The Project:  Arirang, Our Land
Documentary film, Publication.


The Project

North and South Korea are considered disparate entities, divided by a line. This demarcation line is perceived as a point of tension, whilst for many Koreans it is a grim reminder of deep and personal loss...

The song 


아리랑, 아리랑, 아라리오. 
아리랑 고개로 넘어간다
나를 버리고 가시는님은
십리도 못가서 발병난다

Arirang, Arirang, Arariyo.
Crossing over Arirang Pass.
The one who abandoned me
Shall not walk even 4 km
before their feet hurt.

다큐 영화와 출판
Documentary film & Publication

When we think of Korea in the 21st century and in the latter part of the 20th century, we think of South Korea and North Korea as being two disparate entities. We think of South Korea’s much fancied pop culture and North Korea’s tyrannical communist goverment ruled by our good fella Kim Jong Un. Divided by a line, the demarcation line is often perceived as a point of tension, whilst for many Koreans it is a grim reminder of deep loss and also an opportunity for reunification.

‘Arirang, Our Land’ is a non-linear documentary film that explores the Korean folksong, Arirang, where its image of hope becomes central to bridging the gaps between the Korean diaspora, and the nations' past, present and future.  Challenging the distorted Western perceptions of Korea, this film aims to offer this group more culturally nuanced understandings of their ethnic homogeneity in spite of their ideological division– extending beyond the understanding of their rather complex relationship as being grounded upon a mere matter of policy. Whilst the future for North and South Korea remains unknown, ‘Arirang, Our Land’ seeks to encourage active participation in discourse around their reunification.


아리랑 노래

The Arirang song

A treasured folksong,
A symbol of resistance,
hope and survival. 


The Arirang is a quintessential Korean folksong and is also considered the unofficial Korean anthem shared by both North and South Korea. It’s iconic stature in contemporary Korea originates from its percieved part in providing great strength and power in resisting against its oppressive past– namely, the Japanese colonial occupation and the Korean war. Hence, it’s a song that embodies the spirit of the Korean people and yields the power to unite all as one.  Whether it is sung as a happy song of reunion, or as a song of loss and sorrow, the Arirang has become a mode of expression and an inseparable part of the Korean culture. The Arirang song acts as a thread in the film, weaving together the individual stories to create the one collective Korean story. 

︎ Listen to the ︎Arirang song here


타큐 비디오와 책 

Documentary Film & book

‘Arirang, Our Land’ is a fictionalised, non-linear documentary film that has been separated into three main parts: The Introduction, Past and Present and Present and Future. The structure of the film was informed by the script, which was created earlier in the process of generating paper edits from the interview* transcripts. To get to the final film, the project went through an iterative* process of generating different visual responses to the structured script. Though these didn’t make the final cut, they made major contributions to my evolving thought processes.

As only a few selection of the interviews were used for the final film, an additional book was developed to present a complete set of these stories and delve further into details of the film’s context. Designed as an extension of the film, this book has been contextualised to exist within this fictionalised realm I created– thereby adopting a similar style as the film. The ‘Arirang, Our Land’ publication seeks to bring further clarity to the purpose of the film, and solidify the audiences understandings of the presented narratives and visuals.

* Interview: Read more about the interviews
   in section (III) of the About page

* Iterative: Check out the visual process!

아트 디렉션

Art Direction

Drucker (2011) highlights visuals as knowledge producing forms. She remarks on the need to interrogate the subjective nature of these forms and the knowledge that is transmitted to the viewer. This is an idea further explored by Shim and Naber (2013) who underlines the power of visual representations in imposing political detriments to one’s cultural image. Making a link to the Western media’s portrayal of North Korea, Shim and Naber argues the problematic nature of the presented visuals which enforce ideas of ‘bleakness, madness... poverty, scarcity and weakness’. That is, by endorsing a biased, status-quo orientated view of the nation’s identity (Shim & Naber, 2013, pp.292).

Taking the research into consideration, this project focused on presenting visuals that stay true to the Korean culture– visuals that could empower and give voice to its people. The interviews and film script therefore directly informed the visual approach taken for the project. 

‘I’ve always prayed for Korea’s reunification... I felt nervous when I watched South Korean president
Moon Jae-in meet up with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on TV...  when they shook hands,
It gave me hope that perhaps, this reunification could occur before I die. There’s something I have on
my bucketlist... and that is to take a train from Seoul to Russia– because to get to Russia, you have
to pass through North Korea’.

- Extracted from an interview with Mr. K Kim

Using Mr. K Kim’s interview as an example, an imagined train ticket to Pyongyang was created earlier on in the process as a direct visual response. This further gave form to the structure of the film where certain objects corresponded to particular sections of the interview. These were also used as props for creating the film set. The picture frames of Kim Jong Un shaking hands with Moon Jae In seen in the film, too, was informed by this particular interview. Such an idea was integrated through appropriating the portraits of North Korea’s supreme leaders,– seen in an average North Korean house– further commenting on the future that lies for Korea’s reunification.

아리랑 노래방 인트로

The Karaoke style introduction

Part 1 of the documentary film was inspired by the Korean noraebang (karaoke) culture. Growing up in Australia, hanging out with Korean friends meant that we would hit up a local Korean noraebang and sing our absolute hearts out for a good solid hour.  This was a cultural experience however, that was very different to ones I shared with my non-Korean friends at school. Afraid of being ‘too’ Korean, it was something that I hid from them. Reflecting back to these memories, the introduction video aims to embrace the beauty of such a culture by presenting the Arirang song in the form of a traditional, retro-style noraebang video. It invites all Koreans to sing along and immerse themselves within the film– and for other audiences, encounter a new cultural experience. 

Pictured: Introduction video inspired by Noraebang (karaoke) videos

프로젝트 안에 ‘나’

Situation myself in the project

As a first generation immigrant, my cultural upbringing was influenced by the Korean values, and beliefs upheld by the parents. With both grandparents coming from a ‘North Korean’ background, the issues concerning the two Koreas have been one that I’ve always kept close to my heart. Exploring notions of the Korean diaspora, I situated myself within the project by combining aspects of my own Korean Australian identity with the more the traditional features of the Korean culture. The film set therefore, was inspired by the odd Korean features of the ‘Australian’ home I grew up in, as well as the ‘old’ Korean homes of the earlier 1900’s. Foreign yet familiar, the film showcases simple everyday activities in a quite unique manner. These have been recontextualised by the stories of the Arirang, giving new light and meaning to what we consider to be a ‘normal’ part of our lives. The purpose of this was to capture feelings of hope and longing through what we find familiar within the confines of our own homes.

‘아리랑 우리땅’ 진

‘The Arirang, Our Land’ Zine

In outlining the significance of each item, an additional smaller zine was created to communicate these ideas beyond the film. As the film is quite abstract in nature, this would help clarify the purpose of each object– both in its visual terms and relevance to myself and the stories being told. In explaining the context of each object, poems were written in Korean to add to the poetic nature of the zine.  The significance of the Hanbok, the traditional attire of the Korean people, is highlighted through the example poem written below. The Hanbok, worn in the film was the dress my own mother wore for her wedding back in Korea. 

엄마의 결혼 한복

붉게 달아오른 볼에

빨간점 두개를

설렌 마음으로
부모님 앞에 절을
초록과 빨간색으로
물든 한복

이날을 기억해.

노란 상자에 곱게 접어
설레었던 마음을,
기뻤던 순간을
오래 오래 간지하려...


붉게 달아오른 볼,

하얀눈이 아닌
자외선이 강한 태양

아래에 크리스마스를

‘엄마 이거 뭐야?’

오랜세월 열어보지 못했던
잊고 있었던 노란상자를...

‘Is it too short on me’

Mum’s wedding Hanbok

Rosy cheeks,
Two red dots,

I bow in front of my parents,
wearing the Hanbok
dyed with bright greens
and reds

I think back to this day. 

Folding it neatly back
into the yellow box,
that nervous feeling
that happy feeling,
to be kept forever...


Rosy cheeks,
No snow,
spent in
the scorching heat,

‘What’s this Mum?’

The forgotten yellow box
I haven’t opened for so long...

‘Is it too short on me?’

Pictured: Pages from the small zine 

메이킹 영상

The making of the set

The process of building the set took a total of five days. The following video outlines this process through the form of a fun tutorial video. This video aims to show highlights of this making process.


Mark Baby me wearing the Hanbok on the same blanket seen in the film Pictured: