This paper explores the mutual influences between the Korean diasporic community in Japan and South Korean filmmakers in contemporary documentary films featuring Chosŏn schools, affiliated with Ch’ongryŏn, a pro-DPRK Zainichi organization. Commonly called “Zainichi,” Korean residents in Japan had rarely been represented in South Korean cinema until the late 90s. However, Kim Myŏng-jun’s 2005 documentary film, Our School, attracted significant public attention not only for the film but also toward the Zainichi community, and namely, Chosŏn schools. Since then, a few more documentary films about Chosŏn schools have been made by South Korean filmmakers. Set in trilateral locations—South Korea, North Korea, and Japan—these films depict how the Zainichi students connect with their homeland and redeem their ethnic identity. Influenced by those South Korean films, Zainichi filmmaker Pak Yŏng-i made the documentary film, The Sky-Blue Symphony, in 2006.
This paper analyzes The Sky-Blue Symphony and Our School as main texts and examines South Korean and Zainichi filmmakers’ imagination of the nation and the “remembering” of it beyond their first-hand experience. By closely reading the texts and contexts of the films, this paper scrutinizes the tensions and dialogic relationship between homeland and diaspora and illuminates how cinema functions as an important medium and channel in mediating first-generation Zainichi Koreans’ memories and descendent-generation filmmakers’ postmemory. Furthermore, it elucidates a mutual process of making diasporic and national memories in the films beyond the passage of time, spatial distance, and inexorable politics of the Cold War.