‘Happy Cleaners’ to Tell Experiences of Korean Diaspora Family

(Image via Korea Daily)

It started with one question: “Who will remember our stories?”

Then, some second-generation Korean Americans decided to make a short film that tells a story about the diaspora of Korean immigrants in the United States.

Filmmakers of the Korean American Story, or KAS, a New York-based, nonprofit organization that chronicles accounts of Korean Americans, are set to produce a 20-minute-long film, entitled “Happy Cleaners,” starting July 2. [Most of the shooting will take place in Flushing, Queens.] Peter S. Lee and Julian Kim are co-directing, and Kat Kim is producing.

The movie presents the joys and sorrows of Korean immigrants in the U.S. through the story of Mr. Choi’s family – Mr. Choi, the head of the family, who has been running a laundromat for 17 years to support his family; Mrs. Choi, the mother, whose dream is to see her son, Kevin, become a successful doctor; Hyunny, a nurse, who as the eldest child of the family carries a heavy financial responsibility to help her family; Kevin, Hyunny’s younger brother, who is becoming a huge disappointment to his parents.

“We’ve seen many movies about Caucasians and African Americans, but not Koreans,” said Kim, who recently quit her job at Morgan Stanley to focus on producing the movie. “The history of Korean immigrants in the United States goes back more than 100 years. They formed Koreatowns in many big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta. We wanted to diagnose how far we came and how the first generation of Korean immigrants, who are our parents, settled here far from Korea. The goal of this movie is to convey a message that Korean Americans are true survivors of the era.”

Kat Kim, producer, with co-directors Peter S. Lee and Julian Lee (Photo via Korea Daily)

Lee, co-director, said: “The first generation of Korean immigrants, some of whom even graduated from prestigious universities in Korea, came here with almost nothing and survived. This movie is about our parents, such as Mr. Choi, who sacrificed the dreams that they had when they were young in Korea, just to survive here. It’s about us and our family.”

In the movie, Jaehee Kim, former assistant director of Human Resources of UNICEF, and Hyanghwa Lim, a Korean actress, will join the cast as grandmother and mother, respectively.

In May, KAS raised nearly $65,000 in funds for the movie, and Korean adoptee Thomas Clement, president of Mectra Labs, donated $25,000. The fundraising continues, with the goal of raising an additional $30,000.

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