By Alek Sigley.
We had the great pleasure of seeing our friend Park Yeongi’s (박영이/朴英二) new film, Sky Blue Symphony, at the DMZ Film Festival in Seoul last week (check out the trailer at the bottom of this post).
The film is a documentary that follows a group of Zainichi Korean (ethnic Koreans living in Japan) high school students on a trip to North Korea. They, like many others in their community, identify the North as their homeland, despite having grown up in Japan and tracing their ancestry to the South. The film does a good job of summarising the complex historical connections between the Korean schools in Japan and North Korea, which those not familiar with modern East Asian history may find perplexing (if you’re interested in reading more on Zainichi Koreans and North Korea, see Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s Exodus to North Korea and the work of Sonia Ryang, Andrei Lankov has also written here and there about the topic).
But above all, it’s a humorous and touching story whose endearing teenage stars remind us of the need to look beyond the stereotypes, whether they be of Zainichi Koreans or of North Koreans, towards the common humanity we all share.
Sky Blue Symphony has quickly become one of our favourite documentaries on North Korea. We strongly recommend this film if you get the opportunity to see it. We wish the best of luck to its director Park Yeongi, who himself grew up attending Korean schools in Japan, and hope that through his films many more can come to hear the stories of Zainichi Koreans into the future.
Fun fact: We first met Park Yeongi at the Pyongyang International Film Festival in September 2014. Two years later his films are screening in Seoul!
English subtitled trailer: