The Korean War was not very long, compared to the other known civil wars around the world, but it was very important for Korean people. After the loss of Japan in World War II Korea seemed to be freed and should have been a single, united country, sharing the same traditions and developing in one direction. However, the fact it was divided along the 38 parallel after the failure of successful democratic elections is evident, and it changed the entire Korean history. Same people were living in the place where their ancestors lived, but now the North was under the influence of the communists, i.e. Soviet Union, while the South was developing democracy, supported by the United States. Three years passed, and the war was about to end, troops were called back, as no more action was going on and a peace treaty was signed. My grandfather, who served in the army of the democratic Korea, was going back home, to his family and friends, when the plane was incidentally shot by the friendly fire, a rocket launched to prevent the intervention of the paratroopers – later some people in charge were fired for making such a huge mistake.
It was a blow to our entire family. Since Korean society is based on the patriarchal principles, my father, who was the oldest of the grandfather’s sons, had to take over and become a leader of the family. Compared to a traditional western approach, where he would have to take care of his children and wife only, he had to accept the destiny and became responsible for my grandmother’s mother and his own siblings. Before that, my father and mother moved to America, looking for the better life, and a chance for their children to grow up happily, skipping the possible military conflict part. Since a family should live together, my father’s mother and siblings moved to the US, and we became a big, united family once again.
My life experience as a child was very different from the one most Korean kids have. I was growing up in America, learning the culture I lived in, and becoming less and less involved in my native culture and traditions. Luckily, I had my grandmother, who was really good in teaching, although she never worked as a teacher. It was her unique skill of telling the stories, explaining the meanings of certain names of the holidays and just getting me interested in the culture of my ancestors. My grandmother told me a lot the history of our family, especially about the Korean War, the way it started, lasted and ended. This was a really challenging task for her to tell about my grandfather, whom she really loved and his loss was her life-long drama that could not ever end. She used to tell me about the way people in Korea spent weekends and holidays, and tried to compare this to the time spending in the United States.
Her stories were great, but the most important thing about them was in making conclusions. First grandmother summarized everything for me, but later, when I became a teenager, she taught me to use critical thinking , analysis and comparison, as she wanted me to understand that failing to know one’s past would eventually lead to repeating of the history. I had a perfect understanding of the fact that I was a representative of a new generation of Koreans, and it was my duty to keep the history and never let the dramatic events take place again. My living in the US did not matter as long as I had the needed knowledge I could have shared with other people, teaching them important lessons, and preventing the events that would harm the lives of millions of people.