He did not have any relatives in Manchuria. It was not easy to make the living there. He found a job in a store in the market place. He worked for the room and the food. He was fluent in Japanese and people suggested him to join the Japanese army. Japan was in the war and, sooner or later, they would draft him. So, he joined Japanese army in Manchuria. In few months, he got used to the military life. Japanese was losing in Pacific. They decided to send the army in Manchuria to the Pacific.
He could have died in the unknown island in the Pacific. In August 1945, Japanese surrendered. They lost the war. A few month later, my father returned home by ship.
His parents were so happy to see him again. They did not care that he took the money. Their happy reunion did not last long. The communists were waiting for him. He had to make a decision. He had to cooperate with the communists or leave home once again. One day, his mother asked him to visit Seoul in South Korea. She wanted him to take his cousin to Seoul.
My grandmother, his mother, was from ‘Hong’ family. Her father had some wealth. He had one son and sent him to Japan to study. Since he was the only son, he wanted to have grandson. He married his son when he was 15 years old. The wife was older than him and she was from the neighboring town.
During summer vacation, he came home and stayed for few weeks. She got pregnant and gave a birth to a boy. Next vacation, she got pregnant and gave a birth to a daughter. But he never liked his wife from the country town. He was living in the big city, Tokyo, and fell in love with a woman there. After the war, he came back to Korea with her and was living in Seoul. The old man thought it would be better for his grandson to go and live with his father in Seoul. But he did not feel comfortable sending him alone. He wanted someone to keep him company and protect him. He wanted my father to take him.
Father’s uncle, his cousin’s father, was ‘Hyung Eh Hong’ who found Chung Gu University in Dae Gu. He was an anarchist and he introduced Esperanto to Korea. Esperanto is a constructed international auxiliary language. With an estimated two million speakers worldwide, it is the most widely spoken constructed language in the world. We called him ‘Dae Gu Great Uncle.’ He died before he reached sixty. His son, my father's cousin, claimed that he was lynched because of the financial conflict of the private foundation he was involved.
Initially, father was reluctant about his mother’s request to take his cousin to Seoul. He had unpleasant childhood memories of the old man. When he visited his grandfather’s place, he was not treated well. His aunt, cousin’s mother, used to give white rice to her son and father-in-law, and gave beans and wild rice to my father. If there were any tasty snacks, the old man called his cousin to the side and gave them to him.
Nevertheless, he was not happy at home and thought it would not be a bad idea to take a trip on the grandfather’s expense.
There was ‘38 degree’ line drawn between North and South Korea, and people could not travel freely. They had to pay for a smuggling ship. The ship’s engine broke down in the middle of the sea and it floated with the current. In few days, they ran out of the water and food. Father saw a woman followed a sailor to the dark room of the ship and came out with some food later.
There was some ice stuck on the empty water container. Father’s hand was too big for the crack on the container to reach the ice. His cousin had a smaller hand. He put his fingers thru the crack, picked up a piece of ice, and always offered it to my father first. “You first, cousin!”
They were saved by a passing fishing boat and reached the land of South Korea. Two cousins never returned to their home again.
Another tough life was waiting for my father. It was hard to meet the ends. He found odd jobs here and there. One day, he saw an announcement they were recruiting for the Coast Guard. He applied. He was young, strong, and had a military experience with Japanese army. He was selected.
Soon after, the Coast Guard became Navy. He found out he had a handicap. He had sea sickness. Sea sickness for a Navy officer! Did they say the heaven helps those who help themselves? He found another opportunity. They were founding Korean Marine Corps and looking for the volunteers. He became an officer for the Marine Corp.