Doco shows plight of migrants who lost everything in quake

By Lincoln Tan

Lee Kyung Mi and Jung Sin Suk say they're counting on their insurance money to give them a new start
Lee Kyung Mi and Jung Sin Suk say they're counting on their insurance money to give them a new start

Two South Koreans went from having just $300 to owning two restaurants in Christchurch - only to lose everything to the February 22 earthquake.

Jung Sin Suk and Lee Kyung Mi's story has been documented in a film essay, which will be screened in next month's New Zealand International Film Festival.

But after last week's two more big quakes, the couple, who are now again broke, say they want to quit Christchurch and are hoping that insurance money they will receive for the damage to their two restaurants will let them start over again somewhere else.

"We have had enough of the earthquake and we just want to move somewhere ... anywhere in New Zealand except Christchurch," said Mr Jung, who worked in the fishing industry in Korea before moving here.

The couple came to New Zealand with their two sons in 2001.

"I couldn't believe that I was as naive as my two young kids when I came here, thinking my husband could get a job at a local fishing company because of his experience and network," said Ms Lee in the interview for the documentary. "Because we were struggling with finances, we fought over small things. We couldn't even afford to take our kids to McDonald's."

Mr Jung scoured rubbish dumps for things that they could use, including old computers, shoes and bags for the children.

They managed to raise enough loan money to buy a small cafe. Ms Lee used its premises to produce kimchi, and began supplying the popular Korean spicy pickle to Korean restaurants and grocery shops throughout the city.

Soon, they had enough to buy a second - and larger - restaurant, and were in the process of looking to buy a third when the February quake struck.

"I couldn't believe we have lost everything, and have to start all over again," Mr Jung said.

"I hope the insurance money will be enough to move somewhere else."

Before the February quake, about 5000 Koreans, including 1500 international students, were living in Christchurch.

But Mr Jung said thousands had fled the city since the tragedy.

Auckland University-based film-maker Kiyong Park said the couple's "never-say-die" attitude inspired him to base his documentary film on their Christchurch experience.

"It is really hard for migrants to start a new life away from their home country, and to have everything taken away a second time is really a huge double-blow," Mr Park said.

The documentary, Moving, will screen at the NZ International Film Festival which will run in Auckland from July 14 to 31.

- NZ Herald

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