KYOPO: An individual of Korean ethnic descent living outside of Korea
KYOPO is a photographic and narrative work that profiles over 200 individuals of Korean ethnicity, mainly Americans. It’s a story about the evolution of identity and culture.
The individuals are posed frontally, their eyes returning the camera's and the viewer's gaze, against the static backdrop of the photographer's studio with a deliberate falsification of scale. Thus, each subject connects with and mirrors the others, while also reflecting their inherent differences. Ranging in age from teen to septuagenarian, the subjects are novelists, actors, politicians, comedians, athletes, executives and retirees.
Narratives delve into being Asian American, a Korean adoptee and mixed race. We learn about the generational, familial and societal pressures that these participants experience and also how multifaceted and multi-cultural layers shape the individual, culture and country.
"Korean American means everything and nothing, certainty and confusion, community and isolation, pride and humility. A life lived in the space between the eum and the yang...I'll always be grateful to America for being a place where part of what it means to be a proud American is the ability to be openly proud of being Korean." Daniel Dae Kim, Actor
"The Korea that I know is the Korea my parents brought over in 1968, which doesn't exist anymore. Their sense of value, culture and self were hermetically sealed and brought with them in boxes." Chang-Rae Lee, Writer
"After staying a couple of weeks with my new adopted family in Fremont, I decided to run away. I was terribly home sick. I missed my Korean family. I missed Korean food. I couldn't talk with anyone here because noone spoke Korean. -So I decided to go back to Korea. I didn't realize that it was impossible to walk back to Korea with my own two feet. That's when it hit me that I couldn't go home. My adopted mother found me several blocks from home, and she was extremely upset. She spanked me, the only spanking I ever got. Then we both cried, for very different reasons,..." Deann Borshay Liem, Documentary Filmmaker
"One day, when living down south in the 1970's, I tried haggling down the the price of vegetables at a farmer's market. The white salesperson asked me where I came from. And I said from Korea. He said, "Go back to your country. People in this country do not cut prices." I responded, "Go back to Europe. This country belongs to American Indians." Pyong Gap Min, Professor
"I feel Norwegian, but I have my Korean inheritance as well...In Norway, there are 7000 Korean adoptees. Korean adoptees started entering the country in 1963 through the organization, Children of the World. Kids from Korea and from other parts of the world continue to come to Norway to be adopted." Eirill Rogstad, Social Worker
"In 1982, we moved to Houston, Texas. As the only Asian American family in the neighborhood at that time, we faced much racism. Our car tires were slashed, and racist remarks were painted on our home. Growing up in humble circumstances and facing extreme racism incited a fiery drive and passion at a young age. My personal experiences and challenges have carved me into who I am today...I wrestled with my identity as a Korean American to fully appreciate the strengths of a multi-cultural life." James Sun, CEO and Community Activist
"I am Spanish. I am American. I am Korean. I am short. I have crazy eyebrows and a birthmark on my left hamstring. Not one aspect is more important than the rest. They all define who I am." Hyun Pak, International Media Consultant