JERONIMO

[The Untold Tales of Koreans in Cuba]

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About the documentary

On December 28, 2015, I went to Cuba for one-week backpacking. To my surprise, the first Cuban I met was a middle-age Asian lady who was waiting for me at the airport to transport me to a hostel I booked several days before. As we hit the road, I got curious and asked her ethnic background, and she told me she's 4th generation Korean Cuban. Right then and there I knew this trip was meant for something much larger than cigar-smoking and mojito-drinking.

Having always been interested in the notion of Korean Diaspora - Koreans outside of Korea forming their own communities while retaining their identity - I was intrigued by her and excitedly asked many questions. Welcoming such curiosity, the lady, Patricia, invited me to her family's place the next day to meet with her mother, son, brother, and other extended family members. Needless to say, this was the beginning of a life-changing experience.

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Patricia's mother, Cristina, at 87, had the ever-resilient, passionate, and compassionate characters often found in great mothers. She sat me down and brought dozens of photo albums and shared with me an epic tale of the family’s history. Cristina's husband, Jeronimo Lim, who passed away 10 years ago, was the legendary revolutionary fighter in the Cuban revolution. He went to law school with Fidel Castro and later worked with Che Guevara in the new Cuban government as Vice Minister when Che was the Minister of Agriculture. Yes, unbelievable is the right word.

Equally remarkable is Jeronimo's father, Lim Cheon Taek, who came to Mexico from Korea in 1905 as one of the "slaves" to work at Henequen plants. He moves to Cuba in 1921 to find a better life but only to find decades of discrimination as ethnic minority immigrants. Even during the time of hardship, however, he collected funds from all Korean families in Cuba and Mexico and sent them to the provisional Korean government in Shanghai to support Korea's independence movement against the Imperial Japanese. He would correspond regularly with Kim Gu, one of Korea's founding fathers, and Lim's name would appear in 백범일지, one of the most-read Kim Gu's autobiography detailing the independence movement.

As I was listening to these adventures, I became so overwhelmed with sense of conviction that this story has to be share with the world - particularly those in Korea and Korean communities around the world.

So, I decided to make a feature-length documentary about the Lim family and Koreans in Cuba at large. I raised over $20,000 through kickstarter and in July, 2016, and went back to Cuba in August for two weeks with 5 wonderful film crew members (details below). We met with over 100 Korean Cubans and interviewed over 30 of them to hear their accounts of history. It was a life changing trip for certain, and I can't wait to share with the public the untold stories of Koreans in Cuba.

I believe that this work is of historic importance. I am doing this without any outside help so any help you could provide, I am grateful. I ask you to join me in this journey to discover one of the most magical, dramatic, and painful - yet beautiful - chapters of the modern Korean history. Indeed, such a powerful story is needed in a time like this.

Joseph Juhn


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오랫동안 제가 가장 열정적으로 관심있는 주제는 바로 "한인 정체성," 그리고 "코리안 디아스포라"입니다.

2016년 새해를 며칠 앞두고, 쿠바에 갔습니다. 사실 혼자 놀러갔는데, 전혀 예상치 못한 일이 벌여졌습니다. 쿠바 도착 이틀 전, 아무 호스텔에 예약을 했고, 호스텔에서 공항까지 픽업을 위해 기사를 보내준다고 했는데, 저를 마중나온 분께서 아주 우연하게 한인 4세 쿠바인이었습니다. 예정에 없던 한인 Patricia 아주머니와의 조우에 너무 놀라 이것저것 여쭈니, 저의 호기심이 나쁘지 않으셨는지 그 다음날 있던 가족모임에 저를 초대했습니다. Patricia의 어머니와 아들, 오빠, 삼촌들과 감격적인 만남을 갖고 그 가족 역사에 대해 알게되었죠. Patricia의 아버님께서 "임은조" (Jeronimo Lim) 이라는 분이십니다. 이 분은 피덱 카스트로와 함께 법대를 다닌 한인 최초 대학입학자로, 쿠바혁명에 중추적 역할을 하고 나중에는 체 게바라와 함께 쿠바정부에서 고위직을 맡아 서로 함께 일하셨던 분이셨지요. 저는 한창 대학 때, 체게바라에 대한 인물을 동경한 적이 있었는데, 체와 같이 혁명을 일으킨 이들 중 한인이 있었다는 사실이(!) 믿겨지지가 않았죠.

계속 읽기

또 놀라웠던 사실은, 임은조씨의 아버님은 "임천택"이라는 분이십니다. 이 분은 1905년에 멕시코에 노예로 팔려온 “애니깽” 후손 중 하나로, 1921년 쿠바로 이민을 왔고, 그 후 멕시코와 쿠바 한인들이 열심히 일한 품삯을 모금하여 상해 임시 정부에 있던 백범 김구 선생께 독립자금을 여러차례 송금하였습니다. 백범일지에 임천택 선생님의 이름이 등장합니다. 그는 이러한 공로로 타계 후 대한민국 정부로부터 훈장을 수여하셨습니다.

아버지는 한국의 독립을 위해, 아들은 쿠바의 독립을 위해 싸웠습니다. 그들은 자신의 모국과 자신이 속한 나라들을 위해 모든 것을 바쳤지만, 역사는 그들의 편이 아니었습니다. 쿠바가 공산주의를 표방한 "독재" 노선을 타버리며 "혁명"의 진정한 의미가 퇴색되었고, 한국과 모든 수교가 끊기며 그들의 서사는 묻혀버렸습니다.

저는 쿠바에서 이 감동적인 경험 후, 쿠바 한인 후손들에 대한 다큐멘터리를 제작하기로 결심하였습니다. 그래서 올해 2016년 7월, $20,000불이 넘는 후원금을 여러 경로를 통해 모금하였습니다. 이 감사한 후원금으로 5명의 실력있는 팀을 구성하였고, 8월, 다시 쿠바로 향했습니다. 약 2주간의 대장정을 통해 100명 이상의 한인 쿠바인을 만났고 이 중 35명과 인터뷰를 진행하였습니다. 한 분, 한 분의 인생사는 저희를 겸허하게 만들었습니다. 글로 설명하기에는 무리가 따릅니다.

그들의 스토리가 우리에게 선사하는 것이 많을것이라 생각합니다. 특히 지금같이 한국의 신뢰제도가 무너져 국민간의 통합이 간절한 시기, 쿠바 한인들이 지난 100년간 모든 역경을 뚫고 이겨낸 끈기와 조국에 대한 애정은 우리에게 뼈있는 가르침을 전달합니다.

이 프로젝트는 어떤 민간단체나 영화사, 정부의 개입이나 영향 없이 순전히 개인적으로 진행하고 있습니다. 보다 더 높은 작품성과 완성도를 위해 여러 관심과 지원이 있다면 좋겠습니다. Post-production 과정을 앞두고 다시 한 번 후원금 모집을 진행 할 예정이고, 후원금으로 최대한 많은 전문가들과 협업하여 쿠바 한인들의 애절하지만 아름다운 역사를 최대한 정확하게, 또 아름다운 시각으로, 제작하고 싶습니다. 이 여정에 동참해주시면 감사하겠습니다.

전후석 드림

전 화면

Timeline

Click through the images!

1905

Immigration to Mexico

1033 Koreans board a cargo ship to Mexico after being told it flows with milk and honey, and that 4 years of labor would guarantee enough funds to return to Korea and live comfortably. *A 2 year old Cheontaek Lim boards the ship with his single mother.

1905 - 1909

Henequen Farms

Koreans arrive in Mexico who are sold to 22 landlords who place them in their Henequen farms. Then begins 4 years of enslavement with little or no basic rights.

1910

Japanese Colonization

Korea is officially annexed by Japan and disappears off the map. Koreans living in Mexico lose their nationality and refuse to be registered as Japanese nationals as demanded by the Japanese embassy.

1921

Cuban Immigration

A group of 300 or so Koreans immigrate to Cuba to seek better life, only to find the conditions just as lamentable. Most find their home at henequen farms in Cuba. *Cheontaek Lim is included in this group.

1926

Jeronimo Lim's Birth

Jeronimo Lim is born as the first son of Cheontaek Lim.

1935 - 42

Independence Movement

Cheontaek Lim raises funds among Koreans in Cuba to support Kim Goo at the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai and Korea's independence movement against Japanese occupation.

1946

Jeronimo's Education

Jeronimo attends Havana University - the first Korean to be admitted into college. He studies law and one of his classmates was Fidel Castro.

1949 - 59

Jeronimo and Politics

Jeronimo joins and actively leads the Orthodox party that later became part of the Guerrilla movement that toppled the Batista's corrupted government.

1960

Jeronimo's Career

Jeronimo serves the new Cuban government for nearly 3 decades, and at one point, serves as Director of the Department of the Food Industry while Che is the Minister.

2001 - 2005

Korean Commemoration

Jeronimo leads an effort to erect the Korean Monuments in Manati and Matanzas to commemorate the 80th year of Korean immigration to Cuba.

2006

Jeronimo's Death

Jeronimo suddenly passes away during what was to be a minor surgery.

2015

Joseph's Cuba Trip

Joseph travels to Cuba, and coincidentally meets Patricia Lim, Jeronimo's daughter, and is fascinated by the story of Jeronimo.

2016

Documentary Production

Joseph returns to Cuba with crew members Jennifer, Grace, Kihoon, Jaesun, and William, meeting 100 Koreans and interviewing 35 people in search of Jeronimo's legacy and the history of Koreans in Cuba.

2017

Documentary Launch

The feature-length documentary, Jeronimo, is expected to be released.

"Jeronimo is a very important project for our lifetime, remembering unsung heroes who dedicated their lives to liberation."

- Korean Buddhist monk, Bub-ryun (법륜스님)

Film Credits

  • Director/Producer: Joseph Juhn
  • Executive Producer: Blaine Vess, Wonju Lee, Danny Woo, Ted Kang
  • Co-Producer: "Lissy" Marlies Prinzl, John Nahm
  • Assistant Producer: Jason Byeun
  • Associate Producer: Songbae Lee, Yong-Ok Kim Center (Professor Edward Chang)
  • Project Supporters: 홍정욱, 강경화, 법륜스님, 조원희, 박성우, 최병선, 박용재, Jin Lee, 김희석, Lydia Schroter, Gregor Bailer, 박찬호, 김정은 (Jekkie Kim), Seung Bak, 김수현 (Thomas Kim)
  • Transcription/Translation: "Lissy" Marlies Prinzl, Mariano Nunez
  • Regional Camera Crew
    • Cuba: Jason Song, Kihoon Oh
    • Seattle: Paul Hong
    • Seoul: Han Kyul Kim
    • Los Angeles: Jason Song, John Maxwell
    • Oakland: Kevin Lee
    • Miami: Jason Song, Ibai Vigil-Escalera
  • Cuba Film Crew
    • Jasun (Jason) Song: Main videographer, Former MTV Producer
    • Jennifer Prufer: Web developer, Spanish/Korean/English interpreter
    • Grace Subervi: Singer, Interviewer, Spanish/Korean/English interpreter
    • Kihoon Oh: Assistant videographer, photographer
    • William Juhn: Logistics, Human rights lawyer

Contact the Director