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A Mountain with

Stories Memoirs of Wolsan

By KIDONG KIM

Translated by The Semone Translation Mission Center

BEREA PRESS 355-356 Shingil 3-Dong, Youndeungpo-Gu, Seoul 150-849, Korea Tel: 82-2-831-3851 Fax: 82-2-831-3854

Pastor KIDONG KIM (TH.D., S.T.D., D.Min., D.D.) * Overseer, 21st Century Berea Missions Seoul Sungrak Church, Seoul, South Korea * Honorary and Founding President, Berea International Theological Seminary, Seoul, South Korea


PREFACE

E

ven if the world changes, the home that has taken its place in my

heart never changes. Although the environment around my hometown has changed, memories would never change Another has taken its rightful place in my memories; it’s a mountain. It wasn’t a huge mountain, but I used to climb it almost everyday in my childhood. Growing up, this mountain was my friend to whom I shared my stories. It gave me dreams to dream. I used to always carry a Korean A -shaped, wooden back-carrier to the mountaintop and enjoy looking down the green field or watch two trains pass by one another as they let out smoke. As I watched the trains go by, I used to sometimes ponder and fall into deep or immature thoughts. I can’t forget but to reminisce about these memories. Even though it has been fifty years since I left my hometown, I still have memories of laughter and tears. Yes, the memories of my home. Through my writing, I revisit home once again today. Now, I don’t see any of my peers at my hometown, but what catches my eyes are the elders with grey hair. Unlike these aged seniors, the mountain seems to be getting younger, painted in wonderful green and blue. History has been written for many years in


this town, and I recollect the stories that the mountains and I only know. They might sound like boring stories of an old country boy. They might seem unhelpful compared to modern stories or interesting scientific journals out in the world. Yet, I frequently make allusions to the mountain because I like my mountain with stories.

Wolsan is

the melody of my soul. It is my mountain with stories. December 20, 2003 Wolsan KIDONG KIM


Table of Contents

1.

The Dream of a Rainbow

home_11 the vanished place_16 roly-poly_22 the reappearing thoughts when cherry blossoms bloom_27 the warble fly_32 barley hump_37 artemisia_45 the sal-poo-jang-ee trail_50 the valley of date-plum trees_56 the audible cry of the oriental scops owl_62 the red clay road_68 the diploma that finally came in half a century_74 the dream of a rainbow_80

2.

I Miss You

a wild oriental melon_87 first love_92 teacher_98 father_103 my mother_109 little sis_114


cousin-in-law_119 like a sister_125 a blind date_130 uncle_136 the arbor tree_141 the cuckoo_147 the general’s son whom i witnessed_152 a grandma at the dike_158 hair trends_164 returning home in glory_168

3.

Memories Flow

wolsan (mountain wolsan)_177 cosmos_184 august memories_189 a dog-hole_195 the flower of flowers_201 the hen pheasant_206 fox hunting_211 the piglets_216 what happened that night_220 a thanksgiving play in hwanggok-ri_226 one spring day_232


the guesthouse i (rice-straw culture)_237 the guesthouse ii (my buddies)_242 the guesthouse iii (the guys)_247 zucchinis_252

4.

World Realizations

a barley threshing floor_261 public discipline by the elders of a village_268 semone_274 the peep box_280 early morning wind_286 a pair of eyeglasses_292 boong-uh-bbang_298 soccer_304 i.m.f._309 the arrival_315 mongsanpo_320 a japanese i (mount fuji)_325 a japanese ii (an officer without an office)_330 a japanese iii (square-shaped bamboo trees)_335


1.

The Dream of a Rainbow

home / the vanished place / roly-poly / the reappearing thoughts when cherry blossoms bloom / the warble fly / barley hump / artemisia / the sal-poo-jang-ee trail / the valley of date-plum trees / the audible cry of the oriental scops owl / the red clay road / the diploma that finally came in half a century / the dream of a rainbow


home

W

hen Koreans meet people for the first time, they tend to ask,

Where is your hometown? I was probably asked that question dozens of times. Every time I

encounter this question, I hesitate to give an answer because I don’t have just one hometown where I grew up. I was born in Seosan town in Chungnam province and moved to Sunghwan town of Cheonan district when I turned three years old. I resided in this town until I became twelve. Then, during the 1.4 (January 4, 1951) Retreat of the Korean War, I moved to another town near Wolsan (Mount Wolsan). I moved to Yesan when I turned fifteen and made another move when I became twenty-three. Thus, I really can’t say, So-and-so is my hometown. Every house I resided in has memories, but I can’t pick one and call it a home. Since I had the toughest time in Yesan, I used to say that Yesan was my hometown. But every time I mentioned Yesan, I felt uncomfortable about it deep in my heart. I couldn’t decide. Is my birthplace my home? Perhaps, the mountain where I used to climb and gather firewood? Maybe it’s the place where I played soldiers with my friends. So depending on who asked the

home


question, my home was Yesan one day then Cheonan another day. I felt like a liar. I attended Imsung Middle School. For the school’s fortieth anniversary celebration, hundreds of people from schools and institutions within the province were invited. The principal of the school, Sang Jae Lee, gave a special speech about me. Pastor Ki Dong Kim is the first graduate of our school. Since the inception of this school, he was like the mascot. He struggled with poverty, moved from one place to another. He has no place where he can call home. However, as we commemorate the school’s fortieth anniversary, I would like to announce today that this school is his home! There followed a big round of applause. On the same day, the school unveiled a natural stone monument engraved with a Chinese calligraphy, Purpose With the Heart and Fulfill It With the Body (

, Yip-Jip-Gung-Hang). It was placed

in the middle of the school field. On the other side was a sculpture of the principal. They also placed a statue of me as a memorial to honor my victory over poverty and hardships in life. Though I agreed to build the principal’s sculpture, I strongly objected to building this statue of me. If my image were engraved on a rock, then many people would misunderstand or question me since I am a Christian. As the president of an alumni association, I gave donations to fulfill the school’s needs at times. Yet, I never expected the school to construct a statue of my image as a memorial. I attended the ceremony, but I felt uncomfortable and awkward, at the same time, deeply apologetic and embarrassed. I couldn’t find


peace. The principal said that he even had to get permission from the school board in order to erect the statue in the school, which made me feel even more embarrassed, bashful, and uneasy. Although the celebration ended successfully, my heart was still burning with anxiety. The school said that the statue was built for educational purposes, but ever since this ceremony, I felt ashamed and unsettled to revisit my school. I was emotionally overwhelmed to hear the principal announce that this middle school was my home because I was always unsure of where my home was. The restless feeling about the statue vexed my heart, but I accepted and decided to call this place, my home. As expected, I was and still am persecuted and insulted by few people concerning this matter. They took photos of my statue from different angles and created pamphlets to voice that Ki Dong Kim built the statue to set himself as an idol of worship. There are many other articles that have been circulated to attack me. If I weren’t a Christian, then perhaps there wouldn’t be such strong attacks against me for having the statue. Also, if this incident occurred in another country, then maybe I wouldn’t receive such disparaging remarks. I didn’t erect the statue, rather it was the school that had built and placed it solely for scholastic purpose in the school field. No matter what I say, persecutors wouldn’t believe my words. To this day, they still continue to destroy my honor. If this statue belonged to me, then I would tear it down right away. Yet, it is the school’s property. This troubles me almost every day, but I have resolved to face this courageously. My home is a place of many disturbing words, a place of my statue

home


that aches my heart. There are many other places that I used to call home because of memories that I have made, but I call this place, my home. Ironically, my heart agonizes because of my home. Who would understand my heart? Yet, I don’t hold grudges for what the school has done. Instead, I thank them. Who has ever had their own statue placed for academic purposes in the school that they graduated from? This isn’t even a seminary school or an institute that offers religious courses. It’s just a middle school, a place where the foundational education is established. If it weren’t for my statue, then I would have undeniably embraced the school as my home. I was fighting poverty at home when I enrolled as a student in this school, but the school’s conditions were no better. This school was actually a public education center during the Korean War. The poor children among the refugees were the ones receiving classes. The Yangmak Methodist Church and Yesan Confucian temple would gather the disenfranchised children to enroll there. The students’ ages varied from thirteen years old to twenty-nine years old. Clerks, shoeblacks, chicken sellers, newspaper boys, deliverers, firewood carriers, and even beggars were enrolled as students. Formerly, I worked as an errand boy at the school principal’s house to feed myself. I also used to attend night school classes with a little oil lamp, without any electricity. Finally, I was transferred to the Imsung Middle School as a sixth grade student when I was actually in eighth grade. So I was in the same level as the sixth grade students. In other words, I graduated on the same year as the students who were two years younger than me.


Since I was already late in my education compared to others, I graduated middle school at the age of twenty-one when others would normally graduate at sixteen. It finally took nine years to accomplish my goal as a middle school student. Thus, I was not embarrassed by the announcement the principal made at the ceremony; the middle school was my home. I grew up in this school while all the passion, tears, exhaustion, hunger, humiliation, alienation and inferiority stifled me. I served as the president of the school council. Thus, my middle school also saw me as a significant figure that achieved academic heights despite the difficult circumstances. I now proudly say that this middle school is my home. And I love this school more than anyone could love. It has been forty-five years since I was a student here, but I can still recall all the memories right before my eyes.

home

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