Yeong-Ung Yang | "Bus-kkun"

Country of origin: South Korea
Project location: United States
Program: Magnum Foundation Fellowship
Year: 2013

“Bus-Kkun,” and informal Korean term which means a group of people who ride the round-trip casino bus more than two times a day without having a job or a home, encompasses a number of middle-aged Asians who take round trip buses from Flushing, Queens to the Sands casino in Pennsylvania. They receive game vouchers which they secretly sell to gamblers as a means of survival.

More than 50 buses depart from Flushing, and hundreds of the bus-kkuns are taking advantage of this bus trip as a means of survival. Bus-kkuns who often suffer from health issues and no family support are trapped in this endless ride. Some gamble after collecting profits made out of exchanging vouchers, but eventually ride the bus to compensate for the loss of money.

“We need to survive. If you have money, a casino would lead you to death; but, if you have no money, casinos could save your life,” said Mr. Chin, a Korean from Samyang, China who has been riding the casino bus for 13 years, ever since he was injured on a construction site.

Yeong-Ung Yang is an NY Emmy award-nominated photographer and filmmaker, currently working for Newsday as a multimedia producer. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Yeong-Ung focuses on documenting underreported stories that lay beneath the front pages. Works include a 7-month long video coverage of the Kurds in Iraq (2006), Asian immigrants riding casino buses as a lifeline(2013), and “Unvarnished,” a front-page New York Times series (May 2015), year-long in-depth investigation into the exploitation of nail manicurists who work primarily in Korean-owned salons. Series won Pulitzer Finalist in Local Reporting (Apr. 2016). Yeong-Ung co-directed a Love, mommy, a 30-minute PBS documentary film about a formerly incarcerated woman who is battling custody of her daughter(2017). He also worked with The New Yorker magazine, New York Times Op-Docs; as well as ABC network’s Lincoln Square productions.