...claudine ko

So Yong Kim
Paper Magazine, April 2008

There's a scene in So Yong Kim's first feature film, In Between Days (2006), in which the main character, Aimie, a teenager who has newly immigrated to the U.S. from Korea, gives her pseudo-boyfriend a homemade tattoo. In reality, the setup is co-opted from the summer after So's freshman year in college, when she was going to night school for art. "This kid [in my class] was like, 'Hey, I made this tattoo machine last night with batteries -- do you want to try it?'" the 39-year-old Brooklyn-based filmmaker/artist explains. "I was like, 'Sure! It's awesome you made a tattoo machine -- let's go!'"
Like Aimie's, So's adolescence was interrupted when her single mom decided to leave their native Pusan, South Korea. Only it was 1979 and they ended up in the L.A. suburb of Covina, a "cultural dead zone," where So had a penchant for ditching school, and had to get good grades to keep her mother from finding out. In the 30 years since, she's earned a business degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and an MFA from Chicago's Art Institute, spent two years in Iceland making a film with her partner/husband Bradley Rust Gray, lived on an anti-fascist commune in Berlin, and given birth to a baby girl. "It's kind of corny," So says during a break from editing her new Korean-language feature, Treeless Mountain. "Life has a different context somehow. It's like a chocolate cake that has another layer of chocolate. It's getting really rich... I just hope I don't get fat."