Liquor Store Dreams – An Authentic Angeleno Story by So Yun Um

Table of Contents

Who is So Yun Um?

So Yun Um is a Korean American Filmmaker and Digital Content Producer born and based in Los Angeles. She explores the intimate stories of marginalized people through her poetic visual language and poignant editing style. 

Currently, So Yun Um is working on her documentary feature film, LIQUOR STORE DREAMS, which is about second generation Korean American children of Liquor Store owners in the LA area. 

Her work has screened at Palm Springs Shortfest, LA Asian Film Festival, San Diego Film Festival. So has also programmed films for AFI FEST, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, LA Film Fest and more.

so yun um liquor store babies
Photo: Andrew Kang

How Did You Get Started with Film?

“Growing up, the television was my babysitter. Being a latchkey baby, I was always tuned into the screen. While exploring my creativity through video and photography, the film ‘Requiem for a Dream’ was the initial spark for me, kicking off my journey as a Korean American filmmaker.”

“The visceral impact Requiem for a Dream had on me created this great desire within to create stories that had a similar impact on the world. Although I was creating random short films for several years, it wasn’t until Visual Communication’s “Armed With a Camera” film fellowship that forced me to channel my inner identity. That’s how I made my short film, Liquor Store Babies.”

so yun um do si rak
Do-Si-Rak (A Korean Bento Box, this one has rice, egg, kimchi, dried seaweed, and spam)_

What Was it Like Being Born and Growing up in Koreatown LA?

“I was actually born in a small hospital right on Koreatown. Being born and growing up in Koreatown was a defining time in my life. When I attended elementary school I remember having my parents pack me Korean food for lunch (do-si-rak). Being immersed around other Korean Americans like myself really helped me embrace my Korean American identity.”

“It wasn’t until I moved to Torrance that I realized how much of a privilege it was growing up immersed in Korean culture. After moving to Torrance I remember meeting other Korean Americans who weren’t as deeply rooted and proud of Korean culture. At times, they would be surprised that my parents packed me Korean food for lunch and even made snarky remarks about its smell. That was the moment I realized that I was really fortunate to grow up feeling unapologetically Korean.”

So Yun Um Liquor Store Dreams
Photo: Liquor Store Babies - Screenshot

How Has Koreatown LA Shaped Your Identity?

“My formative years growing up in Koreatown really shaped my identity and work. Although, I still wanted to make films that had a visceral and emotional impact on people, I also realized that it’s through the exploration of my cultural identity that would create a deeper and lasting impact.”

Photo Still from Liquor Store Dreams

Liquor Store Dreams - Feature Film In Post-Production

We received such incredible feedback about Liquor Store Babies and people kept asking if I was going to make a longer version. It wasn’t until I knew there was more to the story that I decided to make the feature length film called Liquor Store Dreams.”

“Liquor Store Dreams is an intimate portrait of two Korean American children of liquor store owners in Los Angeles. Tracing through the ’92 LA Uprisings to the current BLM movement, the film examines the generation and political divide between the parents and children of liquor store owners. We are currently in post-production and plan to release the film through film festivals sometime next year in 2022, which will be the 30th anniversary of the ’92 LA Uprising.” 

Photo: LA Mag

Favorite Things to Do in Koreatown LA?

“I am actually quite allergic to alcohol and rarely eat meat so I would say that two of the Korean past times, Korean BBQ and drinking, are unfortunately not on my list.”

“For me I absolutely love getting a massage at Serene Thai Massage, but my ultimate favorite thing to do in Koreatown LA is watching movies at CGV Cinemas on Western Ave in Madang Mall. The high quality cinema experience, Korean films, and the garlic flavored popcorn is so good! Definitely try the split flavor popcorn and their different fruit-ades!”

Photo: Humans of VC

So Yun Um's Message to the World

“If I could share one message with the world it’s to be unapologetically yourself. No two person’s experience is the same and everyone has a unique story to tell. Believe in yourself and who you are. Through my work, I hope I can make people to feel and be seen.”

Find Out More from So Yun Um

Share Her Story and Support Her Upcoming Feature Length Film Liquor Store Dreams today!
Photo: The Light Leaks
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