I dedicate this book to my grandfather, Hooney Kangh, for going through a lot of trouble to come to America.
Beneath the noon sky filled with swirling clouds, the cool midday air rustled through the tall green grass. A rock laid still and motionless, under the boiling sun. The tall mountain peaks stood high in the distance. I watched all of this nature in the mountains, my favorite place to be in Korea. I am Hooney Kangh. It was 1963 and I was twenty-six years old. I lived in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. I was a doctor. I studied medicine for my country. As much as I liked being a doctor, I also liked to hike through the mountains in Seoul. On this day, I used my walking stick to hike back through the mountains to my cozy little cottage as the cool mountain air blew across my face. I thought about the next book I would read when I got home. I loved to read for hours at a time. I also loved spending time with my family, especially my two brothers. I never thought I would leave my family in Korea.
In Korea, I was happy even though I was poor. My mom and dad could barely feed me and my two brothers. Having meat was a real treat for my family. My mom planted a garden so we could have more food to eat. We had to save up our money for the seeds, then when the plants were ready to eat, we would take all the seeds outside to the garden and plant them again. Then one day, when Korea thought Japan should not rule Korea any more, a Korean soldier got into a gunfight with a Japanese soldier. The gunshots sounded like fireworks but much more frightening. My heart pounded against my chest with every gunshot. More Korean and Japanese soldiers came to the scene. The Japanese soldiers wore smooth red coats, and the=Korean soldiers wore rough blue coats. A heart pounding five minutes later, the whole Korean and Japanese armies were fighting each other. The Japanese burned down many buildings that used to be my village. Every building that had not been burned was crumbling from being struck by gunfire. We managed to escape just in time. We were forced to make a quick decision. My dad wanted to protect me from danger, so he said I should go to America. I could study medicine there and have a better life. I would miss my family and my friends so much. Only my best friend would come to America with me.
I was going to America! My friend and I managed to hide from the Japanese, who were now trying to recruit boys to be in the Japanese army. In order to escape capture, my friend and I were forced to live in a ditch for an entire month. Life was terrible but we were safe. We picked fruit from a nearby tree and drank water from a lake. My friend and I were sad and nervous. What if the Japanese found us? A month later, when we were finally sure that the Japanese werenâ€™t in our area, we climbed out of the ditch and counted up our money. We had enough for two plane tickets to America. We picked the last fruit on the tree and headed off for the airport. Fortunately, the walk wasnâ€™t too long. Unfortunately, Japanese soldiers were everywhere on the way to the airport. Every time we got too close to one of them we had to hide quickly. Whenever they had blocked off a path completely, we had to distract them. We sprinted down the deserted streets to the airport. Once we were on the plane, we were relieved. Twenty minutes later we were in the sky. I could see contrails behind the plane. The lights dimmed and I drifted off to sleep, dreaming about my new life in America.
Beneath the red dawn sky, my plane got closer to the ground with every second. THUMP! The sound of landing woke me with a start as the plane bumped along the flat black runway. As we neared the airport, I looked up at the clock. It was 4:30 AM. Once the pilot said we could get off the plane, I rushed toward the gate with my friend. At the gate, a guard came up to us and asked me, “Are you an immigrant?” I knew no English, so I questioned back, “mueos-inga?” “What?” The guard called over to a translator. The translator asked again, “dangsin-eun-iminja?” “Are you an immigrant?” I answered, “ye.” “Yes.” He led my friend and me to an extremely long line. We waited and waited. Finally, we were taken into a small room. He took our heights, weights and temperatures. He asked, “dangsin-eun il- eul haeyahabnikka?” “Do you have a job?” I said, “ye naneun-uisayeyo.” “Yes, I’m a doctor.” The translator then asked me if I would study medicine to help Americans. I replied, “ye.” The translator said that I could live in America. I took in a breath of relief. Then I thanked the translator for letting my friend and I get through the inspection.
A few months after my plane landed, I found a small apartment in New York City. Life was better in America. The only problem was, there were no mountains to hike in. Every time I wanted to go on a hike, I had to walk to Central Park. Once, I hiked in the Appalachian Mountains. It was much, much colder there than in the mountains of Seoul, South Korea. I missed my family a lot but I could use a telephone to call them. In America, there was much more technology than in Korea. I opened a bank account and saved my money. I bought a car and got a job. Every day, I drove to work. I watched all the people in the streets and listened to the different languages being spoken. At my job, I was easily one of the smartest doctors in the office. I got a lot of great awards for being a doctor and studying medicine to help American people. Back in Korea, people said that American streets were paved with gold, and America was the golden land. I believe thatâ€™s true. Almost anything is possible in America. America is the true land of opportunity.
About The Author
Henry Yusem is in Mrs. Mattson’s and Ms. Graves’ 4th grade class. He is 9 years old. He lives with his mom, dad and little sister, Natalie, in Watertown, Massachusetts. His favorite book is Harry Potter, and his favorite author is J.K Rowling. He also likes to play with LEGO models that he makes in his free time at home. This is his first collage story about immigration. This book is about his grandfather who immigrated from Seoul, South Korea to New York. Right now, Henry’s grandfather lives in Miami, Florida.