15 December 2005

Friends and Neighbors in Defeat, Korea, 1945

CHIN MYONGHUI, (f) b. 1932, housewife, South Hamgyong Province:
My father had lived in both Russia and Japan. When he returned to Korea, he got a job teaching in Wonsan, South Hamgyong Province, and became principal, which was very unusual for a Korean. Almost always, school principals were Japanese.

Because of Father's high position, we lived in a Japanese neighborhood and my best friends were Japanese. I did not know or use any Korean language at all, not speaking or reading or writing.

After liberation, the Koreans said my father was pro-Japanese, a running dog, because he was so high up. They almost lynched him. Then the Russian army came, and they wanted someone who could speak Russian to help them out. Father said no. So because of these two events, he fled to south Korea, leaving the rest of the family in the north. Later we made our own way to the south.

KIM P. [ANONYMOUS], (f) b. 1931, housewife:
When the war ended, everyone stopped using Japanese and started speaking Korean again. I was young, and I had never spoken Korean in my entire life. Since I didn't know a single word of Korean, I repeated the sixth grade just to learn to speak my own native language.

YU TOKHUI, (f) b. 1931, housewife, South Ch'ungch'ong Province:
I noticed that the Second World War upset the entire social order of our village. My uncle had many servants and they all knew their places, but when the war required the young men to be drafted into the Japanese army, every young man was taken, servants and yangban, all went together, and it blurred the hierarchy. Everybody's fate was the same, so they all became equal. Because of that, after the war, many of the servants moved out of Uncle's house and moved to other cities. The old order crumbled.

PAK SONGP'IL, (m) b. 1917, fisherman, South Kyongsang Province:
On August 15, I finished ferrying doctors out to the troop ship in the Pusan harbor, docked my boat, and went upstairs in the office building. I had no idea what had happened. I saw the Japanese workers in the office wailing, banging on the desks, banging the floor. I can see them today in my mind. These very ones who had been so sure they were invincible. The next thing they did was drink themselves into a stupor. They went crazy. It was the tragedy of a nation in defeat.
SOURCE: Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, by Hildi Kang (Cornell U. Press, 2001), pp. 145-146

No comments: