My father’s story, page one:

Reflecting my father’s birthday in 1950, the day that changed my family’s history forever.

My father celebrates his 77th birthday today.
It’s also the day that my grandfather was killed 62 years ago, during the Korean War.

Sixty-three years ago, my father celebrated his 15th birthday. On that morning, he lost his father in the Korean War.

1943 Kang family photograph shows elder Hyunsoo (L) and second son Daeyang (R), who used to take his father’s horse on joy rides even as his feet couldn’t quite reach the stirrups.

On the seventh day of the ninth month on the lunar calendar of the year 1950, North and South Korea were heavily engaged in war that lasted another three years, during which the U.S. and the United Nations forces eventually got involved. Even after the 1953 cease-fire agreement, a peace treaty was never signed.

In my family’s home in Yeongam County in Jeollanam-do province in southwest Korea, there were daily wars between “Partisans” who supported the Communist North, controlling the nights, while the government forces and the police representing the Republic of Korea (ROK) President Syngman Rhee’s young government, taking over the command of the community at sunrise.

My grandpa was shot in the head early in the morning when he went outside to prepare his second son’s birthday meal. There were no first responders, no hospital stays, and not a single medical personnel attending to my grandpa’s gunshot wound before he passed away at home clutching a blood-soaked Bible, leaving behind his young widow, my grandmother Haeng-ok, with six children.

My grandma lost the two most important men in her life in the Korean War: her husband and her eldest son. (more on my grandma:

On his 15th birthday, my father was forced to skip the rest of his teenage years and became the alpha male of our family. He had to forgo his dream of studying engineering and had to help his mother, raising four younger siblings aged 1 to 13.

1955 wedding photograph of my Dad and Mom, Daeyang and Kumrae.
Their marriage was arranged, as it was the prevalent practice in Korea.

My family emigrated to the U.S. in the 1970’s, leaving behind a country that brought so much suffering to our family.

My parents’ four children with their spouses (three of four, youngest is still a bachelor) and six grandchildren are gathered at my Great Falls, Virginia, home in this 2009 photograph.


My parents during their 2009 Caribbean cruise. They have been married for more than 57 years.

continue to page 2

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