Asia Rights

Journal of Human Rights, Media and Society in Asia and the Pacific

Voices in Exile: Panoptic Perspectives

Director Park talks to SBS (Photo credit: vanessa Danielson)

Markus Bell, The Australian National University.

March 22nd marked the final evening of the film event Voices in Exile: Panoptic Perspectives. This event, three months in the making, was the brain-child of Professor Kyungmook Kim of Chukyo university, Japan. Organized by Professor Kim, postgraduate students from the Australian National University and Sydney University, the purpose of the event was to offer the public new ways of understanding a complex and oft-misunderstood subject – North Korea.

Over three nights, in ANU and Sydney venues, audiences were treated to four different films –A Schoolgirl’s Diary, Yodok Stories, The Journal of Musan and Under a Different Sky. The highlight of each evening was undoubtedly the chance for discussion with experts in the field of North Korean studies and Mr. Jungbum Park, the director of the award-winning film The Journal of Musan. In an interview with ANU PhD candidate, Markus Bell, Mr. Park explained:

In The Journal of Musan I tried to depict the hardships faced by many North Koreans in South Korea. The feeling of being a frog trapped at the bottom of a well and the inevitable isolation that many of these individuals suffer from.

Honestly, when I was making this film I was on a very tight budget and focused on creating something that would make an impact on a domestic [Korean] audience. It is a film that depicts poverty and loneliness, but it also is a film of hope, showing that for these people [from North Korea] anything is possible.

In terms of North Koreans living in South Korea, their backgrounds are so different and they are also very different from South Koreans. For a new arrival in South Korea, a period of up to ten years is required for adaptation, during which time education and the acquisition of practical skills is required to ensure effective resettlement in their new home.

Ultimately, this film is about people who are on the margins, who are suffering. North Koreans are not unique in these experiences; handicapped people, minorities and the laboring classes are also people who share in a story of struggle. I hope this movie is understood by the audience as a humanistic film, depicting the confrontation between weak and strong.


Audiences that totaled over 230 people over the three nights were highly receptive to the films screened and Mr. Park’s message of hope, donating over $1600 to the development of the North Korean Transmigration Supporting Association. This NPO, created by Professor Kim and members of the Korean community in Sydney, aims to bring several North Korean migrants living in Seoul, to Sydney to give them the chance to study English. With the first such student already arrived, it seems the grassroots movement for supporting North Koreans is alive and well in Australia. 

Voices in Exile: Panoptic Perspectives, would not have been possible without support from the ANU Korea Institute, The Toyota Foundation, UTS:CCS and the North Korean Transmigration Supporting Association. With any luck, this will be just the first of many such successful collaborations.

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