Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"In making this story, then, I was torn between creating a dramatic short film and re-telling a history as it happened. It became neither, merely a wish for a dream that could never be."

Fikri Jermadi

*'Fly Me to the Moon' will be screened at 12th Rolling KARTS School of Visual Arts, Film Department Graduation Films Festival. It'll take place at Lotte Cinema, Hongdae. Tickets are free, on a first come first served basis. To get to the cinema, get off at Hongik University, and walk for a few minutes from exit no. 4. This is the map. For more details, click here.

* 휘크리 저마디의 졸업 작품 12th Rolling 한예종 영상원 영화과 졸업영화제에서 상영합니다. 롯대시네마 홍대에서 생결 거에요. 밑에는 AMA장학생 작품들의 상영하기 스케줄 입니다. 영화표를 무료 입니다. 영화 극장에 가려면 홍대입구 지하철역에 내려고 4번줄구로 가십시요. 여기는 극장 지도 입니다.

Monday, January 25, 2010

True Blood

In 1994 Jung married a man from Pakistan. At that time ‘international marriages’ were very rare. They have two children.

In an article from the Chosun Ilbo in 1997, it is clear that Korean society makes a distinction between ‘white’ migrants and those with darker skin. There are many examples of this difference in perspective. For instance when a complaint was filed against a security officer, the officer was not disciplined; instead he was moved to another department. There have also been incidences of migrants not carrying ID cards being taken into custody without further questioning.

The online response to the article reveals further prejudice: netizens warn of the “dangerous Islamic religion” in which women are sexually assaulted by their husbands; “Pakistani people are trash… [because] they don’t change their religion or culture [and] look almost like Africans”; others refer to “Pakistani cockroaches”. There have also been complaints about ‘white’ migrants intermarrying: “these handsome white guys marrying Korean women – how dare they, when they have such low moral standards?” Underlying these comments is a fear that the (perceived) homogeneity of Korean society is now in crisis. The number of international families in Korea has now reached 60 000. In response, the Ministry of Culture, Social Welfare and Gender has introduced various multicultural policies. However, these measures stand in contrast with the comments posted by netizens, comments which have been vetted and allowed by the website administrator.

In 2003 a ‘warning’ was posted on the website of the Korean embassy in Pakistan regarding the dangers of marrying a Pakistani man. The post warned women not to be “cheated into marriage” with Pakistani men who would later abuse and exploit them. This implies that the (Pakistani) husband is the only possible source of tension within the marriage. It is not difficult to imagine the reaction of Korean society if a similar warning was posted on foreign embassy websites in Korea! Unsurprisingly, there has been much debate about the discriminatory nature of this text.

Jung has herself experienced discrimination as the wife of a migrant. In 1994 when she returned to Korea she was subjected to a lengthy interrogation which included personal questions about her motives for marrying a Pakistani man. Jung asked, “would you treat me this way if I had married a white American man?”, to which the officer replied, “no!”, implying that she should have chosen a white westerner rather than a dark skinned South Asian man.

In the past immigration law in Korea also distinguished between men married to migrants and women in the same position. Women married to Korean men could take on a Korean identity and were able to work. The same was not true of men married to Korean women. The law has now been changed; nevertheless, treatment of the two groups is not equal. For example, classes in language skills and kimchi-making tend to be aimed at migrant wives, and are held in the daytime when migrant workers/husbands are unable to attend. One journal on multiculturalism even admitted to targeting migrant wives to the exclusion of migrant husbands. The prevalent attitude is that migrant wives should live in Korea and adapt to Korean culture, whilst migrant husbands should live outside Korea.

Language and naming is also a problem. The term ‘multicultural families’ is used to refer only to marriages where one partner is Korean, excluding the many migrant families in Korea where neither partner is a Korean citizen. Yet these families also face prejudice and discrimination. In Kimpo a recent development project means that many families, including Bangladeshi refugees and North Korean refugees, will be forced to move to another area. Although benefits have been offered to North Korean refugees and families with one Korean parent, the Bangladeshi refugees have received no benefits or assistance, and are faced with the urgent problem of where to live following the redevelopment. Despite qualifying as refugees, they are not offered any way to sustain themselves in Korea. How can such a situation be called “asylum”?

In other cases migrants and those married to migrants have objected to the terms used for migrants in the media. The terms ‘Kosian’ and ‘mixed blood’ (as opposed to ‘pure blood’) are problematic because they encourage the idea that migrants are in some way pitiful or different, creating further division and discrimination. Language is also an issue in multicultural programs, which often include the terms ‘therapy’ and ‘educational’ in their titles. Groups offering these programs say they need to include these terms to receive funding. However, these titles serve to reinforce the idea that migrants are problematic and require special treatment and assistance. Even human rights materials persist in depicting migrants as being weak, pitiful victims, whom Koreans, being far superior, should help out of a sense of charity.

Finally, returning to the case of Banajit Hussain, it is very significant that the initial response from the police was that there is no racial discrimination in Korea. If Korea wants to be truly multicultural, the problems mentioned here need to be exposed, and must be recognized as issues concerning not only multicultural families, but Korean society as a whole.

*Taken from "Gender and Racial Discrimination Disguised in the Policies of Multiculturalism" by Jong Hye-sil of the Multicultural Family Association at the 'Forum on Gender-Racial Discrimination in South Korea: Let Me Speak' in August 2009. You can download more files from the forum here.

**Banajit Hussain is a university teacher who was racially discriminated against by both a Korean bus passenger and the police. Read here for details and context.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fired Up!

I opened my eyes, and it was a world different from what I had expected. Warmer, colder, both at the same time. The kind that makes the hair at the back of your neck stand. Somewhat familier, the atmosphere, not entirely different from what I had experienced before, but it is such experiences that expectations are placed and based upon.

And based on that...it was different from what I expected.

I jolted upright, almost unwillingly, by the pain of something poking me in the back. I turned and looked; it was merely a hot piece of rock. It glows, maintaining a sort of appeal that would attract those in the dark. I suppose in a dark room, it would be quite nice to look at. Perhaps, in lieu of a candle, a nice little romantic paraphernalia at the dinner table? So long as you don't touch it, of course. I did, and it burned...

...burned me. The realisation quickly replaced the sense of awe at its glowing beauty, and I turned my head as much as I can, seeing to see if there are marks left permanently. Marks? Scars. Scorched marks. Enough to be arrested for, these days, should you get it treated. Alas, there is no marks there. As much as my eyes can tell, anyway. I reached around with my hand, better to feel ground zero, but even then...nada.

A mere figment of my imagination? It felt real. What's the difference, then, between...

"Hello, there."

I looked up, and see only a monkey swinging along from a tree branch above me. Nothing special, there; monkeys always swing about, don't they? I looked further and beyond, look for the owner of the voice, but there is no on else I see. In fact, with the exception of yours truly, there's no one about...

"Over here."

I looked up again; that seemed to be the origin of the voice. This time, I see the monkey once again, its eyes bored into mine like a drilling machine on a Hollywood asteroid.

"Are you talking to me?" I asked him. It (he? she? I don't know yet) moved its head sideways, almost quizzically. "Are you talking to me?" it repeated after me.

"Hey, that's just like Robert de Niro," I started, startled that a monkey could do a very fine imitation of the great one. "Hey, that's just like Robert de Niro," the monkey followed.

It's mocking me, I thought. "That's enough." "That's enough." "Stop it!" "Stop it!" "AAAAAAAAARGH!!" "Wow, that's mature."

I had shut my eyes when I screamed, but when I heard the monkey say something different, I opened them. He had dropped from the branch (all black, burned, almost to crisp) and stood right in front of my eyes. His fur is short, but I could smell the singed smell of fur being touched by fire.

"You can speak," I said. He looked a little bashful. "Yeah, I try," he reached around with his tail, scratching his forehead with it, "but no matter how many lessons I take, it's still difficult for me." "Well," I offered my hand in friendship, "you do well enough." "Thanks." "What happened to the other eleven monkeys?" "Oh, they're off somewhere."

I stood up, and dusted myself off. I felt an ache in my left knee that I didn't feel before. It wasn't terminal, but it was more than just a little uncomfortable. I kept this to myself, unwilling to impart with too much information with a singed monkey, however good their English may be. "So..." I looked around, "what happened here?"

"Well..." he mulled his words over in his head, scratching the tip of his jaw slightly with his fingers. It was a scholarly pose, and made me wonder where he learned his English. "It was probably about to happen here sooner or later. The mixture of all of the elements involved was just too volatile, too combustible, for things not to burn up."

We were walking together, across the burning plains. My bare feet should be protesting, but it isn't. The fire hurt, but the pain in my heart hurt even more. Looking around, everything was either burned, being burned, or had collapsed to the ground due to the fire. Nothing survived, nothing could survive. The sense of a familiarity with the buildings was difficult to escape, but escaping that wasn't something that truly bothered me. What bothered me was the sense that...that this shouldn't be happening. I don't even know what it was like before...ouch (the fire gets through once in a while)...but I do know that this is not the way it should be. It was almost unbearable, intolerable, compared to anything the fire of the real world could and would do to me.

The real world...?

"Where am I?" I stopped suddenly, asking him the question that probably should have been the first on my mind. "Where are we right now?"

"You didn't know?" I detected the hint of a surprise in his voice. I looked to him, and could see it written clearly on his forehead. Metaphorically, of course. "You sure you don't know where we are?" he smiled. It wasn't malicious, but it was taunting me. "Or is it that you didn't want to know?"

There was and is something wrong here, something that is not quite right with what we had done. How far have we strayed from our forefathers, and in truth, we need not go even that far. How far have we strayed from our fathers, from our own ideals, from our own common sense and humanity, to keep on burning and burning and pillaging and pillaging in the name of what we are supposed to believe in. What we're supposed to have faith in...that preaches tolerance, understanding, all the good things...doesn't it? Where did that all go to? Where do we go from here, knowing where we came from to begin with? Where does the fire that burns all these things down come from? How do you put it out? How do I face all this?

And why must a monkey ask all the right questions?

Definitely not what I expected.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


The Raptor made its way past them, over their head, and beyond. It disappeared into the distance, unlike the deep throbbing that Lee felt within his heart. No, his chest. His chest.

It was much bigger than that.

“So what about you?” Kara's voice brought him back to reality. He turned, and saw her still standing there, looking tired, dishelved...complete. Like there is nothing else for her to do. Her eyes, sunken, betrayed the trauma that she had gone through. The same trauma that he had also gone through, that everyone else within the Colonies had endured. It was, without a doubt, a long and weary four years; now the journey is over.

“What are you gonna do?” she continued. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life, Lee.”

Lee thought about it, gave it some time, and then a little smile. Quick, momentary, as a flash, but there if you look for it. “I always thought when this is all done, I would, uhm...” the words fail him for a moment, “...kick back, relax, spend the rest of my days doing the absolute minimum as humanly possible.”

“And now that you're here?”

That is a good question, he thought to himself. Now that he is here, what will he do? How will it change things? The years spent running from the Cylons had also drained him. In that time, he had become pilot, CAG, commander, soldier, president, lawyer, friend, partner, son...human being. It wasn't humanly possible that the end of all that could be achieved, despite all the hoohas that has been spouted by everyone else, it seems. They're never going to find Earth, he thought. The Cylons would come back, surely. This is it, this is going to be the last one, he remembered thinking when the battle with Pegasus was about to commence. Even if all of it were to end the next day, though he wanted to rest, he couldn't, for he couldn't be sure, couldn't believe, truly, that lasting peace would be seen in his lifetime. Earth, the real Earth, the new one...seemed like a dream that would always and forever remain only and exactly that.

A dream.

But now that he's here?

“I want to explore,” Lee found himself saying, almost to his surprise. Then he let go, gave in to the moment, and felt himself smile. “I want to climb the mountains, I want to cross the oceans, I wanna...Gods, I can't believe I'm saying this, it sounds so exhausting,” he exclaimed, turning to look at Kara. “I must be craz...”

She wasn't there.

A shock to the system. No, there must be a logical explanation. Where did she go? he asked himself as he looked all around him, searching for her, searching for an answer. No, that can't be it, that can't be the last...

...can it?

He swallowed his own saliva, a soundless process that nevertheless felt like it could be heard by anyone who was nearby. No, the answer was already given. It was given when she came back from the dead, when she found the coordinates for Earth, when she kissed him on the beach at New Caprica, when she...when...

The strong winds, cool, calming, soothed him as he fought back the tears, realising how blessed he had been.

“Goodbye, Kara,” he whispered. “You won't be forgotten.”

*Read 'The Forgotten'.
**A re-imagined scene from 'Battlestar Galactica'.

Calling of the Cool

With the dawn of a new year, the old one fades into the distance. The new became old, current became outmoded, present became past.

There is one thing that I have always, somehow, been amazed with: the passing of time. It wasn't a matter of looking at the clock or the watch and beholding yourself to the amazement that occurs. No, rather, it manifests itself in a lot of the little ways, the mini symbols and signs that indicates that what once was true, no longer is.

It's like watching a movie from the start of the decade. That's a somewhat appropriate example to use, I think, since the end of 2009 also saw the end of the first decade of the relatively-new millennium. The noughties, one might say, though a big part of my mind still find it somewhat strange to call it so. Many blogs have populated themselves with lists counting down the greatest movies or the best lines quoted from films made within the years 2000s.

Mission Impossible 2, for example, was released back when I was still in secondary school. I saw it again recently on one of the movie channels on TV. I tend not to watch TV very much these days, but on the occasion when there is little else to do when I cook and eat, I do make an effort to pay a bit of attention to whatever that is on the telly. Since the kitchen is one of the few places in the dormitory that actually has a TV, I might as well take some time out to do so.

Watching the movie, I am struck by how...dated it seemed. Despite the fact that some of the technology used were supposed to be state of the art (which they were at the time), I find myself marvelling at how bulky the phones were. I was surprised at the size of the sunglasses, and even the clothing style made me feel a little blerk. I know that's not quite the word, and perhaps it is a bit rich coming from the not-so-fashion-conscious person like myself.

But the point I am trying to make here is how that seemed to be so...old.

And yet...I was a part of that. I was a part of that time that thought it was cool. I was a member of that particular generation, a member who partook in all the cultural activities, in part, on the basis of cool. The calling of the cool, perhaps.

A quick look through the photographs of the era reveal a slight yellowing amongst some of them. They were real photographs; digital cameras remained in the domain of the selected few; handphones were a few levels away from the time I'm actually allowed to have them. Even when I did, I resisted, for the fear of being available at anytime to anyone wasn't a situation I imagined to be ideal (I remember saying to my father that I wouldn't enjoy getting a phone call as I do the business on the bog). Laptops, computers, cameras, video recorders...all now merged into mini mobile machines. Distant films from faraway lands, which seemed impossible to get and watch at the time (I remember being somewhat depressed that Memento wasn't as readily available as I think it should be) are now as readily available at your local pirated DVD vendors and as readily available to be downloaded from the Internet.

Ah, Internet. I remember popping into easyEverything in central London on the way back home from school. I remember thinking how cool it was to be able to send emails almost instantaneously to anyone anywhere in the world. I had an ICQ account, I would use that to chat with people from Africa and the Americas. “I'm in London now,” I typed proudly. Now everyone everywhere can do that, and London, a place that broke and made me, doesn't seem all that special anymore. Now even the smallest villages have Internet cafes, including my grandmother's back in Johor. Not a day goes by now without me checking the Internet; if that ever occurs, there is a sense of lack. Even started putting pictures in my blog posts; now I can't imagine not using one for every post.

Interesting, isn't it? The change that constituted itself in us, manifesting its way across into our nether regions, until it becomes almost impossible to dislodge. What is it? What is it that is making our way into our consciousness in such a way? It is not a real thing, that's for sure. It is the virtual, the imagined, the felt, even if it was brought about by real things. I notice it happening all around me, as well as within me, and I am not sure that it is necessarily a change that I particularly like. What must have all those people who went before us felt like? As time moved from one year to the next, morphing into decades, what must have they felt like?

But then again, this is life. Change.

Happens all the time.


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