Letter from My Aunt to My Uncle

Today marks the 67th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, which ended the fighting of the Korean War, and I thought I would share a letter from my aunt (my paternal grandfather’s older brother’s daughter) to my uncle (my dad’s older brother). My grandfather and my great uncle (my grandfather’s older brother) were originally from China’s Shandong province. They went to China’s northeast as migrant workers when it was under Japanese occupation, and eventually found themselves in Japanese-occupied Korea. They both lived in Huichon, Chagang Province until my grandfather decided to move to Seoul. Little did my grandfather know, however, that Korea would be partitioned along the 38th parallel in 1945 and that he would never see my great uncle again. Within a few months of the Korean War breaking out, Huichon was bombed flat by UN forces led by the US, and my great uncle, with his wife and two children, went into hiding until they were discovered by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army and were advised to return to China.

Decades later, my great uncle’s son searched through records and eventually tracked down my uncle (my dad’s older brother), and the extended family that had been separated for decades resumed communicating. Unfortunately, both my grandfather and my great uncle had passed away when contact resumed. For those who wonder why I take foreign aggression towards the Korean peninsula seriously and perhaps emotionally, maybe this very personal letter, translated into English by me, sent from my aunt (my great uncle’s daughter) to my uncle (my dad’s older brother) on November 12, 2000, will provide you with a better understanding. If the propaganda that’s currently being churned out has you supporting further imperialist aggression towards Korea, I hope you think of the people whose lives will only worsen and also think of the families that would be destroyed or separated, just as mine was over half a century ago. For the original Chinese text, scroll to the bottom.

Cousin [my dad’s older brother, my uncle — Xiangyu],

Allow me to share with you my personal story. I was born in Huichon, Korea [present day north Korea — Xiangyu] in 1943. It is a beautiful city and I would often play up in the mountains during the summertime. I was my father’s first child, so I was much loved by the entire family. Uncle [my grandfather — Xiangyu] often sent clothes and food products from Seoul. My brother was born on August 27, 1945, so Uncle only knows my name is Chunxia. Father and uncle were unable to contact one another after Liberation Day [August 15, 1945 — Xiangyu] as one was in south Korea and the other was in north Korea. At that time, my father worked as a senior carpenter in a construction team. In 1949, he opened a restaurant in Huichon and the family became better off. When the Korean War happened in 1950, my father became seriously ill. The night after the train station in Huichon was blown up, we relocated to a valley where we took asylum with the help of the Chinese community. In October, the People’s Volunteer Army arrived to the valley where we resided and, following the soldiers’ advice, we embarked on a long trip back to China. Father was only able to walk with great difficulty while leaning on crutches. We wore cloth shoes while traveling through the ice and snow while I carried food on top of my head and the whole family’s clothes on my back. Mother, with her bound feet, traveled while carrying my five-year-old brother. We traveled for three whole months, escaping death amidst the flames of war as bombs were dropped from planes. We completed paperwork in Sinuiju [border city in Korea across from China’s Dandong — Xiangyu] to return to China. We crossed the Yalu River Bridge while bombs were being dropped and arrived in China on December 31st. We did not have a single bed at the time and had nothing besides the thin clothes we wore; we did not have food to eat. To this day, I remember the scenes of difficulty very vividly. We moved in 1951 to Shenyang to live with my father’s cousin, Zhong Shishan, and continued to live challenging lives. Father became sick in 1958 and his condition worsened in 1962, when he began receiving treatment at the hospital until his death in April of 1967. My brother and I grew up in this arduous environment; as impoverished children, we matured quickly. I graduated from secondary normal school in 1962 and began working in education as an elementary school teacher. My brother graduated from high school in 1964 and began working then.

Okay, I’ll stop here for today!

Cousin [my aunt — Xiangyu]

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My aunt, the author of the above letter, and me in Shenyang, China, where she currently resides.

堂弟:

給你講講我個人的經歷吧!1943 年我出生在朝鮮熙川郡熙川面。這個城市很美,每到夏天我都經常到山上玩。我是父親這一輩人中第一個孩子,所以倍受全家人的喜愛。二叔經常從漢城給我寄衣服和食品。1945 年 8 月 27 號,我弟弟才出生。所以二叔只知道我叫春霞。八、一五光復後,我父親和二叔之間再也無法聯繫,一個在南朝鮮,一個在北朝鮮。那時,我父親在建築施工隊做技術員工作,他是高級木匠。1949 年在熙川面開飯店,家境比較富裕。1950 年朝鮮戰爭發生時,父親重病在身。8 月份,當熙川面火車站被炸毀的當天晚間,在華僑的幫助下,轉移到山溝裡避難。10 月份,志願軍來到我們居住的山溝,經志願軍的勸說,踏上了回國的漫漫之路。父親只能拄著拐杖一步一步的艱難的行走。冰天雪地中我們穿著單鞋,我頭頂著食物,肩上背著全家人的衣物。母親小腳背著5歲的弟弟步行。在飛機的轟炸和戰火紛飛中,死裡逃生整整走了三個月。在新義州辦理了回國手續。12 月 31 日,在飛機的轟炸中,從鴨綠江大橋回到祖國。當時全家沒有一床被,除了身上穿的單薄的衣服外,則分文皆無,沒有飯吃。那時的艱難情景至今歷歷在目。1951 年到瀋陽投奔父親的堂弟鍾世山,生活一直很苦。1958 年父親患病,1962 年病情加重,開始住院治療至 1967 年四月去世。我和弟弟在這艱苦的環境中長大,窮人的孩子早當家。1962 年我中師畢業參加教育工作,當了一名小學教師。弟弟 1964 年高中畢業參加工作。

好了,今天就暫時談到這裡吧!

堂姊

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