Words of Wisdom from the Rainbow State

Journalist Lee Jin Young, who was born and raised in South Korea and has lived in Hawaii for 15 years, explores the history of the Korean immigration to Hawaii. The first Koreans landed on Hawaiian soil on January 13, 1903, marking the start of the Korean immigration to the Americas. What drove them to leave their homeland and come to this faraway and exotic land?

The first generation of Korean immigrants in Hawaii toiled in the sugarcane plantations under the beating sun. They supported the independence movement in Korea from afar and established schools as they took root in the multiethnic society of Hawaii. Today, 118 years since the first 102 Korean immigrants arrived here, upwards of 70,000 Koreans live in Hawaii. They are among immigrants from all over the world who intermingle in the Rainbow State.

The colors of the rainbow are each different and vibrant in their own right, but more beautiful as a whole. Lee Jin Young interviews five direct descendants of the first generation of Korean immigrants in a look back on the lives of our ancestors, recording their wisdom so that it will not be forgotten. This is to shed light on, and more fully understand, one of the colors of the Hawaiian rainbow that is Korea. This documentary also discusses the values toward life and towards one another in this unique time of ethnicism in the midst of a pandemic.

The submitted link consists of six episodes of Words of Wisdom from the Rainbow State: The prologue episode plus a compilation of five interview episodes.

The prologue episode is a short documentary about the history of Koreans in Hawaii. It includes an introduction to the following Interview with local Korean descendants in 5 episodes;

Episode 01
We meet with third-generation Korean American writer Gary Pak in a botanical garden on the island of Oahu. His grandmother Ok Soon Lim was a so-called ‘picture bride’ who came to Hawaii from Korea in 1910. The writer provides profound insight into the words of love passed down by his grandmother, who raised a dozen children in a foreign land.

Episode 02
Harry Kim is a household name on the Big Island of Hawaii. The former mayor of Hilo was born as the youngest among eight children from a sugarcane plantation worker and a picture bride from Korea. The role of his parents was crucial in Harry’s becoming a leading Hawaiian political figure.

Episode 03
The former Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, Ronald Moon, discusses his grandfather’s arrival in Hawaii from Korea a century ago. Like others in those first waves of Korean immigrants to America, they carried little more than their culture, their values and a strong work ethic. Moon says: "I have no reservations in saying that if not for my parents’ teachings and values, I certainly would not be here."

Episode 04
Michael Lim, a violinist of the Hawaii Symphony, tries to learn more about his great-grandparents. From the viewpoint of their great-grandson, we gaze into the lives of this courageous couple and their legacy in the history of the Hawaiian Korean community.

Episode 05
The season finale for WWRS begins quite far away from Hawaii. Jinyoung goes to Incheon to retrace the footsteps of her ancestors from 120 years ago. At the Museum of Korea Emigration History in Incheon, she meets Daisy Yang, who shares words of wisdom passed down from her grandparents and parents, adding that "love will protect you from all harms."

  • Project Title (Original Language):
    무지개 나라의 유산
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    52 minutes 5 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 30, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    93,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English, Korean
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Tagore International Film Festival
    October 21, 2021
    Debut Filmmaker
Distribution Information
Director Biography - JINYOUNG LEE WON

Words of Wisdom From the Rainbow State is Jinyoung Lee Won’s debut work as a director. Born and raised in South Korea, she moved to Hawaii in 2005.
Majoring in Journalism at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea, she was captivated by the beauty of Hawaii on her first visit and decided to move to the islands for good the next year.
She has worked in radio and as a news anchor for a Korean television station in Honolulu. Also, she has written multiple books on Hawaii and her essays on life in Hawaii have earned her accolades in the Dongsuh Literary Awards and the Overseas Koreans Literary Awards. Currently, Jinyoung is an editor of Hana Hou! Korean edition and also a content creator for Hawaii Tourism Korea.
She is the winner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Digital Contents Competition, which was a significant contributor to the production of Words of Wisdom From the Rainbow State.

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Director Statement

We meet with five third-generation Korean-Americans living in Hawaii to hear about the language of wisdom that were passed down to them by their first-generation immigrant parents and families.

This is a recording of the past whilst seeking direction for the future, and will be an encouraging and inspiring message to the younger generations of today who are trying to navigate an uncertain present.

I personally have lived an ambiguous existence as an outsider in this foreign land, neither fully Korean nor fully Hawaiian. The wisdom of the first Korean immigrants ancestors in Hawaii have helped me to understand how differences and love do not have to be disparate, but can and have worked together in the Rainbow State.