Yesterday, the Institute for Korean Studies at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies began its new webinar series, “Parallel Dreams: Korean and Korean-American Issues through Film.” Co-sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the US, the free, public lecture series will feature three film screenings and conversations with Korean-American directors.
In recent years, Korea has established itself as a mainstream cinematic powerhouse, with films such as The Handmaiden, Train to Busan, the Oscar-winning Parasite, and the Oscar-nominated Minari becoming a visible part of American culture.
“Korean cinema has a rich and complex history that is only now being appreciated by American audiences. ‘Parallel Dreams’ will shine a light on the vast spectrum of the Korean-American experience, from adoption to race relations to the pursuit of the American dream,” said Institute for Korean Studies Director and Korea Foundation Chair Seung-kyung Kim.
The webinar kicked off Monday with a moderated conversation featuring director Deann Borshay Liem, UC-Irvine Professor Eleana Kim, and Hamilton Lugar School Professor Susan Hwang. The discussion focused on Liem’s documentary Geographies of Kinship, a powerful film about the rise of Korea’s global adoption program, which laid the groundwork for international adoptions from countries like China, Russia, Guatemala, and Ethiopia. The film also examines universal questions of identity, assimilation, kinship, and belonging.
In the discussion, Liem shared how her own experience as an adoptee who wrestled with identity and assimilation issues has influenced her career. When she was a senior in college, she researched her family background and found out that she was not, as she and her American parents had been told, an orphan. She had Korean parents and many living relatives. Her Korean name, too, was not what she had been told.
“Discovering all of this in my early twenties turned my world completely upside down,” she said.
She decided then to make a film about this experience, which started her career. The film gave her the opportunity to be in charge of her own story, and it led to her American parents meeting her Korean family.
“That gave me the opportunity to make room in my own heart to be able to embrace both families as my own,” she said.
“Parallel Dreams” is the Institute for Korean Studies’ second webinar series in the 2020–21 academic year. In fall 2020, the unit hosted “The Impact of Korean Popular Culture on North America,” a four-part series that attracted more than 4,000 participants from around the world. The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the US co-sponsored each event.
To view the Geographies of Kinship webinar, visit the Institute for Korean Studies YouTube page.