Michael Vince Kim was born in Los Angeles, CA to Korean parents, but relocated to Argentina at a young age. He studied Film Directing at Fundación Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires and holds an MA Honours in Linguistics from The University of Edinburgh. He later went on to receive an MA in Documentary Photography from the London College of Communication.
His work concentrates on issues of migration and identity with a focus on the Korean diaspora in post-Soviet states and Latin America. He is the recipient of the Magnum ‘30 Under 30’ Award and the 1st prize in the People Stories category of the World Press Photo 2017 Contest.
2017 - World Press Photo, 2016 - Magnum Photography Awards, 2016 - Royal Photographic Society Postgraduate Bursary, 2016 - Viewfind Visual Storytelling Grant, 2015 - Magnum Photos ‘30 Under 30’
In 1905, around 1,000 Koreans arrived in Mexico aboard the SS Ilford. They had departed an impoverished country falling under the crutches of the Japanese Empire, and were promised future prosperity in a paradisiac land. However, once they arrived in Yucatan, they were sold off as indentured servants.
They were set to work in henequen plantations under harsh conditions, harvesting an agave known as Yucatan's green gold. They worked side-by-side with local Mayans, often learning the Mayan language in preference to the Spanish of their masters, and many went on to marry local Mayans.
By the time their contract ended in 1910, Korea had already been incorporated into the Japanese Empire. With no homeland to return to, they decided to stay in Mexico. Some went on to seek work elsewhere in Mexico and in Cuba.
In 1937, more than 172,000 Koreans were forcefully deported from the Russian Far East to Central Asia as part of Stalin’s ethnic cleansing. 40,000 Koreans died during the monthlong journey in precarious and overcrowded cattle trains and the harsh Kazakh winters following the relocation. They were left with no means of survival; starvation and illness became commonplace as they lived in earth dugouts while ordered to grow rice in the desertic Kazakh steppe, far from the distant shores from which they came.
The Koreans eventually assimilated to Central Asian culture. Their archaic Korean dialect, inevitably mixed with Russian, has almost disappeared. But despite many decades of isolation, they retained a sense of identity as ethnic Koreans alongside traditions and rituals that are still practiced in the Korean peninsula today.