Nw Documentary Arts & Media | Sun Gu Ja: A Century of Korean Pioneers

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Sun Gu Ja: A Century of Korean Pioneers

by Nw Documentary Arts & Media

An award-winning documentary film. Compelling first-hand accounts of 100 years of Korean-American history and heritage, commissioned by the Korean Society of Oregon and the Korean Foundation of Oregon.
Genre: World: Asian
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Introduction
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2. One: Pacific Pioneers
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3. Picture Bride
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4. Conquest Back Home
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5. Pacific Storm
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6. Crossfire
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7. Homeland Divided
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8. Two: War Pioneers
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9. Casualties
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10. Houseboy
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11. Join us at our table
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12. Pure Gold
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13. Three: Pioneers of Community
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14. Good Sheperd
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15. Vietnam
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16. Paperboy
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17. Four: Pioneers of Identity
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18. Sacrifice leading to hope
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19. Tony
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20. Osanori
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21. Five: Centennial
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22. The Next 100 years
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23. Credits
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Album Notes
Sun Gu Ja:
A century of Korean Pioneers

Oregon has always been famous for pioneers crossing the Plains in covered wagons, "going West," to seek a new start. But other pioneers came to Oregon, not by land, but sea, crossing the Pacific, bringing their own connections to ancient cultures, and setting down fresh roots. Over the past century, three "waves" of Korean immigrants have come to settle at the end of the Oregon Trail. This is their story.

Sun Gu Ja retraces the 100-year history of Korean immigration to the Pacific Coast, with touchstones to the major events of the 20th Century. The first-hand accounts include family farmers, a Tae Kwon Do master, a Korean War veteran, and Korean adoptees. This one-hour documentary blends creative cinematography and rare historic archives, accompanied by traditional folk music performed by Korean-Americans.

Running Time: 56.46

produced by NW Documentary Arts & Media
115 SW Ash St, Suite 620
Portland, OR 97204

Sun Gu Ja: The look
Sun Gu Ja blends creative cinematography, archives and personal photos. Adding to the original interviews and locations, hundreds of photos were scanned for the first time from family photo albums - even passports dating back to the years of Japanese-occupied Korea. We poured through personal collections of the Korean-American community, as well as those of Korean War veterans, and found some of the most compelling, never-before published images.

To create a complete historic backdrop, we extensively combed through archives, including the Library of Congress and National Archives and Records Administration in Washington DC, finding rare footage, newsreels, and true historic treasures. Several regional museums added to the wealth of visuals, including Holt International Adoption Agency, the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, and the Korean American Heritage Museum.

Sun Gu Ja: The sounds
Korean-Americans will recognize traditional folks songs, including Arrirang, the barley harvest song, and the theme song itself, Sun Gu Ja, that speak of a remembrance and longing for one's homeland. The simple melodies, sometimes hopeful and at times reflective, express the emotional experience of the personal stories as they relate both hardships and hope.

Composer Tamara Turner (a classically trained score composer) wove together classical and traditional music themes to create a rich musical tapestry. The majority of traditional music heard on the sound track was specially recorded live for this documentary, performed by several virtuoso Korean-American youths, including the traditional drum ensemble, Osanori.

Sun Gu Ja: The people
Sun Gu Ja brought award-winning documentary professionals and the Korean-American community together to help create this film. Donating hundreds of hours, Korean-Americans helped translate and transcribe, research, and review. Even a Buddhist monk hand-painted the traditional Korean calligraphy especially for Sun Gu Ja.

During filming, the production crew joined several art festivals, performances, holiday celebrations, and special events. The Oregon Korean-American community opened their homes to help create a personal portrait of Korean Americans, adding a richer dimension to the historic touchstones of world history.

Sun Gu Ja: Director
Ian McCluskey has produced award-winning documentaries for PBS, including the 16-part series on American Literature: American Passages, and the historic four-part series Innocence in an Age of Infamy: Teenagers Experiences of WWII. His films have been featured internationally in a variety of film festivals, and won numerous awards including a Hugo, Chris Award, Emmy-nomination, and Best Educational Documentary Series from the National Educational Telecommunications Association. McCluskey holds a Master's of Journalism, with Kappa Tau Alpha honors.

Sun Gu Ja: In their words...

It is important to celebrate this 100-year anniversary of Korean immigration to the united states, because it shouldn't be lost. Korean-Americans are part of this American history, American fabric, and they have a story to tell.

--Tony Koehn, Korean Adoptee

Knowing about picture brides is a form of respect-to know your culture and heritage, and to understand my own family history of sacrifice leading to hope. Hope for the future generations.

--Jenny Lee, Second Generation Korean-American

There was a time, if you were doing a documentary on Korean immigration, that the Korean adoptee experience would not have been included. The acknowledgement that we are a part of the community in a broader way is very affirming.

--Susan Soon Keum Cox, Holt International Adoption Agency

The outgrowth of the Korean War was a significant wave of immigration based upon American compassion and we made it easier by having been there and seen it, and tasted it and smelled it, and recognized that we had the resources to do something about it.

--Chuck Lusardi, Korean War Veteran

Sun Gu Ja: Stories to tell

The Park family
were one of the very first Korean Pioneers, arriving like earlier immigrants of the Oregon Trail, they settled in the shadow of Mt. Hood in 1904 to start a farm and raise a family. They speak of the years of picture brides and Japanese occupation.

Chuck Lusardi
stepped off a troop transport ship on his 18th birthday to help fight the Korean War. A heavy equipment operator, he traveled the countryside of Korea from the cities to small towns and to the combat zones, seeing first-hand the impact of the war on the civilian population.

John Lim
was 14 years old when North Korea invaded his hometown. When South Korea eventually reclaimed the village, they retaliated against anyone suspected of aiding the communists. Lim's father, chief of the fire department, was mistakenly tagged into this group and executed without trial. The orphaned Lim then became a "Houseboy" for GIs during the remainder of the war.
Lim is now a successful politician and past president of the National Korean Association.

Susan Soon Keum Cox
was the 167th War Orphan adopted from war-ravished Korea by American parents. Her Korean mother named her Soon-keum, or "Pure Gold"; her new American parents named her Susan. At the time of the first major immigration of Korean adoptees, international adoption was an untested experiment. Susan's parents were told that they must "Americanize" their new child as quickly as possible.
Susan is now a vice president for Holt International Adoption Agency, the organization that brought the first Korean adoptees to the states.

Rev. Sang Jeung Kim
proved to be far more than a regular minister to his congregation. He'd help new Korean immigrants find jobs, fill out applications, and pass the driving tests at the DMV.
Now retired, he is still affectionately remembered as a "Good Shepherd," and speaks to the historic and cultural role the church played in the Korean community.

Master Tae Hong Choi
earned his black belt at the age of 12. With a quick rise to the National Tae Kwon Do Champion of Korea, her was sent to train U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam War. In 1988, he took the first U.S. Tae Kwon Do team to the Olympics in Seoul, Korea.

Michelle Pak & Mother
Michelle watched her mom work long days at the family dry-cleaning business. As she grew up, she began to realize what struggles the first-generation of immigrants face. From a vantage point elevated by the sacrifices of the first generation, Michelle, like other second generation Korean-Americans, begins to ask broader, more abstract, questions of being Korean-American.

Jenny Lee & family
share stories of the past. Her parents tell of the struggles they went through in Korea and the hope they hold for their children. Jenny looks to her parents' expectations with respect, but knows she must face her own set of challenges and goals here in the U.S.

Tony Koehn & wife Julie
plan for the family they want to start. Tony, adopted from Korea, is now hoping to become a father of a Korean Adoptee. While the first generation of Adoptees was told to Americanize, the next generation will be encouraged to seek their own identities of being Korean-American.

blends the youthful energy of today's teens with an ancient folk music tradition. An entirely volunteer group, ages 14-20, they preserve their Korean heritage while also adapting to their American life.



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