My grandparents in 1981 describe their origins. I was 14 when I filmed this. The whole thing is in Korean, sorry no subtitles in English. It is a two hour retelling of my grandfather’s life story meant to be told to his future generations -which now thirty years later is us. He was born to a family whose fortunes fell in the twilight of the Yi dynasty, becoming more desperate after Japanese occupation, but through unimaginable effort, was able to parlay people skills and intelligence into prosperity for a time, but losing everything again, including his mother, when the Korean war forced our family out of our native Gaesong. It’s not an uncommon story from the 20th century, but one that is resonant and inspiring to me. My grandmother who passed away in 1992 speaks up about 40 minutes into the story which is mostly my grandfather’s. The videotape that it was on was Betamax which I had converted in Korea in the late 90’s -my cousin had it done for me. It was not cheap, because by then, it was a dead Sony format. The VHS copy stayed with me through all my moves and I finally digitized it in 2008 and parked it on mobileme, but most of my cousins couldn’t get it to run for some reason even with quicktime. The recent move to iCloud forced me to move it back and now it lives on wordpress.
My grandfather is still alive at 101 (based on his birthdate given in the video), but according to our family’s reckoning, he is 107, although this may be the relic of a fiction given to the Japanese Imperial Army to avoid being drafted. His memories are a link to a forgotten and lost Korea that was poor economically but rich culturally.