young min moon

Kim Insook, Great-grandmother and I, 2008. Courtesy the artist.

Kim Insook, Grandson and I, 2008. Courtesy the artist.

Yearning for Home: Representation of North Koreans

in the Work of Kim Insook

        home paintings projects writings yearning for home rag face translocating women on failure the poetics of latency shifting anxieties out of pictures phantoms of community the illegal lives the politics of curating activating korea incongruent for eliese editorial info contact

"Yearning for Home: Representation of North Koreans in the Work of Kim Insook," Trans Asia

Photography Review, Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall 2014.

Kim Insook is a photographer and a third generation Zainichi Korean in Japan who divides her

time between S. Korea and Japan. Almost all of Zainichi Korean in Japan has come from Southern

part of Korea during the Japanese colonial era. They have been systemically discriminated

against by the mainstream Japanese society. The essay contextualizes Kim’s extended series of

photographs of children attending North Korea-affiliated schools in Japan, which Kim, herself

a graduate of the similar school, initially regards as her true home. For it is at this school

where languages, ideologies, and cultures of Japan and two Koreas manifest in complex ways,

which were crucial to the formation of her own multifaceted identity.

The essay surveys Kim’s projects in chronological order in order to reveal the artist’s

increasingly sophisticated awareness of the intricacies of diasporic subjectivity. Kim makes a

journey to various places in South Korea in an effort to locate the ‘essence’ of her

motherland, but not surprisingly, fails to find it. This failure and disillusionment enables

her to regard the Zainichi community in Japan in a different perspective. In some sense, Kim’s

work is a yearning for home, however provisional it may be. In an ongoing search for self, her

project poses the question of whether if there is such a thing as true and authentic diasporic

subject, and whether a hybrid identity is possible for Zainichi Koreans living in Japan where

naturalization is still the only means to become recognized as ‘Japanese’ citizen proper.