While some scholars rely on written journals and essays to present their research, David Chung uses visual art to convey his work on topics such as diasporic populations and cultural assimilation.
Chung’s work has been exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian Institution, Boston Museum of Fine Art and many others. Although strongly interested in filmmaking, he also has ample experience creating multimedia installations, drawings, prints, paintings and animation.
“I’m very interested in how powerful visual images can be,” the professor of art and design said. “The language of images, and how things such as history, an emotion, or an idea, can be expressed through the visual language.”
Chung was born in Germany, but due to his father’s foreign service career he grew up in Korea, England, Tunisia, Kenya and the United States. His experience with a vast array of cultures and places can be seen in his work, which includes paintings, documentaries, multimedia pieces and illustrations.
Chung received his bachelor of fine arts degree in 1988 from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, and later completed his master’s degree at George Mason University in 2002.
After college he quickly became involved in the filmmaking industry. He started as an assistant to different filmmakers, and also started a small freelance filmmaking company.
“It’s really hard in the beginning, because no one knows what you can do,” he said, regarding his introduction to filmmaking. “But when people saw that I was good at what I was doing, word spread quickly. That early training in filmmaking really stayed with me until later in life.”
After about five years of working under other filmmakers, Chung became interested in showcasing his own work. He began to exhibit his prints, drawings and multimedia installations.
At the same time he was producing his own documentary films. They include “Koryo Saram,” which won Best Documentary Award from the National Film Board of Canada. The film addresses the first ethnic cleansing in the modern era, namely the displacement of Korean people living in far east Soviet Russia.
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“It’s a story that’s not very known in the U.S.,” Chung said. “So I became really interested in these Korean people who were deported because they were Korean, and how they held onto their culture and identity as Korean people over the years.”
His connections to both the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design and the Nam Center for Korean Studies are evident in one of his current projects, a study of North Koreans living in South Korea.
In addition, he is also helping co-produce films and conduct training with human rights activists in Myanmar. Chung helps coordinate workshops that produce short films on human rights activities and concerns in the country, such as access to clean water and the plight of young children who are forced to work in lieu of attending school.
“I like working with filmmaking because it’s very collaborative,” Chung said. “You get to work with other people to make the film, which I think is interesting.”
What memorable moment in the workplace stands out?
While filming in a remote area of Kazakhstan, our hosts presented me with a pheasant as a gift.
What can’t you live without?
My family and kimchi.
Name your favorite spot on campus.
What inspires you?
My wife, Linh.
What are you currently reading?
“On Desperate Ground — The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle” by Hampton Sides.
Who had the greatest influence on your career path?
My mother and father.