The two directors delve into their Korean-German family’s past. They want to find out why moving to far-off Europe didn’t bring their parents the happiness they had hoped for. And why they instead went through many painful experiences - experiences they kept silent about and which still cast shadows on their families.
The documentary tells the story of two people who never met but still have a lot in common: Kim Dong-Hai and Bang Young-Sook. When they were young both left their native Korea and moved to Western Germany. The former became a miner in a small town close to the city of Aachen, the latter worked as a nurse in Berlin— occupations shared by many other Koreans during the 1960s and 1970s. For the Germans they were Mr. Kim and Sister Lotus. What did Germany mean to them? They never wanted to grow old in Germany, yet they lived here for decades. Kim Dong-Hai stayed until his death in October 2011. To his daughter, Sou-Yen, he left behind many unanswered questions.
While writing the speech for her father’s funeral service, Sou-Yen realized that she didn’t even know for sure when he was born. According to his passport, her father’s date of birth was April 1945. But the family always celebrated his birthday on the 18th of November. Many aspects of her father’s life were always a puzzle to Sou-Yen. She knows his first years in Germany were full of privation, but she only found out about that by piecing small fragments of information
Sou-Yen’s father, Kim Dong-Hai, could not even eat what he would have liked during his early years in Germany. In his company dormitory German miners wrinkled their noses at the smell of garlic emanating from his Kim Chi (fermented Chinese cabbage). But was his life in this small town in the Ruhr Valley really „bullshit“? This is what Sou-Yen’s mother still says, sounding both desperate and angry. Where does this rage come from? The mother refuses any explanation, as did the father when he was alive.
Sou-Yen always knew her father as a strong, proud man—until cancer started spreading throughout his body. After his death Sou-Yen wants to find out what kind of battles her father fought years ago, with himself and the family in Korea.
And she wants to get a sense of it for herself: in the darkness and claustrophobic atmosphere of a mining pit and at the location of the former dormitory where her father lived when he first came to Germany. She traces friends and companions of his and tries to get answers from her mother. The film shows how Sou-Yen puts together her father’s life like a puzzle, piece by piece.
Bang Young-Sook also left her siblings back in South Korea when she came to Germany. In her passport—as in Kim Dong-Hai’s—the date of birth is wrong. And for her, too, Germany was only meant to be a stopover. Bang Young-Sook wanted to go on to the United States, or back to the promising pharmacist who was waiting for her in Korea. But then her daughter Miriam was born. She married another man; today she still lives in Berlin.
She came in 1966 to earn money for the family, to see the world, and to sample a taste of freedom. Beethoven, Heine, and the Lorelei came to her mind when she thought of Germany. But her everyday life became concerned with mundane things. She worked shifts in the „wasting wing“ (as convalescent units in hospitals were pityingly referred to in those days), emptying bedpans and distributing meals. She had earned her degree as a nurse at an advanced technical college, but ended up in a job that in Korea would only have been offered to unskilled staff.
For a long time Bang Young-Sook didn’t talk about her early years in Germany, at least not with her daughter Miriam. Even today Miriam often finds her mother baffling. When they travel to Korea together her mother plunges into another world with few cares and joys that are clearly greater than those experienced in Berlin. Yet there is tension, too. As a younger sister, she can hardly free herself from her older brother’s expectations. This brother, the real head of the family, plans her time, even today. All her life Miriam’s mother has stood in-between: between two cultures, between two families, and between Western self determination and Confucian tradition.
In the documentary the daughter accompanies her mother into her different worlds, reflecting the external changes as well as the inner conflicts of her life, and looks for the woman behind the smiling „lotus blossom.“
The film is a personal journey of two friends who examine their Korean-German families’ past. But it is also a roadmovie that takes Sou-Yen and Miriam throughout Korea and Germany. Their search is conducted while the camera is running. They themselves tell the story and they also let others tell it. Both report to each other what they have discovered during their journey.
The camera’s perspective is not only that of the filmmakers, but it is also accompanying and observing objectively. Photographs and archival material will be used to augment and support the film footage, as will a video diary consisting of private video recordings produced by a „Sou-Yen-and-Miriam-Cam.“
During the editing process these elements and the parallel stories of both friends will be assembled into one unit. What started as two stories will eventually end up as one common story.
Our aim is to finish the film for the 50th anniversary of the treaty between Germany and South-Korea which will be in December 2013.
german, korean, global (Migration is a global subject)
The film is about an important chapter in German and Korean history which in fact is hardly known.
We are the result of a treaty between South Korea and Western Germany in the 60s.
The former korean president General Park Chung-Hee asked Germany for economic assistance. He received 150 Million German Marks. On the other hand he sent korean nurses and miners to Germany, which werde badly needed.
But the Koreans stayed longer than they have planned. They married, had children and still they were supporting their families in Korea. And today? If you get to know a "2. generation Korean" in Germany and ask him about his family, you can be sure that his mother was a nurse and his father a miner.
For South-Korea this historic chapter is a story of success. General Park could rise Korea's economy. The country became more and more successful and nowadays Samsung is one of the strongest competitor of Apple. This is the one side of the coin.
But what happened to the Koreans that stayed in Germany. Have they been lucky?
The film is a hommage to an old generation that kept silent about the past. Now they have the chance to talk about the effects that the treaty had on their lifes.
Actually we need more than 5000 Euro. So we are happy and grateful if we receive more.
All the money that you donate will be used for film prodcution and research.
Sou-Yen Kim is a German with Korean roots. Born in 1972 in Wuerselen near the city of Aachen, the daughter of a Korean nurse and a former Korean miner, she is now a journalist in Berlin. She works as an author and editor for KI.KA, rbb, ZDF, WDR, and Radio Bremen. In 2004 she was nominated for a Grimme Award in the category of „Information and culture.“ In 2005 the German Children’s and Media Foundation (Deutsche Kinder- und Medienstiftung) Goldener Spatz awarded her their „Goldener Spatz“ prize.
Miriam Rossius was born in 1970 in Berlin to a Korean mother and a German father. She works as a reporter and presenter for German public radio, including Deutschlandradio Kultur, Deutschlandfunk, and rbb. In 2010 her radio feature about Istanbul was awarded the Columbus Prize by the Association of German Travel Journalists (Verband Deutscher Reisejournalisten).
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Liebe Fans und Unterstützer, wir freuen uns über all die guten Wünsche und Spenden, die uns bisher erreicht haben. Danke! Euer Zuspruch zeigt uns, dass wir auf dem richtigen Weg sind und klargemacht haben, warum uns die Geschichte der Koreaner in Deutschland am Herzen liegt! Und eigentlich liegt es auf der Hand, aber um Missverständnisse auszuräumen: Natürlich betrachten wir keine Koreanerin und keinen Koreaner als „Ware“! Kein Koreaner wurde gezwungen nach Deutschland zu gehen! Koreaner wurden für ihre Arbeit bezahlt (ihre Gehälter also nicht als Pfand einbehalten)! Etwas anderes haben wir nie behauptet, aber aus gegebenem Anlass sei dies hier noch einmal klargestellt.