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Japan and Korea have had a troubled relationship over the centuries, and discrimination against Korean residents in Japan has been legendary. But how important is the issue of race to a younger generation born and raised in the country? Tetsuaki Matsue, a third-generation zainichi attempts to get to grips with the issue of his own national identity in this autobiographical video documentary made as the then year-old director's graduation project from the Japan Academy of the Moving Image.
Annyong Kimchee begins with Matsue confessing to a group of assembled friends "I'm not really Japanese, I'm Korean" before an evening session in a Karaoke box. To his surprise, none of them seem particularly fazed or concerned by the revelation. To Matsue, however, this newly awakened awareness of his roots seems to be causing some degree of angst.
The fruits of a Korean bloodline, yet unable to speak the language of his ancestors due to having been raised in the country of the "chokpari" a derogatory term Koreans use for the Japanese , any feeling of latent Korean-ness is further tempered by an innate revulsion for that spicy staple of the Korean diet, kimchee. After a brief backtrack through history detailing the Japanese colonisation of Korea from to where Koreans were forced to assume Japanese names and work in Japan, for the bulk of the film he adopts the format of an intimate family portrait as the assorted clan of parents, aunts, uncles, and grandmother are interviewed about the first family member to come over to Japan, Tetsuaki's now deceased grandfather Yukichi Matsue born Yu Chon-sik.
It is clear from this personal history that times have changed a great deal in the decades following Yukichi's arrival not speaking a word of the language. As he strove to completely assimilate into Japanese society, amazingly he soon managed to successfully pass himself off as more Japanese than most Japanese, and a valuable pillar of the local community.
Yet to his dying day, he was forced to carry the alien registration card. After the young Tetsuaki returns from a trip to the village of his grandfather's birth in Korea, camera in hand, his various family members are quizzed as to which country they feel they most belong.