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4. Grandfather's Dance

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My Story

2020. 12. 3.

Upon the news of his return, his parents came out of the house on bare foot. They slaughtered a pig and had a big party with relative and neighbors. His cousin urged him to make a speech. He got on the podium at the school yard and told the town’s people that the North Korea invaded the South unlawfully and started the war. However, the South was winning and they would defeat the communists. Soon after the speech, he had to leave. He left the home once again without knowing that he would never return.

 

He assumed a severe punishment was waiting for him. His commander never mentioned it. There was more urgent matter to take care of. Chinese came to rescue the North and joined the war. The allied force was forced to retreat.

 

When he visited his family, he took medical supplies, combat rations, and other military supplies to his parents. He also gave his father, my grandfather, all of his savings. The money was lot more than the amount he took when he left for Manchuria. 

 

Grandfather hid the money and supplies in a large pottery buried underground. He often took them out and looked at them. (My father heard about it from his siblings when he visited North Korea several decades later.) The family was afraid of the punishment they would face if the communist party found out about the money and supplies. They took them to the local officials and voluntarily gave them to the government. The same money might have been used for the spy work during the cold war.

 

Allied force gave up Seoul in January, but they regained it in March. After that, the war got stalled around the 38 degrees parallel and, eventually, they agreed to cease the fires. According to the government report of 1953, 618,721 people came down from the north and stayed south. Only a handful of them ever saw their family in north again. Those numbers are decreasing rapidly. They are getting old and dying. 

 

My grandfather found out his daughter was pregnant. He inquired whereabout of my father and went to his military base. My parents met again and got married. Their old wedding pictures remind me of the movie, “An Officer and a Gentleman.” My father in his officer uniform and mother in her dress are walking down the aisle lined up with officers in white uniforms. 

 

The baby was born pre-matured and did not survive. It was a boy. So, technically, I am not the first son. I had an older brother. The next born was my sister.

 

My mother’s family and her uncle’s family were living in a small house together. After the marriage, my father bought a house in Kwan Hoon Dong. My grandparents moved out and lived with my parents. Grandparents and the aunt, my mother’s younger sister, lived in the house in Kwan Hoon Dong while my parents were moving around his military bases in Pho Hang and Jin Hae.

 

I was born in that house in Kwan Hoon Dong. The day I was born, grandfather danced around,  so I heard. He was the oldest son and did not have a son to carry his name. I was the son he was eager to have. There is an old picture of me in the yard of the house in Kwan Hoon Dong. The boy is standing on his feet. It is the only proof that I was once able to walk. 

 

When I was two and a half years old, I got polio in Mok Po where my father was stationed. I believe in fate and destiny. Father was the commanding officer of the regiment and was stationed close to DMZ. One day, a solider who got into a trouble ran over to the north. Then, he came on the broadcasting and denounced the south. Military authority heard about it, demoted my father from colonel to lieutenant colonel, and transferred him to Mok Po. While he was in DMZ, I was living in Kwan Hoon Dong with my mother. Maybe I could have avoided meeting the polio if father did not go down to Mok Po. 

 

Per my mother, one day, I woke up from the usual nap and could not stand up. I could not even move my arms. My mother took me around to the doctors in Mok Po. None of them even knew what it was. Finally, one of them advised my mother to take me to the bigger hospital in Seoul. 

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