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11. Aunt and Her men

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My Story

2020. 12. 13.

After my father retired from the Marines, mother started working with him. I thought that was the reason why they sent me to the grandparents'. My father had a different version. He told me grandfather insisted taking me with him. He did not want to lose the connection with his daughter’s family. Since both of them, father and grandpa, passed away now, I have no way of confirming what was the truth. Nevertheless, I spent several years of my childhood at the grandparents’. I went back home for few months, then we had to move again, and I was sent back.

 

Father took his military retirement pension in a lump sum. Mother felt sour about it for the rest of her life. She said it was a small amount then. The monthly pension payment kept going up. Around the time father passed away, his friend, retired colonel, was collecting approx. $3,000 a month. 

 

Father’s first business was to loan money to people in market place. They borrowed the money and paid it off daily with the interest in 30-60 days. Someone needed to go around the market place and collect the money every day. My father recruited his cousin who fled North Korea with him in a smuggling ship and another distant cousin. 

 

Business did not go well. The borrowers were those who could not get the money from the banks. They skipped the payments, and sometimes they ran away. If they could not make the due payments, father’s employees took anything valuable such as audio system or watch from them. Some customers were female prostitutes. Sometimes his cousins slept with them in lieu of the daily payments.  

 

Soon, father had to close the loan shark business. Next, he got into real estate business. He bought a house in Ik Sun Dong, fixed and sold it for the good profit.   

While we were at that house, my aunt, mother’s sister, got re-married. The man was ‘Byung Hyun,’ who was my father’s military messenger. They had Korean traditional wedding at home. My parents got into their Korean traditional bride and groom’s clothing and took pictures. 

 

My aunt had several men in her life. Before her second marriage, she was dating a man. He was known as “Mr. Park.” I believe he worked at American military base in Korea. She used to go to Tae Neung shooting range with him and brought me empty shot gun shells. He bought me a cheese set. Once he took grandma to a western style restaurant in Yong San American military base.  

 

Probably he was a married man. Their affair ended as my aunt got re-married. 

 

Her second husband, Byung Hyun, worked for the customs in Kun San Port. He did not wear uniforms and worked in the customs office. He was an investigator. In 1960s, Korean consumers did not have much to enjoy. People smuggled, electronics, cigarettes, liquors, and luxury items. People are still the same. We all want to have what we cannot easily have. People who used to want American made while they were in Korea now want Korean made in America.

 

Aunt’s second marriage did not go well, either. Once every few months, I heard her calling my name under the window facing the alley. She took a train and came home. Next morning, grandfather gave her a long lecture, grandma gave her some money, and she went back in a couple of days. 

 

At the end, she got separated. She did not have a child with him and never registered the marriage. So, once they got separated, that was the end. Actually, that was not the end. Ten some years later, they got reunited. That story is for another chapter. 

 

Father made some money from the real estate. He bought land in Ku Pa Bal, built a house and moved in. At first, there was no electricity. Soon after we moved, the neighborhood got the power. Later, they built a large tract homes for the media reporters in the neighborhood. 

 

Father’s female cousin suggested him to move to the south of Han River, Kang Nam. If he listened to her, our family history would have changed. Kang Nam, then, was under-developed town. They used to keep and take care of horses there. It was covered with muddy soil and you had to have a pair of rainboots to live there. His cousin, we used to call her “auntie,” bought some land and moved there. She made huge profit and became really rich. My mother and grandpa contributed to the decision not to go to Kang Nam. They insisted living within the boundary of Seoul. Ku Pa Bal was very close to Seoul. Also, it was close to North Korea, father’s home. All of the above influenced my father to go to Ku Pa Bal instead of Kang Nam. 

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