Flee­ing War in Korea

It took time, benev­o­lence and a mi­nor mir­a­cle to fi­nally ar­rive in Canada and be­gin a new life

Our Canada - - Coming To Canada - by Won-ok (Grace) Kim, Mis­sis­sauga

In the sum­mer of 1947, mem­bers of the Com­mu­nist party knocked on our door with­out no­tice and or­dered us out of our home and off our prop­erty, tak­ing with us only the clothes we wore. The sole rea­son for our evic­tion was that my par­ents owned a very large (and cov­eted) farm­land prop­erty in Seon­cheon, North Korea.

Our fam­ily was dev­as­tated, but we quickly de­cided to es­cape to South Korea with the hope of find­ing a new life. We made a long trip to the bor­der area and waited un­ob­tru­sively un­til dark to avoid the eyes of the many bor­der guards. Af­ter cross­ing suc­cess­fully, we made our way to the near­est sea­port. To our dis­ap­point­ment, there was only one small boat avail­able to take us to South Korea. Our fam­ily of nine mem­bers had to split up! Six got on the boat, while my grand­fa­ther and my mother de­cided to make it to South Korea via a dan­ger­ous route through the moun­tains. Grand­fa­ther car­ried me, two years old at the time, all the way on his back. Only by God’s mercy did we all ar­rive safely in South Korea. We were then taken to a refugee camp in Seoul, where our fam­ily set­tled in and strug­gled to eke out a liv­ing.

Three years later, in June 1950, the North Korean mil­i­tary forces sud­denly in­vaded South Korea. My fa­ther and my grand­fa­ther were killed by a bomb ex­plo­sion and my un­cle was kid­napped.

On Jan­uary 4, 1951, Seoul cit­i­zens were in­formed of an evac­u­a­tion or­der by the gov­ern­ment. Once again, the re­main­ing mem­bers of our fam­ily sep­a­rated for safety rea­sons.

My des­per­ate mother took me and ran to the Seoul train sta­tion, which was over­crowded by refugees, and the train was al­ready full. But a very kind per­son helped us climb up on the train’s roof, which was also full. Late at night, our train ar­rived at the city of Bu­san. A few days later, a dock-land­ing ship of the U.S. Navy ar­rived at Bu­san har­bour, and we were among the count­less refugees who were trans­ferred to Jeju is­land. We were placed in a tiny shel­ter with ten other fam­i­lies.

For our sur­vival, my mother had to work ev­ery day from dawn to dark, and I was left at home alone. I of­ten fol­lowed some of the older kids, look­ing for some­thing to eat, like grass roots, flow­ers, wild berries, grasshop­pers and pupa of silk­worms that were roasted over a bon­fire. This type of food of­ten gave me bad tummy aches.

One day, I fol­lowed the older kids to a refugees church and I joined the Sun­day school. It was there


your fam­ily’s story about com­ing to Canada at our­canada.ca or see page 64 for our ad­dress.

I heard about the “Good News of Je­sus Christ” and I be­lieved in Him. My young life took on a new mean­ing and I felt heav­enly joy and peace at the church and every­where.

In 1953, the Korean War drew to a halt, and my mother and I were among the refugees who got taken back to Bu­san. Once again, my mother and I lived in a tiny room in a large shel­ter. My mother worked long hours for our very sur­vival. Even though hos­til­i­ties had ceased in the de­struc­tive Korean War, the

poverty as­so­ci­ated with post-war liv­ing con­tin­ued much longer.

In the early sum­mer of 1956, my mother was sell­ing some items at a street cor­ner in the mar­ket area and I went there to visit her. At that mo­ment, a woman who we did not know ap­proached us with com­pas­sion and cu­rios­ity. My mother shared our life sto­ries with the woman, as well as her con­cerns for my fu­ture, es­pe­cially her abil­ity to sup­port my ed­u­ca­tion. The lady kindly in­structed my mother to de­liver my photo to an of­fice ad­dress and walked away.

My mother fol­lowed the lady’s in­struc­tions and, in De­cem­ber of the same year, I re­ceived a lovely Christ­mas card with a note from Gerry and Tessie Parkyn of Vic­to­ria, B.C., Canada, say­ing they would like to be my spon­sors through the Save the Chil­dren Fund or­ga­ni­za­tion (SCF). My mother and I were over­joyed by their love and kind­ness. The Parkyns kept in touch with us reg­u­larly by mail, send­ing us let­ters, photos, small gifts and monthly funds.

The SCF’S pol­icy was that the spon­sor­ship of a child is ter­mi­nated when he or she reaches the age of 16. The Parkyns were very dis­ap­pointed to hear about this and didn’t want to let me go. They earnestly ne­go­ti­ated with the SCF’S ad­min­is­tra­tor in Bu­san, and an ex­cep­tion was made for them to keep spon­sor­ing me. They put me through univer­sity and I grad­u­ated with a B.A. de­gree. Af­ter that, I taught in a Bu­san mid­dle school for two years.

One day, won­der­ful news came to me that the Parkyns were try­ing to ar­range for an adult adop­tion to bring me to Canada. The ar­range­ments were suc­cess­ful, and on April 28, 1970, I ar­rived at the Van­cou­ver air­port, where my adop­tive par­ents and their daugh­ters warmly greeted me. They gave me a wel­come present of a sil­ver tea­spoon and a beau­ti­ful cor­sage, and took me to their lovely home in Vic­to­ria. The spec­tac­u­lar scenery of Bri­tish Columbia, and around their home, over­whelmed me—i felt like I was in par­adise.

The love of my adop­tive par­ents made an in­deli­ble mark on me. My life bloomed fully as I grad­u­ally ad­justed to Cana­dian life. I re­al­ized the many op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to me in this great and peace­ful coun­try, Canada.

I met John Kim in Van­cou­ver and mar­ried him on June 16, 1973. We are blessed with three lovely daugh­ters and three adorable grand­sons. My hus­band—a pas­tor—and I served as min­is­ters in Canada for more than 20 years, and as mis­sion­ar­ies in Ja­pan for three years. We are now re­tired and liv­ing in Mis­sis­sauga. I am very proud to be a Cana­dian and I give spe­cial thanks to my God for His mir­a­cles that brought me here.

Clock­wise from top: Won-ok at a daugh­ter's wed­ding (2016); with her mom, Ui-sook Lee; her adop­tive par­ents, Gerry and Tessie Parkyn; Won-ok, age 10, in 1956.

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