November 29, 2006

November 29, 1970

The man on the right is my wife's haraboji (grandfather).

Haraboji was born into a wealthy family in what is now North Korea. His parents, like their parents before, were strong Christians in what was then still an overwhelmingly Buddhist country. He rarely fails to mention this. "5 generations of Christians. Very strong," he will say. The family lost everything including their names to the Japanese (he went to Japanese schools and still can speak the language), but he bears little bitterness. After World War II his family recovered their house and some land, only to lose everything again to the communists. He joined the anti-communist army and fled south, almost losing his wife and children in the chaos. Eventually he ended up working for the US Army as a translator and continued working for the Americans through the rest of the Korean War and into Vietnam...

The date on this snapshot leads me to believe it was taken in Vietnam at an on-base store. Maybe it was meant to be sent back to Korea as a holiday greeting. Haraboji had 5 daughters before he producing a son. Jenn's mom is the third daughter. The entire family moved to the states a few years after this picture was taken. He is now in Philadelphia where he lives very close to four of his daughters (his wife died 3 years ago).

A more patriotic American you will not find although his dream is to go back to the village where he grew up. "My house was made of wood and looked out at the mountain. Very beautiful house." he says, "I dream about my village. We will go back soon... after North Korea is finished. I want to see my house."

posted at 02:22 AM by raul

Filed under: things korean

TAGS: 1970 (1) dreams (11) family history (1) haraboji (2) north korea (5)


11/29/06 01:02 PM

My older brother contends my parents have an unwaivering sense of Americanism in their worldview all-the-while maintaining a romantic notion of Korea.

This weekend I interviewed my dad for an oral history project. When asked about his experience in the military, the story most poignantly recounted was, having gone out on a mission in the mountains in the middle of the DMZ, coming across a mountainside covered in blazing azalea flowers, which he later compared to descriptions written in Korean poems.

Contention confirmed.

11/29/06 05:07 PM

kang-dae's story made me cry. I know I'm seven months pregnant but korean stories always make me cry.

11/30/06 12:22 PM

These are great han stories.

11/30/06 12:34 PM

I always obsess over pictures like this one. I know nothing about my past except that I was found on the doorstop of an orphanage in Pusan. My parents adopted me at the age of 18 months and I grew up in Minneapolis. Even though Korean stories are often sad, you're lucky to know them. I can only imagine.

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