Let me first introduce my family to break ice. There is James, my father. Heena, my mother, and my older sister Esther, who lives with her husband Junho and their two lovely daughters, Eliana and Lina. Then there is me. Dongbin.
I abhorred my name when I was younger. As much as kids are naive, they can be meanest fucking shits. It was always my close friends who would make fun of my name. Looking back, I was never bullied or actually had a bad time because of it, well sort of.
It was hard during classes. I always felt ashamed when teachers would do a roll call. I held my breath until my name was called which squeaked a little ‘yes’ out of me. Imagine doing that for eight times a day. Was not fun.
Well, apparently that didn’t really enter into my parents’ mind when I was born. James is a hard working man but is whatever-he-wanted-to-do kind of a dad, and Heena painted for most of her life professionally. Again, did not go well together. But they immigrated to the States and for some reason, decided their second born would all of the sudden just have a Korean name.
Why? Because they didn’t want me to lose Korean heritage. Or so I heard. But then again, I only found out that my name isn’t actually Dongbin. On my birth certificate, my parents wrote Dong as my first name and Bin as my middle name. But they just called me Dongbin – as a one word – because that’s how Korean names usually work. And I only found out about it when I went to college. So you could tell how reliable my parents are when it comes to my name.
I wasn’t much of a studious type in high school. I liked spending time with my friends, playing soccer, or rocking out in a shitty garage band. But out of all, I enjoyed taking pictures with my parents’ barely used Pentax P50 that I found one day. Family camera (Sony digital camera) was always mine, and my cell phone was barely used for calls or texts.
Back then, I didn’t really know about cameras and their technicalities. I took a film photography class in high school but dropped out because I didn’t want to spend $20 on contact sheet materials. Anyways, I was disinterested in camera themselves and would take whatever camera I had – whether it be the P50, Sony Cybershot DSLR-looking digital camera, or even my phone – and strolled around in Boston. Spending lazy afternoon after school in the streets, looking at people as they went about their lives, made me happy and those are one of the only memories I tend to keep.
Jumping to more recent years, I came to Korea in December 2014 and have been living here ever since. Korea completely changed my life. I traveled to more countries ((Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong twice, East Timor, Indonesia, and Philippines four times) than I have ever before in my entire life (China twice and Mongolia), worked on many joyous film projects, experienced living in the Capital city and even in a mountain valley in the biggest island of Korea. I released my documentary in selected theaters in Korea and became a member of Directors Guild of Korea. And now, I just moved to Iksan, a small city located three hours away from Seoul to save up some money to work on my next film project.
Starting with this post, I hope to share with you pieces of my life. Most of the posts will be published on my website (see below for link) so if you want, you could be an overachiever and read more there. But I will hand pick topics to simultaneously write here and on my site. And most importantly, y’all must be very curious of Josh! Well, I’ll be sharing all about him too. So hold tight and enjoy the ride!
Dong Bin Kim
Film director and photographer from (near) Boston, MA. Currently a member of Directors Guild of Korea (running committee member). Based in South Korea. Uses Leica X1, Canon Ixus 900ti, and Ricoh GR (2007) interchangeably.