different from those of my Japanese friends, I didn’t mention it. And if you don’t talk about such things they just build up inside of you. I began to feel really depressed, so I wanted to escape by any means possible. I think perhaps I’ve always felt this way.

Q: When did you get the idea to call your film Foreign Sky?

KS: When I went to North Korea, I looked at the sky and had the sensation that although the sky is the same no matter where you are on the planet, something is still different. Every country I go to I look up at the sky and feel all kinds of things. When I’m down I look at the sky. There have been tragedies in history, and even today people carry many burdens. But if pushed, I would have to say that han is an optimistic feeling and that some day we’ll arrive at a real comprehension of each other. I have been searching for things which are universally connected.

Q: I believe North Korea became what it is today for many reasons, How does it feel to look at today’s North Korea from the outside?

KS: Of course it’s a country that’s both near and far. Now that I have adopted South Korean nationality, unfortunately I can’t go there any more. It has become a country that I want to visit yet cannot. I feel I want to do something within the scope of what I can achieve now.

Q: And would that “something” include making films such as this one?

KS: Yes, that’s right. It also includes passing information on. But what I wanted to do with this film was to untangle the things that have become caught up in what in Korean we call han, the ill feelings in peoples’ hearts. If you translate it as “grudge” in Japanese, then for Japanese people it has a frightening image. But it’s not like that at all. This is what I thought I wanted to get across. So it’s not simply a matter of imparting information, but of untangling the issue at an emotional level, where meaning is more profound. That’s what I’m thinking now.

(Compiled by Abiko Harue)

Interviewers: Abiko Harue, Tsuruoka Yuki / Translator: Oliver Dew
Photography: Ito Ayumi / Video: Kudo Rumiko / 2009-10-05 / in Yamagata