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Fundraising to complete post-production on my film Jeronimo, a documentary about the little-known Korean settlers in Cuba. (한글자막도 있습니다)
Fundraising to complete post-production on my film Jeronimo, a documentary about the little-known Korean settlers in Cuba. (한글자막도 있습니다)
199 backers pledged $44,982 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Jeronimo's Official Website
Jeronimo's Facebook Page
Jeronimo's Official Trailer

Media Coverage

Goal

We hope to raise $30,000 for the post-production stage of Jeronimo the documentary. For those who backed my previous Jeronimo kickstarter campaign, your status and recognition title will remain the same!

Who is Jeronimo?

Jeronimo (and his wife, Cristina)
Jeronimo (and his wife, Cristina)

Jeronimo Lim Kim is 3rd generation Korean-Cuban who was born in Cuba in 1926 to parents who were sold as slaves to Mexico from Korea. Jeronimo was the first Korean to attend a university in Cuba, and as fate would have it, one of his classmates at the Havana University Law class was Fidel Castro. At the height of political corruption and social violence, Jeronimo, like many of his progressive and anti-imperialist classmates, joined the Party of the Cuban People, also known as the Orthodox Party, founded by the respected leader, Eduardo Chibas.

Jeronimo Lim and Eduardo Chibas in 1949
Jeronimo Lim and Eduardo Chibas in 1949

Recognized for a role Jeronimo played in the city rebel group (as opposed to mountain guerrilla), after the Batiste's regime collapsed and a new government was formed, he was given a role in the Ministry of Industry, where Che Guevara was the Minister.

Jeronimo later went on to become the Director of the same Ministry, becoming the 2nd highest-ranking official. During this time, he visited North Korea as a diplomat of the Cuban government. He became the first and only Korean to also visit South Korea later when he was invited to participate in a cultural celebration event in 1995.

After serving as Mayor of Guiteras, an outskirt city of Havana in 1995, he retired from public service and dedicated the rest of his life rebuilding the Korean community in Cuba. He spearheaded the construction of two Monuments, one in Manati and another one in El Bolo, Matanzas, that commemorate the history of Korean immigration from Mexico. He singlehandedly went all around Cuba to collect the names and information of every living Korean descendant, and also formed the Korean Cuban Association as well as Korean Cultural Museum. He also took the initiative to invite a Korean language instructor from Canada (Korean-Canadian) to teach younger generation the importance of keeping the Korean identity and language.

In 2006, during what was believed to be a minor surgical operation, Jeronimo suddenly died of shock. He was 80 years old.

Although Jeronimo served in the Cuban government for years, he is remembered as a non-ideologue who worked solely for the betterment of the people. He was a disciplined idealist, putting human values over self-interest and ideology. He dedicated 100% to the well-being of the Cuban people, and he also dedicated 100% to the rebuilding of the Korean community in Cuba.


Why Should You Care?

The documentary, Jeronimo, symbolizes the struggles and hardships faced by any foreigner in a new land. Through the lives of Jeronimo and other unsung heroes, the film unfolds the noble fight the 1000 or so Koreans had against slavery, systematic discrimination, and social biases in Mexico and Cuba in the early 20th century. 

The film explores the notion of identity and what it means to be an ethnic minority in a land unfamiliar. Not only did the Korean descendants survive, they sustained the Korean culture, identity, and a sense of pride. Pride not in the sense of being superior, but in the sense of honoring and upholding what their parents and ancestors fought so hard to preserve and pass down. 

"Knowing your identity empowers you. It liberates you from inferiority resulting from comparisons to other more powerful groups, despite their discrimination and marginalization to invalidate your worth, your existence. Never forget where you come from, and what we did to protect it." As one elder Korean-Cuban said.

In this time and age where anti-immigration and xenophobic sentiments run high, Jeronimo will shed light to the survival of the forgotten Korean indenture servants in Mexico who yearned to return home but couldn't, and had to recreate a new identity to fit into the land unfamiliar.  

What We Have Done So Far

In June, 2016, I raised $17,000 for pre-production and production in our 1st Kickstarter campaign. With the grateful funds we:

  • Cuba (July 29 - Aug. 12, 2016): 6-member team flew to Cuba to meet with over 100 Korean descendants, interview 35 of them, totaling in over 50 hrs of footage  
  • Seattle (September 17.2016): Interviewed elders at the United Presbyterian Church of Seattle (시애틀연합장로교회) who supported and worked with Jeronimo in the late 90's  
  • Seoul (December 9, 2016): Interviewed Nelson Lim, grandson of Jeronimo, who was temporarily studying in Korea, and together visited the Daejeon National Cemetery where his great-grandfather, Lim Cheon Taek, lays
  • California (February 6-13, 2017): Interviewed 6 Korean-American scholars/journalists/activists knowledgeable on the Korean immigration history to Hawaii/Mexico/Cuba 
  • Vancouver (March 12, 2017): Interview expected of a Korean-Canadian missionary who taught Korean language in Cuba and worked with Jeronimo in the 90's
Interviewing 5th generation Korean descendant youth in Cardenas, Cuba
Interviewing 5th generation Korean descendant youth in Cardenas, Cuba

 

Researching and photocopying historical archives at Cristina's house in Havana, Cuba
Researching and photocopying historical archives at Cristina's house in Havana, Cuba

 

Interviewing Nelson Lim (grandson of Jeronimo) visiting his great grandfather, Lim Cheon Taek's cemetery in Daejeon, Korea
Interviewing Nelson Lim (grandson of Jeronimo) visiting his great grandfather, Lim Cheon Taek's cemetery in Daejeon, Korea

 

Interviewing KW Lee, award-winning Korean-American journalist in California
Interviewing KW Lee, award-winning Korean-American journalist in California

 

Interviewing Flip Cuddy Ahn (Grandson of Dosan Ahn Changho) in California
Interviewing Flip Cuddy Ahn (Grandson of Dosan Ahn Changho) in California

How Your Support Will Help The Project

I must say that the scale of the project has gotten much bigger than I had originally anticipated, thanks largely to the overwhelming interest and support from so many people. I had a strong conviction that another campaign is called for to meet the demands of a good quality film.

Here is a breakdown of how the funds will be spent. I will work with:

  • Producer
  • Film editor
  • Color Corrector
  • Graphic designer
  • Sound mixer
  • Narrator
  • Archive collection researcher
  • Clearance specialist
  • Translator

- Additional Shoots: I believe we have about 80% of the necessary footage to make this film. I will soon visit Vancouver and Miami for extra interviews of Korean scholars and missionaries who spent time with Jeronimo and Koreans in Cuba.

- Any surplus surplus would be used for distribution/marketing purposes.

How This Project Began

In December, 2015, I went to Cuba. I had no particular agenda other than backpacking. However, I experienced something much greater than mere tourism. The story that unfolded before me has profoundly shaped my worldview.

Meeting a Korean Cuban, Patricia, daughter of Jeronimo

On December 28, 2015, I went to Cuba to take a break. But the first Cuban I met was a middle aged Asian lady who picked me up at the airport to transport me to the hostel. As we hit the road, I got curious and asked her background. She said she's a 4th generation Korean Cuban. Right then and there I knew this trip was meant for something larger than lots of mojito drinking.

Because I got so excited and asked many questions, she, Patricia Lim, invited me to her family's house the next day to meet with her mother, son, brother, and extended family members. I visited two houses, and both houses had a Korean flag at the center of the living room, as shown in the picture.

Who is Jeronimo

Patricia's mother, Cristina, at 88, was the most passionate person one can meet. As it turns out, Cristina's husband, who passed away 8 years ago, was the legendary revolutionary fighter in the Cuban revolution. Jerónimo Lim was his name and he fought alongside Fidel and Che to take down Batista's dictatorship in the 1950's. He later became the Vice Minister of Cuba and at some point worked with Che Guevara to bring sweeping changes to the new Cuban government.

Equally remarkable is the story of Jeronimo's father, Lim Cheon Taek, who came to Mexico from Korea in 1905 as one of the surrogate "slaves" to work at Henequen plants. Soon thereafter he moves to Cuba to do the same work and settles there. He and his children were to endure decades of discrimination as a minority Korean immigrant and yet they would maintain their sense of Korean identity. During the 20-40's when Korea was under Japanese' colonial power, Cheon Taek collects funds and supplies to Korea's independent government in Shanghai, corresponding with Kim Gu, Korea's founding father. Cheon Taek becomes a courageous and conscious voice in Central/South America to expose Japanese' brutal atrocities. No wonder his son Jeronimo had the fighters' spirit. As I was listening to the adventures and tales of Lim's family, I was blown away countless times, and I knew this had to be made into a film.

Despite Lim family's revolutionary tales, history had its twist, and all of them now live in relative poverty under a failing regime. Still, they cooked me kimchi and fried rice and grandfathers gave me their hand-made cigars. They tried to give everything they had when I was the one from the capitalistic, materialistic world. So, wasn't that special. I think it was.

The Least Known Korean Diaspora

Since their voyage to Mexico in 1905 crossing the Pacific ocean to now living under one of the most repressive communist regimes in the world, the family has gone through a jaw-dropping epic journey, some of which I hope to capture in this documentary.

If we can uncover the stories of overseas Koreans in various parts of the world and help them in whichever we can, I think this will bring a true sense of reunification of Korean diasporas and provide a pathway towards the reunification of North and South Koreas. This sense of empowerment, and firm conviction of our identity, will also enable us to fulfill our duties as a responsible citizen in the respective countries where we live.

For Korean Readers

제가 가장 열정적으로 생각하는 주제는 "한인 정체성," 그리고 "코리안 디아스포라"입니다. 2016년 새해를 며칠 앞두고, 쿠바에 갔을 때, 운명같은 일이 벌어졌습니다.

파트리시아와의 만남

빛 바랜 차들과 시가의 나라, 쿠바. 휴가를 즐기기 위해 방문 한 이 섬나라 공항에 저를 픽업하러 온 택시 기사는 Patricia라는 이름의 아시안 사람, 정확히는 쿠바 한인 4세였습니다. 쿠바에도 한인들이 살고 있다는 사실에 너무 놀라 그녀의 가족에 대해 이것저것 물어보니, 그녀는 흔쾌히 자신의 가족모임에 저를 초대했습니다.

혁명가 임은조-Jeronimo Lim 

Patricia의 가족모임에서 그녀의 아버지 Jeronimo Lim "임은조"씨에 대해서 알게 되었습니다. 한인 후손 처음으로 법대를 입학한 임은조씨는 피델 카스트로의 법대 동기였고, 피델과 체 게바라가 이끄는 쿠바 혁명에 참여를 하였습니다. 후에 쿠바정부의 고위직을 맡아 체 게바라와 밑에서 일을 하기도 하였고, 쿠바의 수도 하바나 근처의 시장으로도 봉사하였습니다. 저는 어려서부터 체 게바라라는 인물에 대한 낭만적 동경을 갖고있었는데 그와 같이 혁명을 일으킨 이 중에 한인이 있었다는 사실이 믿겨지지가 않았습니다. 은퇴 후, 임은조씨는 흩어졌던 한인들을 모아 한인회를 창설하고 한글학교와 한인이민 기념비를 세우는 등, 백방으로 한인의 뿌리를 이어나가려는 노력을 기울이셨습니다. 

그 뿐만이 아니었습니다. 임은조씨의 아버지 "임천택" 씨는 쿠바 한인 2세로, 일제 강점기시절 조국의 독립을 위해 힘쓴 독립투사였습니다. 쿠바 한인회의 리더였던 그는, 비록 가난한 삶을 살았지만, 쿠바와 멕시코 한인들에게서 독립자금을 모아 상해 임시 정부로 송금 하였습니다. 쿠바의 임천택, 김구의 백범일지는 그의 이름을 기억합니다. 

아버지는 한국의 독립을 위해, 아들은 쿠바의 독립을 위해 싸웠습니다.

쿠바의 한인 이민사  

임은조씨 가족의 이야기를 알게 된 후, 쿠바의 한인 이민사가 궁금해 졌습니다. 그곳에 살고 있는 약 천 여명의 한인 후손들. 그들의 선조들은 왜 그 머나먼 섬나라로 향했었을까요?  

1905년, 대한제국 시절의 한반도는 고난의 땅이었습니다. 패권의 시대였고, 열강들은 한반도를 유린했습니다. 피폐한 삶에 지친 각계각층의 사람들. 천여명이 동쪽 땅 멕시코로 4년 계약의 노동을 하러 떠났습니다. 금의환향을 꿈꾸며.  

멕시코에 도착한 이들은 기다리는 것은 선인장의 일종인 에니켄(용설란) 농장. 그 섬유질이 이곳저곳에, 특히 배의 밧줄로 유용하게 쓰였습니다. 그러나 한인들은 약속된 임금의 10분의 1도 받지 못하며 노예처럼 일했으며, 계약이 끝난 1909 년 그들의 수중에 남겨진 것은 없었습니다. 1910년 한일합방은 그들의 조국마저 앗아갔습니다. 조국없는 자들은 멕시코 전역을 떠돌았고, 그 중 약 300여명이 1921년 쿠바로 향했습니다.  

그러나 쿠바는 희망의 땅이 아니었습니다. 반복된 에네켄 농장에서의 삶. 그렇지만 조국을 향한 염원은, 희망의 끈은 놓지 않았습니다. 한인회를 설립, 없는 돈을 모아 상해 임시정부에 독립자금을 지원했습니다. 언급햇듯이, 임은조씨는 은퇴 후, 흩어진 한인들을 다시 규합하고 한글학교를 창설했습니다. 우리는 그들을 존재를 몰랐지만, 그들은 잊지 않았습니다.  

다큐멘터리 작업

천여 명의 쿠바의 3, 세대, 4세대, 5세대 한인 후손들. 그들을 잊을 수 없었기에, 그들을 잊지 않기 위해, 이 프로젝트를 시작 하였습니다. 

킥스타터로 $17,000을 모금하고, 5명의 다큐멘터리 팀을 꾸려 2016년 7월 다시 쿠바를 찾았습니다. 약 2주동안 100명 이상의 한인 후손들을 만나고 약 35명의 인터뷰를 진행 하였습니다. 외관상 그들이 한국인의 피가 섞여있음을 알기는 힘들기도 합니다. 그러나 그들은 한국을 잊지 않았습니다, 적어도 일부는. 한국에 관심을 갖고 한국말을 배우며, 저 머나먼 선조의 땅을 잊지 않으려 노력합니다. 그들은 말합니다. 나는 쿠바인이다. 그러나 또 한국인이다.

 내편 너편, 이편 저편이 아닌, 통합을 꿈꾸며 자기의 지평을 넓히는 이들을 보았습니다. 그동안 잘 알려지지 않았던 쿠바의 한인 이민사는 다른 많은 코리안 디아스포라의 이민사, 그리고 다른 인종의 이민사 와도 중첩되었습니다. 험난한 조국의 삶, 더 나은 삶을 향한 여정, 조국을 향한 그리움, 배척과 적응, 새로운 고향의 발견. 그리고 새로운 자아의 발견. 그 속에 고이 감춰져 있던 숨은 영웅들의 이야기, 우리네들의 이야기. 이 다큐멘터리는 그들의 스토리를 기록하려 합니다. 쿠바에서 돌아온 후 한국과 캘리포니아, 시애틀, 밴쿠버, 그리고 마이애미를 오가며 후속 촬영을 진행 하였습니다.

후속 작업  

후속 작업을 위해 $3만불을 모금하려 합니다. 더 완성도 있는 작품을 위해 여러 부분에서 전문가의 손길을 구할 예정입니다. 혹시 그 이상을 모금하게 될 경우 영화가 완성된 후 배급과 홍보 등에 금액이 사용될 것입니다. 좋은 작품을 위해 많은 관심과 지원 부탁 드립니다! 감사합니다.

전후석 드림

The Team

Team Jeronimo (from top left: Kihoon, Jason, Grace, Joseph, Jennifer, William / bottom left: Martha Lim Kim, Primitivo Lim Kim)
Team Jeronimo (from top left: Kihoon, Jason, Grace, Joseph, Jennifer, William / bottom left: Martha Lim Kim, Primitivo Lim Kim)


Joseph Juhn (Director/Producer)
Jason Song (Director of Photography / Cuba, California Team)
Grace Subervi (Interviewer / Production Manager / Cuba Team)
Jennifer Prufer (Website Design / Interpretation / Cuba Team)
Kihoon Oh (Photographer / Assistant Camera / Cuba Team) 
William Juhn (Writer / Production Staff / Cuba, California Team) 
Paul Hong (Seattle Assistant Camera / Seattle Team) 
Marlies Gabriele Prinzl, aka "Lissy" (Transcription/Translation)

Risks and challenges

Risks and challenges are mostly funding and finding the right professional services to perfect the film. The latter requires the former, and hence this fundraising.

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Funding period

- (48 days)