With the prevalence of the internet, it seems like we all have a million different ways to tell a story. However, you don’t have to look far back in history to find a time and a place where oral stories were the main form of passing information.
Through our stories, we are able to pass on information about our hopes and fears, as well preserve the history and traditions of our cultures.
However, stories also need to be told so we can learn from them. If stories of tragic events and hardships in people’s lives go untold, then how can the world keep improving?
These facets of continuing a culture and of avoiding making historical mistakes are what drives Victoria Kim in her research.
Victoria is from Uzbekistan. She currently lives in China, and she has also lived in the US and South America. Her work focuses on the issues of Ethnic Korean Diaspora in Central Asia and the former Soviet Union and much of her research comes from oral stories.
Released in 2015, her multimedia report titled ‘Lost and Found In Uzbekistan: The Korean Story’ tells the story of Ethnic Koreans living in Uzbekistan through the use of pictures, text and, most importantly, videos of the people telling their individual stories.
She explains why this is important “hearing them [the stories] is the most important thing actually […] so that people can really hear those stories and see those people as if those people were telling the stories to them themselves.”
She has a very personal reason for her interest in preserving these oral stories; her grandfather is Korean and he and his family were forcibly moved from their home to Uzbekistan.
In an ironic twist considering considering the importance she puts on oral stories, she learned very little about these experiences directly from her grandfather. In fact, he rarely talked about them, perhaps, she guesses, because the memories were so painful and also because he was worried she wouldn’t understand.
However, since starting her research she has learned a lot of the details of what he and others like him went through from stories told by other people who went through the same things.
She looks at things that are happening now in the world and realizes just how important the stories she is trying to tell are.
“We live in a very difficult and complicated world and over thousands of years, we still have the very same problems we had in the very beginning. War is going on and there is an exodus of people and forced migrations of people even now.”
It for this reason that she believes the story of her grandparents and others like them is important. She thinks that it goes beyond a story that should be important only to people of Korean heritage, and onto one that should be important to people no matter where they are from.
“It doesn’t matter if it is Koreans or Syrians, these are human beings who are still suffering and I think telling these stories and learning about these stories is important. As human beings, we all react the same way to the bad things and the good things. We suffer in the same way, we are hungry in the same way, we feel pain in the same way, we are happy in the same way, we love in the same way.”
She believes that it is only by sharing what happened in the past and continually learning from it will humankind ever fully be able to learn from past mistakes.
“I think the more people that learn the stories, the more people will think about it a little bit and hopefully in our present and future, we will have a better world altogether. We will try not to repeat the mistakes of the past and we will try to maybe take care of each other and build a better world through peace, love, and cooperation.”