Korean Children longing for Democracy
In 1945, before the country was divided, I was in the North. I moved to
the South in 1946 and finished my elementary school in Seoul in 1948,
when Koreans had their first general election. We produced a drama about
this election one month before the election day (May 10, 1948).
In the center is a photo of a rich landlord asking poor tenants when they are going to pay the rent. I played the role of this landlord, unfortunately. Most Koreans were poor at that time, and they needed democracy to liberate themselves from poverty.
On the upper left is a photo of the people ready to vote. On far left is a female leader who leads the people to the polling station. Her name was and hopefully still is Kim Soojun, and I used to like her. I met her several times after graduation but not after the Korean War. My heart was broken when I saw her house completely demolished during the fierce city combat of September (1950).
In 1948, she was mature enough to behave like a gentle lady, but I was catching up very rapidly. By 1950, I think I had a broader scope of the world.
On the upper right is a photo of my female classmates dancing to the "Waves of Danube" by Josef Ivanovich. This is the first waltz I heard whose title I still remember. This dancing company consisted of twenty girls. One of them used to stare at me while others did not care. She was really pretty, and her parents were very rich. Her house also disappeared during the September battle of 1950.
These girls danced also to the "Over the Waves" by Juventano Rosas (Mexican composer). This is still my favorite music. Whenever I have opportunities, I ask musicians to play this delightful music. I asked this accordionist to play the "Over the Waves" at the Augustinerkeller restaurant in Vienna.
Lower right. The girls had to learn how to cook. Good old days!! I had a special relation with those girls, and I was once invited to enjoy the food they prepared.
After 1948, I met this tiny pianist several times until 1954 when I left for the United States. In Busan in 1952, she had a photo with her high-school friends. She is second from right. I obtained this photo in Pittsburgh in 1955 from the girl on far left, who now lives in Buffalo. I of course remember their names, and I like to see them again!
These girls are wearing their high-school uniforms. How about me? I was also wearing my own high-school uniform. In this photo, I am shaking hands with General Maxwell Taylor, who was the commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea at that time (1954). Under him were 350,000 combat-ready American troops. General Taylor later served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Kennedy administration and designed Kennedy's Cuban invasion plan in 1962 which included a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. This photo appeared in Korea's newspaper for students, and I became very popular among the girls. One of those girls later became my wife .
Korea's DemocracyIt would be very nice if a country's democracy could be achieved by a single election. Korea had its first election on May 10, 1948, under the supervision of the United Nations. However, it took forty years to achieve a satisfactory democratic system of government. By that time, these children became older than 50. Why did it take so long? But a more relevant question is how Koreans achieved this in a short period of time. In a single generation!
This is a very interesting question, and many people have many different answers. We can continue our discussion in the future.
copyright@2006 by Y. S. Kim, unless otherwise specified.