There was a hidden hero who kept the Korean community in Cuba alive since 1921. It is the late Jeronimo Lim Kim. Thanks to his contribution, some 1,000 Korean-Cubans are still gathering together to learn Korean and sing the national anthem.
The life of Jeronimo, a 3rd generation Korean-Cuban who was born in 1926 in Cuba, demonstrates the history of Korean-Cubans. Jeronimo took the role as a leader after he was invited to the 50th World Koreans Festival in 1995 and visited Korea for the first time. He decided to rebuild a Korean community in Cuba and helped his sister Martha Lim Kim, who was a philosophy professor, publish a book called “Koreans in Cuba.” He also founded a Korean school by working with missionaries. Koreans in Cuba started to learn Korean songs such as “Encounter” or “Spring in My Hometown” after that.
His long-cherished wish was to establish a Korean community. The Cuban government required to prove that there were Koreans living in Cuba to establish an official community. Jeromino drove around the country to meet other Koreans. He even put an advertisement on local newspapers and erected a monument commemorating migration of Koreans in Manatí and El Bolo in 2001, the 80th year since Koreans first moved to the country. The monuments are both headed west towards their motherland Korea.
Jeronimo died in Cuba at the age of 80 in 2006. It has been 98 years since Koreans started moving to Cuba, but the Cuban government still has not given permission to establish a Korean community.
Korean citizens will soon be able to find more about Jeronimo as Korean-American director Jeon Hoo-seok’s documentary film “Jeronimo” is to be released in Korea this year.
Jeon funded the film through crowd-funding and visited 17 cities of four countries, including his four-time trip to Cuba, to film the documentary. He interviewed 70 people including Korean-Cubans, missionaries and historians. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and monk Beopryun sponsored the film.
“I wanted to talk about diaspora. Currently there are 8 million Koreans living abroad,” said Jeon, who is currently visiting Korea to meet with Korean film distributors. “I wish we could ponder on the new definition of ‘Korean people,’ which could include those who live abroad.”
Hong-Gu Kang firstname.lastname@example.org