Written Trailers

Born in Busan, in June. Mum stays in hospital after giving birth, so Grandma takes care of me for a few weeks. As a newborn baby, Mum and Aunt take care of me at a flat called Rose Villa. A month after I was born, Mum called the police about a stench coming from a neighbour. They found an elderly local in the neighbouring flat, dead alone.

It would be weird to remember what happened then.

Same for this year, too. Grandpa from Mum’s side gets killed in a drunk driving accident. Grandpa used to work at a factory in Japan when he was a young kid, but an earthquake demolished the factory and the owner ran away, so he had to come back to Korea. He was also a Geo-je POW camp survivor.

My brother was born in March. I have a vague memory of myself getting jealous after his birth. To record his birth, Dad buys a VHS camcorder. In the first tape, there's footage of my brother being breastfed. After that, for a few years, Dad has recorded some interesting moments of my family.
Grandpa from Dad’s side passed away from cancer. Before his death, he told everyone that he could die in peace, after the son is born in the family.

Until then, Mum and Dad have lived separately, so my brother and I spend most of the time with Aunt’s family. Aunt worked at restaurants and factories, and Uncle sailed. Most of the time, my cousins take care of us. Mum takes my brother and I late at night, or at the weekends, back to her flat.
Whenever I’m with Mum for the weekends, I feel like I’m having a fever. I whine to Mum that I’m having a fever, my head hurts. Mum says: “If you keep whining that you’re sick, you’ll really get sick. So be quiet.”

Dad fails to find a job in Seoul for a year. Mum stays in Busan, working as a private academy tutor. We fly to Seoul once every few months to see Dad. At the airport, Mum gets curry and rice for us.
Dad sits in a small studio flat somewhere in Seoul. Mum washes the dishes in a full two-piece suit. The floor sticks to my feet. I run around the flat, accidentally step on Dad’s ashtray and knock it down. Filthy water and cigarette butts in the ashtray splashes on the floor. I get scolded by Dad. Dad gets scolded by Mum. Mum washes my feet in the shower. Since then, there’re dark stains on my toenails. My feet look extraordinarily big and dirty. They look like grown-up feet. I start to scrape out stains from my toenails.
Even though we weren’t on good terms economically, Dad visited us a couple of times in Busan. Once, we stayed at Westin Chosun Hotel or Busan Grand Hotel for a day or two, and had a good time at the beaches and swimming pools. Somewhere in his videotapes, there's footage of him singing Happy Birthday to my little brother with a buttercream cake in front of him. I vaguely remember going to a bakery with Dad that day, to get that cake. My family is supposed to meet each other very briefly and we seem to remain happy only in the videotapes.

Mum visits Aunt’s flat with a maths tutor. Mum and the tutor look at me horrendously, doing addition with my grown-up toes. Mum gives me used textbooks from a neighbourhood kid. I get scolded by copying down the written answers, faded by erasers. I’ll live with Mum from next year, instead of Aunt. We’ll move to Seoul and live with Dad. Grandma will live downstairs, too.
One night, my family drives toward Mum’s flat. The car stops at the red light. From the back, bang! A car crashes with us. I, half-asleep, wake up. Mum screams. The police officers come by. They take my brother and I to Mum’s flat. The driver in the back car was drunk.
After the accident, I visit a hospital several times for outpatient treatments. The doctors take multiple MRI scans on me. A doctor shows Dad the photos of my inner brain, sliced, and gives him explanations. Dad buys me fish cakes everytime we visit the hospital.
While standing at a bus station, I start to scratch my scalp. I feel like there’s something in my head. I have to get this out. After that, I start scratching my scalp, whenever I’m having meals, going to kindergarten, even in my sleep. I scratch it too hard, the scalp scars and gets infected. At the end of the year, we move to Seoul, but it doesn’t improve. There’s ongoing News about the Millennium Bug on TV–my belly bloated; I don’t feel well. I haven’t eaten anything, but my stomach seems like it’s going to explode. At the ER full of New Year’s Eve drunks, a doctor examines and tells me that there’s nothing wrong with me.

I start going to a primary school in Seoul. Mum told me that Grandma’s going to live downstairs, but she isn’t. Grandma lives with us. She eats separately, instead of eating with us. She smokes in her room. She reads fortune with her cards. She dwells in Yukata clothing. She tells me that we've become so wealthy thanks to the Japanese colonised Korea. She tells me about the time when she used to dance in long gloves, with American soldiers. She says Sayonara when she farewells her friend. Her friend calls me Omok-jwa. We thought that's because I look so delicate, but as I grew up, I found out the word derived from Omocha, a Japanese word for a toy.
Dad starts working in suits. He sometimes comes back home late. Mum retires from the private academy and starts working as a private tutor at home. She works till late. The days of her yelling at us gets more frequent. She sometimes screams. When she screams, she sounds like an animal standing on the verge of the cliff. I feel like there's something in my ear.
Mum starts sending me to a catholic church. I sing in a church choir.

Grandma sits on the bed, pointing towards the bathroom, saying something. Dad stands still, hands on the waist, looking inside the bathroom. Mum's collapsed on the bathroom floor. She collapsed while doing laundry. It's eleven o'clock at night.

One day, I get dragged into an exhibition called Body Worlds. Anatomical sculptures at the exhibition are made from real human bodies. People touch a woman sculpture, pointing at her breasts and giggles. In the evening, I'm not allowed to watch the World Cup live. Instead, I do math homework. I hate math. Once, I skipped a whole maths homework for a week, and Mum went mad and ripped every page of the homework in front of me. I feel like the anatomical sculpture I saw the other day is standing still at a door, watching me. Even in my dreams, a skinless person, glowing in red hue, watches me. I get so tanned during summer break. My arms bleed due to scratching dead skin excessively.

Nobody in class wears braided pigtails anymore except me. Now I want to wear a plain ponytail or just wear my hair down. Mum does not accept it. She sits me down every morning, pulls my hair so hard. The nights of Dad coming back late gets more often. Mum is screaming at the phone, in the bedroom. I walk into the lounge in the middle of the night and find out Mum collapsed. I panic and try to phone Dad.
One night, an ambulance comes by. Grandma has collapsed. Grandma gets hospitalised for a few months, so I stay at a neighbour’s flat after school for a while.
I take a computer class as an after-school class. One time, I was waiting for class to start by myself in the empty hallway. The 6th grade boys surround me, harass me and grab me. They’re trying to take off my trousers to see my underwear. When I start crying, they laugh and disappear. After that, I begged Mum to let me skip the computer class. Eventually, after a few weeks, I told her what happened and why I didn't want to go to the class. But I was not allowed to miss the computer class and none of the boys who took off my trousers got punished. I had to take the computer class with one of the boys until that term.

Mum sends me to her friend, who emigrated to Canada. I go to a school in Canada. I suddenly become a girl wearing poor clothes and bringing disgusting lunches. The classmates say things to me, but I can’t reply. Mum’s friend hates me. Her son and daughter hate me, too. I sleep in the same bed with another Korean girl living with them.
Canadian kids have their own room, and in that room they have their own TVs and telephone, and wear the clothes they like. The kids who don’t are poor, non-white, or immigrants from other countries. They’re considered boring and can’t make a lot of friends. I don’t have my own room, I don’t have my own TV or phone, and I don’t buy the clothes I like. I become a temporary immigrant here. Canadians spend a lot of money every holiday to decorate their huge houses. The whole town sleeps like an amusement park
We had to go to a Korean church every weekend. People in the Korean church were really good at gossiping about each other: among them was a Korean woman who was divorced three times, married four times, and had a child from each marriage. She was often targeted for gossip. The woman’s eldest son was a high school student, and he’d molest the girls and I who lived there without parents. He’d say that he’s playing truth-or-dare. When I told about this to Mum’s friend who was living with me at that time, she said, “You must have enjoyed it.” and ignored me.

I come back to Seoul, wear shorts and paint my nails. Mum looks at my nails as if she’s disgusted, and makes me erase them. Grandma has moved to another flat. I get my own room.
I start dating a boy, and we decide to go to the movies together, but Mum isn’t happy with that idea. Eventually, I went to the movies with him and his mother. This boy gets into a fight with other kids at school and ends up beating a girl. I get disappointed and break up with him.
Even at this time, Dad would occasionally take out his VHS camcorder. While I was living in Canada, Dad took a long shot of himself walking alone on a winter beach, writing my name with his footprints, and showed the footage to me when I returned to Seoul. I remember feeling embarrassed about why he’d film such a thing. Dad was kind to me only when he was far away from me.

I start going to middle school. Mum is not happy with the friends I make.
She works late, until one in the morning, so our house is always so bright. The sounds of TV, dishwashing and Mum and Dad fighting–I can’t fall to sleep due to all the noise. I try to ignore the noise by listening to loud music. Grandma on Mum’s side passes away due to pancreatic cancer. Mum makes me sit down, who didn’t do the homework. She sobs, telling me that she should’ve taken care of her mum, instead of a girl like you and your dad’s mother.
My maternal grandmother farmed all her life, but now that I think about it, I wonder if she even knew how to read.

I started dating a boy who’s a year older, from the school band we used to play together. He waits for me every morning, and we hold hands at school. Once, I heard that he got punished by some crazy teacher, and he threw a book at the teacher. After that incident, I broke up with him. I can’t forget his disappointed look on his face, when I returned him his name tag.
I got accepted to a gifted students programme at a university in Seoul, and I go to lectures once a week. Dad doesn’t like the idea of it. It’s because I’m studying Earth Science. That year’s Chuseok, Dad watches the moon and makes a wish. “Please, don’t let my daughter study astronomy.” Mum comes into my room and tells me I smell like a feral animal on heat.
Mum and Dad get into an extremely bad relationship. Mum swears at me in the kitchen. “You’re so selfish, just like your dad.” Dad swears at me on the dining table. “You’re the same as your mum, not listening to me and talking back.” Helpless, silly bitch. A slut. Spoiled kid. I’m not allowed to close my door, so I lock the bathroom. I cut my arms and legs with an eyebrow razor and a box cutter. I cut my face, too. After that, they don’t insult each other over me. Mum grabs me, going out, to wear a cardigan in the middle of summer.
I briefly date a boy from private tutoring. We go to watch a movie together, but then, he returns my name tag. I probably had a disappointed look on my face.
Around that time, I make the conclusion that God does not exist. Instead, I buy newspapers and start going to protests quite often. Every time I do that, I get grounded by Mum.

We get notice letters of Dad’s drunk driving and speeding tickets multiple times. Dad loses his driving licence. Mum and Dad fight quite often with their bedroom door shut. Mum screams towards Dad, “Who the hell is this bitch!” Dad never allows me to touch his mobile phone. On his mobile phone, there’re always messages from hostess bars. It was when mobile phones started having cameras installed. There’re a few videos on his mobile phone. A young lady smiles, naked. Dad does some kinds of stuff to the lady.
Mum mumbles at me at a dining table. “Your dad swears and chokes me in sleep.” I still don’t know what that means. Since then, I dream of a random guy choking me, at least once a year.
I stayed up late studying since I decided to apply for a grammar school with a dormitory. I can only sleep about four hours per day.

I get accepted to a grammar school with a full dormitory. I leave home and start living in dorms. A day starts with Period 0 at 7:30 am, and ends with night study sessions until 11:30 pm. This school does anti-communism lectures to the students. Over the course of a year, a classmate, a friend from private tutoring, and a boy a year older from the after-school club ask me out, but I reject them all. I can’t risk being a topic of gossip in these dormitory walls. One of my classmates hates me. I get in fights with her and make peace multiple times, but eventually, she ignores me.
I email a music critic from a blog I used to read often. He, who’s a lot older than me, writes me back with his phone number. I keep texting him in the dorm room, head covered with a duvet. The critic says that I’m cute. He says that he’ll show me free gigs if I want to. But whenever I go back home every weekend, I have to stay and get tutored by Mum. I try to sneak out, go downtown. It gets chaotic, even though I’ve only been out for only a few hours. Mum screams a lot louder than she used to be. “The company where your dad works has gone bankrupt. Now, your dad’s unemployed.”
One Sunday evening, I don’t want to go back to school. I lock the bathroom and pour water into a cup, sobbing. I mix shampoo, shaving cream, and body soap into the cup. I wouldn’t have to go back to school if I drink this and get sick. I drink it all, but still return to school dorms and get nauseous all night. I realise: Since I was a kid, my dream was to get out of the home. But however hard I try, I won't make it. It’s better to run away.

Spring comes, and the new term starts. I run away from home. I call the music critic and stayed in his flat for a few nights. I run out of money quickly and call a friend of mine from middle school. He persuades me to talk with my mum. He says that he’ll protect me.
Mum tries to transfer me to another school, but I flee from the school we went with. I drop out of high school. Every morning, I visit a local library to borrow some books. In the afternoons, I go to a local painting studio. I have decided my favourite poet to be Bertolt Brecht. Mum asks me not to talk about the painting studio to Dad. I meet teenage activists working on human rights issues. We plan campaigns and go to protests together. I want to become an artist. Dad wants to kill me.

I run away from home again. I stayed briefly at a teenagers’ shelter. I join the Korea Socialist Party. All over Seoul, there’re anti-gentrification protests and bands playing gigs at squatting buildings all night long. One of the friends there makes jokes about Kim Jeong-il on Twitter and gets imprisoned. At these places, there're always older men who'd be friendly to me, and then sexually harass me. I get caught by my parents and go back home.
I run away again. I go all the way to Busan this time. I stand on the streets, listening to the voice of Kim Jin-sook, who climbed up the Crane No.85. That summer, I run away to Jeju Island via ferry. Here, there's again an older guy who'd be friendly to me, and then sexually harass me. He drives a car to nowhere and tries to touch me. Dad tells me that he met my friend’s dad and had drinks together. Dad tells me that he wants to pull out his tongue and kill him.
On my 18th birthday, I went to an anti-corporate protest at Seoul National University, and to an anti-gentrification protest in Myeongdong. My friends bought a cake and threw me a birthday party. On that morning, hired mobs come in and break down all the glasses.
When I go back home, Dad tells me that I’m all grown-up, so I’m no longer a daughter in this family. He also tells me to travel to Europe if I’m going to keep travelling. I visited Europe for two months. I walk in London, get on a train, get on a bus, eventually, I hitchhike all the way to Istanbul. In their cars, some people are kind to me. While some try to take me to nowhere and touch me. There’s a flight going back to Incheon from Istanbul. Back in Seoul, I keep going to protests and paint from time to time.

I get accepted at a national art school in Seoul. There’s a squatted gig space in the school club building. I start dating a guy who’s twelve years older than me. He has a mohawk. He also got about thirty tattoos all over his body. He refuses to use condoms, so I start taking birth control pills. Mum finds out about the pills. She screams at me: “Are you a whore? Get out of my house.” I run away again.
Now I have a place to go. I can sleep in the school clubrooms. I don’t go back home anymore. I eat school lunches, sleep with friends in lecture rooms. Older friends from school give me their clothes. One of my friends tells me that they’ve set up the tents at Seoul Square, so I can live there together. That summer, I broke up with a Mohawk guy, and travelled to the Paldang gentrification area to set up a tent there. Socialist Party gets absorbed into the New Progressive Party and I defect from the party.
In the fall, I come back to school. A guy I used to live with in Paldang calls me from a mental psyche ward. We used to know each other for more than a year, and I used to fancy him. He’s fifteen years older than me. He’s a fan of Belle and Sebastian. He’s been struggling with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for a long time. We promise to keep in touch when he leaves the ward. He does leave, and we keep seeing each other. He says: “Don’t get too stressed at your age. Before you get sick.”
I start a band with two friends. The drummer stutters. I don’t do hard enough for that term in school, and I get an academic probation. I saved up 2 million Won from my part-time job. With that money, I fly to Osaka and hitchhike to Hokkaido.
There’re less than ten days in this year that I’ve slept in a residential space. I’ve stayed at school clubrooms, lecture rooms, studios, basements, tents for most of the time. Nobody says anything to me.

I live in school studios, work part-time jobs, and play in a band. I fall asleep after four o’clock in the morning. The schizophrenic boyfriend often gets lost in touch. In the end, I don’t hear from him at all. I start dating another guy I met at gigs where I’m playing. He’s from Canada, just moved to South Korea to work as an English teacher. In the fall, I take time off from school and work full-time. To save up for deposit money to rent a room. I work six months, and save 2 million Won. I visited real estate agencies, but found out I can’t rent a decent room with that amount of money. I ask Mum to help me out on deposit money, but she declines as she can’t afford it, due to taking care of Grandma and my brother. She asks me if I’m up for living with Grandma.

A new school term starts. I still live in school studios, work part-time, and play in a band. I bleach my hair. I fly to Thailand with 8 hundred thousand Won to meet the boyfriend who’s gone to South Asia. In Thailand, he says: “If I take you to Canada, you’ll abandon me there and run away from me. I know you will.” I go back to South Korea. I can’t leave my bleached hair. I dye it. I bleach it again and dye it over and over. Until my hair melts off. I can’t change anything on my own, except my hair colour.
Every night at the school studio, I can’t go to sleep since my feet are freezing. I ask myself: “How did I get here? Why am I here? Why is nobody helping me?”

The boyfriend comes back to South Korea. He keeps on having sex with me, even though I tell him it hurts. I run away, without saying anything. I take time off from school in that spring and try to find a job. It’s hard to find anything since I don’t have a stable place to live. The drummer friend who used to stutter seems like he’s gotten better. Since he’s better, he gets enrolled in the military. So I stop playing in a band.
That summer, I fly to Osaka to see one of my friends who’s gone on a Working Holiday in Japan. We get hammered together, and she starts talking to me, sobbing. “Come over to Japan. It’s good here.”
I return to school in the fall and stay living in the school studio. I plan to take time off from school again next year, and get a Working Holiday Visa to Japan to get a job there. I save up working part-time.
One weekend, I went back to my hometown to see my parents, and we went out to eat. We have a pork BBQ. Suddenly, Dad yells at Mum. People stare at us. I look at Dad and say: “Dad, is Mum your servant or something?” Dad looks at me like he’d kill me. Like he always used to do. Mum gives me some money and asks me to get an icecream and go back home.
Next morning, something feels wrong in my stomach. It feels like a rock monster is drilling my intestines. Since then, when the clock hits eleven in the morning, I can’t eat anything. I get either diarrhoea or nausea. When I put my fingers in my mouth and try to vomit, only air comes out; since there’s nothing I’ve eaten. It gets worse when I go out. It’s the worst in tiny indoors. I stop going to the cinema. In the end, I can’t get in subways, buses, or even the elevators. Every medical exam I’ve taken shows nothing serious, so I start taking antidepressants.

I arrived in Tokyo with a Working Holiday Visa. I keep getting nauseous on the flight and the train there. I found a place to live in Koenji. It’s a shared flat, 50 thousand Yen per month. For the first time in my life, I rented a place with my name. I rotate jobs on dishwashing at an Izakaya, a Yakiniku restaurant, a bookstore, a hostel, I end up working at a franchise language school as a Korean teacher.
Most of the students who’re learning Korean are women. They’re learning the language because they either like Korean culture, or have Korean boyfriends. “I like Blackpink. I like SEVENTEEN. Song Hye-kyo is pretty. Korean food is delicious. I’d like to visit South Korea next year. I want to move to South Korea and become a K-POP idol. It was busy last weekend; I had a family reunion. My son wouldn’t listen to me. I had a fight with my husband.” I prepare every class, with a sore stomach.
“Hitomi, what did you do last weekend?”  “I did a Kuchikenka with my boyfriend.” “Mal-da-toom. Why?” “I’m working at a department store. I want to quit my job and go to Seoul. I want to go there to learn Korean. But my boyfriend opposes my plan.” Hitomi’s boyfriend is Korean. “Hitomi, you should go to Seoul. I support your decision.” Hitomi did really quit her job to go to Seoul; and enrolled on a short language course.
That summer, I got introduced to a band by a friend of mine. We all became good friends. In that group, I quite like the bassist guy. He’s from Akita, has pretty eyes and likes to read. But we don’t keep in touch in that way. He’s quite famous for living in a filthy flat. I want to get a normal job in Tokyo and live a normal life there. I don’t want to talk about things that happened in the past to others.
Instead, I meet another guy at a bar, and we start dating. He’s fifteen years older than me and works as a fashion designer in Tokyo. He’s from Akita, has pretty eyes, but doesn’t read much. From time to time, I sit down at his flat and cry alone. I get hormonal disorder due to taking antidepressants, so I get my blood tested.

I applied for an exchange student programme at an art university in Tokyo, and started the term there. The school campus looks decent, but something’s different. I miss my home university back in Seoul.
I study there for half a year and I have to go back to Seoul; but I can’t. I can’t go back home. Every time I think about home and my hometown, my stomach hurts again. I decide to enrol at a language school for another half a year and look for a job. I plan to find somewhere to work and then go back to Seoul. I study at the language school in the morning; I work at a start-up in the afternoon. On the weekends, I visit career fairs. I can’t meet my friends, and I can’t rest at all. My period stops for half a year. I have lost contact with my boyfriend since I’m too busy. I work as an intern at a broadcasting station. I stay late in the office.
I meet my boyfriend after a long time. I’m not sure what relationship we are in, but we have a Christmas party together. We start arguing. “I want to go back to the art school in Seoul. I’ll go back and do my best to graduate.” The drunk boyfriend says: “You can’t go back. Shut up. What are you talking about? Go back to your flat.” He pushes me and kicks me. It sounds like he’s telling me to go back to my country.

I give up everything and decide to go back to Seoul. I get in touch with my friends; It's been a while. Before leaving Tokyo, I got to visit the bassist friend's flat. Tons of trash are piled up; I can’t see any parts of the floor. Hundreds of empty beer cans in the bathroom. Countless cigarette butts and empty plastic bottles. I dig up the trash; cardboard papers are lying on the floor. There’s a poem written on cardboard. I know what to do. I write a clean-up questionnaire diary for him; so he can clean up his flat on his own.
I arrive in Seoul and meet Grandma for the first time in a while. She lost her weight and is talking gibberish. Dad is losing his hearing; he started wearing a hearing-aid device. Mum’s eyesight is deteriorating rapidly. I return to school. I start living together with an older friend from school. We used to share the school studio together. No deposit money, three hundred thousand Won per month. It’s a really good flat and the flatmate is also a really nice person. She paid the deposit money all by herself, so I could live there without any. I stay in touch with a friend living in a room full of trash. When I think about it, he’s an alcoholic. But my ex-boyfriend was also an alcoholic. Dad was probably an alcoholic, too. I became an alcoholic in Japan. I start going to therapy sessions in school.
Since I can’t forget about him, I call him from Seoul. I listen to his story. His hometown, his family, his infant older sister. I fly back to Tokyo to meet him again. He cleans up his flat after the questionnaire diary I’ve written for him. It takes about three months for him to clean the flat completely. I shoot him cleaning up his flat with my camera, even though he’s uncomfortable about it. We promised to get married when I graduate. I edit a documentary out of the footage I’ve shot in Tokyo.
I dream similar dreams over and over. I’m sitting down in a room full of trash, facing my friend. We’re grabbing each other’s hearts in our hands. It’s glistening red. The room full of trash collapses.
The title is ⟨Golden Week⟩. I’ve named it after the period of the film shot—it was the Golden Week holiday. At the end of that year, I argue over the phone with the friend, who’s now become my boyfriend. “Why are you making that kind of documentary? I don’t like it.” The professor says to me: “Jooyeon, life is long. Get a master’s degree.”
For a year, I suffer from difficulty breathing and drumming in my ears. “Doctor, I hear my heartbeats in my ears whenever I’m nervous. I feel like there’s something in my ears. Could you examine my ears, please?” I always feel like I’m on the verge of a cliff.

I graduated and got a job at a public museum as a curatorial coordinator. It’s a good job. The colleagues are especially nice. It’s hard from time to time; but it pays well and there's a lot of things to learn. With that salary, I pay my credit card debt, buy a bedframe, and fly to Tokyo to shoot a follow-up documentary. I feel like I’m departing further away from Tokyo every time I visit there.
An artist couple I used to know a few years ago dies of suicide together. There’s no funeral; people are just standing at a morgue.
I keep applying for a master’s degree. I get accepted into one in London. But I can’t talk about it to Mum and Dad. I’m not sure how to pay for it. I promised to go back to Tokyo to marry my boyfriend, but I’m not sure how to do that either. Mum’s eyesight is getting worse and worse. She might lose her eyesight. Eventually, I defer to go to London.
Instead, I take a week off in the winter and fly to Europe. It feels like I’m totally alone, on the opposite side of the earth. I change my mind and re-apply for a master’s degree. I try to get therapy, but I give up since it’s too expensive.
I keep working at the museum, write poems in lunch breaks, and stay at the office until late evening to edit the documentary. After finishing ⟨Witch Wander Whistle⟩, I feel like I’ll never be able to go back to Tokyo.

There’s a pandemic called Covid-19. There’s the first confirmed case in South Korea. All the flights between Japan and South Korea are cancelled. ‘Surely, we’ll be able to travel again after a few months, right?’ There’s a student who got accepted to a university in Japan but can’t enter Japan at all. I hear a story about a girl who married her Japanese boyfriend to meet him again. I get accepted to several universities for a master’s degree.
The museum shuts down; all the tasks cease temporarily. I quit the job and work as a short-term freelancer for an upcoming exhibition at the museum. I move to a studio flat, with a deposit of 5 million Won and 4.4 hundred thousand Won per month. I get a small space for a studio.
Grandma passed away due to a heart attack, only a few months after she moved into a care home. It’s been 17 years since her first hospitalisation. She was known for being a problematic patient due to her temper. She used to swear and bully the caretakers or fellow patients. After her death, we found out the care home used to prescribe her dementia treatments. When we’re burying her at a cemetery, a grave keeper yells at Dad since he can’t quite comprehend the conversations. I stare at the grave keeper like I’m going to kill him.
Grandma divorced Grandpa a year after their marriage with an infant. She found out that he already had a family from another marriage. Dad was born around Yongsan US military base and grew up with his grandparents. A long time ago, Grandma used to run a candy shop at Namdaemun market, where she sold smuggled candies from the US military base. When Dad was a university student, she married a Canadian and vanished to Canada. She got a divorce again and came back to South Korea a few years after that. Until her death, she spent most of her life with my family.
We decide to sell her flat. She left some savings and cash discreetly. With that money, I can study in London quite comfortably. I ask my boyfriend who’s left in Japan. “Let’s get married and move to London together. Let’s go somewhere else, neither Tokyo nor Seoul. I’m going to get a master’s degree, and you can work there. After the degree, I’ll take care of you; so you can get a degree too.” He declines. He asks me to come back to either Tokyo or Seoul. I fly to London all alone. I rent a room and take online lectures in the lockdown city. I get invited to a film festival and group shows online. I start therapy sessions online, with support from the university. I shot two short films that year. I shot ⟨The Ermines⟩ and ⟨Back To Back⟩ simultaneously.

I finish my dissertation. In summer, I visit a cinema for the first time after a year. I watch ⟨Nomadland⟩. In London, I make friends, I move, I throw a birthday party, I start skateboarding, I go to museums, I go to parks and compliment pretty dogs. I sometimes think about the artist couple who died from suicide together. I start working at a bar, quits and get a job at a cinema, and work there twice a week. I can watch movies for free there.
Mum had me in 1993 when she reached the age of 28. I had my 28th birthday this year.
It has been about two years since I haven’t met my boyfriend in Tokyo in person. He tells me he’s going to fly to Okinawa to work there. He refuses to take my calls. We get into a huge fight. I think this is all over. I briefly meet another guy. He’s a kind person. But I once wake up from a nightmare; he’s choking me in my dreams. He tells me that we shouldn’t see each other anymore; so I get angry but instantly get calm.
For the first time ever; I’m alone in London. I don’t take antidepressants anymore. I don’t feel like I’m on the verge of a cliff anymore. My head and stomach don’t hurt anymore. I don’t find it difficult to breathe. I don’t get ear infections.
I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t finish any documentaries and films that year. Such a shame. I think about all the things that have happened to me; whether I’ve made them up in my mind or not. Whenever in doubt, I write poems. And I accept that everything’s nothing but the truth.

I’m 28 and half but I’m actually 30 years old in Korean age. I know that my parents’ health will not get any better than this. I sometimes text Mum. I don’t stay in touch with Dad nor my brother. Now, I don’t particularly hate the hometown I grew up in. But still, I don’t want to visit my parents’ house if I don’t have to. I decide to stay in touch with the boyfriend who’s left in Japan. The Canadian boyfriend has become a firefighter back in Canada. I grew to listen to Belle and Sebastian quite often.
I currently live in South London with three other flatmates. I decide to hang out with friends more on the weekends. I take a shower everyday so I don’t smell bad. Recently, I’ve been reading ⟨Sleepless Nights⟩ by Elizabeth Hardwick. I go to BFI or Prince Charles Cinema at least once a week. Most of the time, I go alone.
In the future, I’m probably not going to get married, and will never have children. Sometimes, my back hurts. Everytime I go to bed, I focus my best to fall asleep.


이주연은 사회적 고립, 국경을 넘는 친밀감, 노동 불안정, 기술 발전, 산업 독성학과 몸 정치학 등을 포괄한 광범위한 리서치와 인터뷰를 바탕으로, 분석적이면서도 시적인 논픽션 무빙 이미지를 연출한다.

Jooyeon Lee works with analytical yet poetic non-fiction moving image with expansive research and interviews to capture urban alienation, intimacy across borders, labour precarity, technological progress, industrial toxicology and body politics.