JERONIMO

The Untold Tale of Koreans in Cuba

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About the documentary

Born in 1926 to Korean indentured servant parents in Cuba, Jeronimo joins the Cuban revolution and crosses paths with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, before turning to his Korean roots and identity.

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jeronimo
"The story of a remarkable life and an oral history of the Korean diaspora in Cuba"

- POV Magazine
"Finding universal truths in a very specific story."

- Asian Cinevision
"Jeronimo is an exemplary film that defies borders and brings new meaning to identity and self-discovery."

- Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

Timeline

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1905

Immigration to Mexico

1033 Koreans board a cargo ship to Mexico after being told it flows with milk and honey, and that 4 years of labor would guarantee enough funds to return to Korea and live comfortably. *A 2 year old Cheontaek Lim boards the ship with his single mother.

1905 - 1909

Henequen Farms

Koreans arrive in Mexico who are sold to 22 landlords who place them in their Henequen farms. Then begins 4 years of enslavement with little or no basic rights.

1910

Japanese Colonization

Korea is officially annexed by Japan and disappears off the map. Koreans living in Mexico lose their nationality and refuse to be registered as Japanese nationals as demanded by the Japanese embassy.

1921

Cuban Immigration

A group of 300 or so Koreans immigrate to Cuba to seek better life, only to find the conditions just as lamentable. Most find their home at henequen farms in Cuba. *Cheontaek Lim is included in this group.

1926

Jeronimo Lim's Birth

Jeronimo Lim is born as the first son of Cheontaek Lim.

1935 - 42

Independence Movement

Cheontaek Lim raises funds among Koreans in Cuba to support Kim Goo at the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai and Korea's independence movement against Japanese occupation.

1946

Jeronimo's Education

Jeronimo attends Havana University - the first Korean to be admitted into college. He studies law and one of his classmates was Fidel Castro.

1949 - 59

Jeronimo and Politics

Jeronimo joins and actively leads the Orthodox party that later became part of the Guerrilla movement that toppled the Batista's corrupted government.

1960

Jeronimo's Career

Jeronimo serves the new Cuban government for nearly 3 decades, and at one point, serves as Director of the Department of the Food Industry while Che is the Minister.

2001 - 2005

Korean Commemoration

Jeronimo leads an effort to erect the Korean Monuments in Manati and Matanzas to commemorate the 80th year of Korean immigration to Cuba.

2006

Jeronimo's Death

Jeronimo suddenly passes away during what was to be a minor surgery.

2015

Joseph's Cuba Trip

Joseph travels to Cuba, and coincidentally meets Patricia Lim, Jeronimo's daughter, and is fascinated by the story of Jeronimo.

2016

Documentary Production

Joseph returns to Cuba with crew members Jennifer, Grace, Kihoon, Jaesun, and William, meeting 100 Koreans and interviewing 35 people in search of Jeronimo's legacy and the history of Koreans in Cuba.

2017

Documentary Launch

The feature-length documentary, Jeronimo, is expected to be released.

Documentary Origin

I arrived in Havana in December 2015 for a week of backpacking. To my surprise, my taxi driver at the airport was a fourth generation Korean Cuban, an encounter that changed not only my trip, but also the course of my life in the years following. As a second generation Korean American, I have realized over the years that awareness and appreciation of one's roots in the larger narrative of global migration and citizenry are crucial for having a solid foundation of oneself – something that is at the heart of the story of Jerónimo, his family and other ethnic Koreans in Cuba.

The notion of ethnic identity and one's relationship to the homeland is something many Korean Cubans have struggled with for decades. Cuba only ever has had diplomatic relations with North Korea, yet it was South Koreans that came to help Korean descendants in Cuba. During our filming, we were repeatedly told by Korean Cubans that one of their most earnest wishes was to see the two Koreas reunited. After all, the homeland that their ancestors had left behind at the turn of the twentieth century was just one Korea. Now, with the recent presidential summit between North and South Korea, raising hopes for a peaceful resolution, the little known story of Korean Cubans, Jeronimo in particular, symbolizes a painful history of 75 years of division.

With Jeronimo, I thus hope to make a film that is timely in its subject matter, unveils a forgotten chapter in history and portrays an individual whose life story delivers a universal message of unity and humanity.

Film Credits

  • Production Company: Diaspora Film Production
  • Director/Producer: Joseph Juhn
  • Producer: Roy Choi
  • Executive Producer: Blaine Vess, Gie Kim, Richard Chang, Wonju Lee, Ted Kang, Danny Woo, Chang Rok Woo
  • Co-Producer: Marlies Gabriele Prinzl, William Juhn
  • Editor: Yan Vega, Joseph Juhn
  • Original Scores: Matthew Wang
  • Theme Song: Soeun Lee
  • Cinematographer: Brais Revalderia, Jaesun Song

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