While Haeju is my Halmeoni’s (Grandmother's) story of her escape from North Korea as a child to her coming to America as an adult, it is also about the gap that keeps us from learning these tales. It is simply accepted in Asian American culture to not have deep discussions, particularly about the past. While many households face generational differences, Asian American families also have to deal with a huge cultural rift. I'm also multi-racial which is another layer.

To further drive home this point, it’s taken 30 years for my Grandma and me to exchange more than a couple of 'small talk' sentences. This film captures the longest conversation we’ve ever had and probably the most important one. 

I hope that everything from her voice to her actions resonate with viewers that feel those distances, particularly Korean Americans. Not connecting with your family because of the cultural and generational differences can be painful but we need to try otherwise we will never be able to honor their stories.

In a culture where affection isn't often shown, creating Haeju was my way of saying 'Thank You' that to my family in the only way I know how to.

Concept Sketch

Character Sketches

Obangsaek & Drawing Style

The only colors you’ll see in this film are those found in the traditional Korean color spectrums known as obangsaek and ogansaek. Obangsaek consists of five colors that represent the elements that compose the universe while ogansaek is the mixture of those colors. In addition to these palettes, all the landscapes are drawn in a similar style to traditional Korean artwork. To emphasize these two worlds meeting, I stuck to a more modern sketchy style of drawing where certain colors of the Grandma’s world are breaking through.

Scenes will have a flatter perspective similar to traditional work

Grandma Sung graduating from nursing school

Yongsei University

Grandma and her graduating class

Curtis Helmet

At one point, you see a helmet on the ground with the name Curtis. This is an homage to another side of my family. Ed Curtis, a great uncle, had fought on the American side in the Korean war as a member of VFA 113. During Thanksgiving one year, he showed my Grandmother where he attacked North Korea on the map and my Grandma showed him where she had lived. Though this was not the type of helmet someone in the air would have worn, it was more accurate for the ground fighting I was depicting.

Using Format