New Documentary

 Upcoming Documentary Explores Discrimination Faced By Mixed Race Students in South Korea

Cindy Lou Howe didn’t travel to South Korea with the intent to make a film—but that’s exactly what happened when she saw the social gaps and cultural divides that continue to exist between “pure-blooded” South Koreans and multi-racial individuals, the nation’s fastest growing minority group.

Howe, a mixed-race Korean American herself, first left the United States for her birth country (she was born in Seoul and left as an infant) to teach at a school specifically geared towards accommodating mixed-race and non-Korean students living and attending public school. What Howe witnessed as a teacher would eventually become Even the Rivers, a new documentary project in the works that examines how the South Korean public school system is trying—and seemingly struggling—to accommodate the growing number of mixed-race, multi-ethnic and non-Koreans in the country.

“I’m hoping there’s a broader discussion about what it means to be Korean–that’s the underlying thing about the film: are Koreans in Korea ready to redefine what it means to be Korean?” Howe said during an interview in July. “But at the same time, to look at what the potential future holds for Korea. We have to look at the statistical fact that 97 percent of Koreans have a high school diploma in Korea, but conversely when you look at multi-racial individuals in Korea, only 15 percent have a high school diploma.”

As a teacher, Howe says she saw the way in which multi-racial and multi-ethnic students were isolated, teased and ostracized by peers. Furthermore, she saw how teachers and schools were not prepared to or able to address these instances of racial tormenting. What she witnessed convinced her there needed to be a bigger discussion surrounding the experience of South Korea’s growing multi-racial community and the nationalist ideals that are continuing to segregate mixed-Koreans.

“Korea is very much lauded for the way Korea does education, President Obama and other Western nations look to Korea as a model, but I think that’s the untold story that there’s a segment of the population not getting the same opportunities that aren’t factored into the evidence when people are applauding Korea.”

Until recent years, South Korea has been relatively mono-racial, mono-cultural. It was a nation that practiced stark isolationism until the conflicts of the 20th century burst it wide open. Then, as South Korea became more economically stable and Korean companies began to seriously compete in the global market, foreign workers slowly began to turn their eyes on the “shrimp among whales.” The tiny peninsula nation was growing and the community was diversifying—but the previously mono-racial nation was not prepared to accommodate the influx of foreigners.

For Howe, the experiences of the young multi-racial students and their families hits close to home.

“I think that drives me, because my mom being an immigrant from the United States. I watched her go through things that if she were not an immigrant she may not have had to go through,” Howe said. “It’s the same thing [in South Korea] with those [non-Korean] women and their families with their Korean husbands.”

In the end, she said, the story of these young kids is “the immigrant story—it’s universal.”

Even the Rivers is currently in the final stretch, but needs community donations to help fund continued research for the film as well as post-production work. You can donate to their Kickstarter campaign here and check out their website for further information.


One Response to “New Documentary”
  1. Karson says:

    I remember Hines Ward doing work like that.

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