This story about my dad's family happened during the Japanese occupation of Korea and Manchuria, China, which was known as Man-chuko, and during the Korean War. My great grandfather's name was Yongsun Lee, and my grandfather's name was Wongil Lee while my dad's name is Eal Hyung Lee. Yongsun was a high school principal. Wongil had a high school diploma, which is equivalent to a junior high school education in present South Korea. He became a church elder at the age of 23 at Taewon Korean Church at Taewon, China. On March 5, 1938, my dad was born in Tenjin, China. My grandfather was so happy to have a son. He loved the Lord very much and he decided to donate more than a tithe to God, so the Lord could bless his business.. My father told me that Wongil donated a huge amount of money to the church and that Wongil was a man of God. Taewon is near Beijing, China. Although Wongil had no college education, he was very talented with many God-given abilities including speaking Korean,of course, Japanese, and Chinese. He often acted as an interpreter in the church. Once a Japanese pastor gave a sermon about the birth of Jesus Christ. He mimicked all kinds of animal sounds to express the joy of Jesus Christ's birth. Grandfather was put into a trap because he couldn't make the sounds as the pastor did. So, he said, "Birds make bird sounds. Tiger makes tiger sounds. And so on," and avoided the dilemma. Everyone in the church laughed .
Before the Korean War, my family was very rich in China. Wongil owned a lucrative coal mining company and other businesses in China. When my father was five years old, he had his own personal chauffeur to drive his car to school. Milk was delivered to his home, and a huge ice cube was placed in a living room to cool the house and drinks. [At that time, refrigerators and air conditioners were not available.]
My grandmother was also a woman of God. She married Wongil in an arranged marriage between Wongil's parents and her family. They actually did not see each other before they fell in love. In fact, they were married the same way that Rebekah and Isaac were married in Genesis 24. Their marriage was a miracle, they were both Christian. When my dad was born, my grandmother tried to teach my him about the Bible. My dad was like a baby Jesus to her.
In 1944, when the Japanese were losing the war, the political situation at China became uncertain. Grandfather sent Grandmother and her children to North Korea where my Great-grandfather lived. During her stay in North Korea, Grandmother visited her mother's home at Harbin, China. Unfortunately, Grandmother suffered from typhoid during her visit but miraculously recovered from her illness through the grace of God. Then, typhoid was a deadly disease. Before the Japanese surrender in August 15, 1945, communications between China and North Korea were interrupted. My grandmother was worried about my grandfather and returned to Taewon, China, in June, 1945. A year later, they were able to return to Korea with very little things in their possessions, most were left in China in fear of being killed by the Communist.
In 1947, the Lee family decided to leave North Korea to avoid the religious suppression of Communist North Korean regime. They tried to board a ship; but, fortunately, got caught by the North Korean Army. The boat was too small, and with so many people on board, it might have been sunk if it sailed that evening. The Lord God was with them. They were jailed and were miraculously released from the North Korean prison camps. Finally, they boarded another ship the next day, to flee to South Korea. They were encamped at a refugee camp near Kaesung south of the 38th Parallel. After they were released from the camps, they rode a train to Seoul. They met an old friend of Grandfather's and stayed at their home for a few months, until they found a shelter arranged by Sung-nam Church. When they found their new home, they started to make a living. Grandfather told my Dad, "Eal, if you sell 10 Hershey bars, then the whole family can eat one Hershey bar." My father was so excited and sold 10 Hershey bars. Keeping his promise, Grandfather prayed to God, thanking Him for providing his family a chocolate bar and divided it into seven pieces among the family. My Dad recalled that he never tasted such a delicious chocolate bar in his life.
When the Korean War broke out, many refugees came down to South Korea from North Korea. They begged for food as they passed by the Lee family. Grandmother shared their meal with them. She had this faith that God will provide. Instead, they starved.
During the Korean War, the American and South Korean forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur made their offensive move to Inchon, cutting off the North Korean supply line. After the American and South Korean forces landed at Inchon in September 15, 1950, they started to move into Seoul by bombing the North Korean positions at Seoul. Dad told me that many died during the U.N. offensive campaign against the North Koreans. Yongsun, Great-grandfather, was one of those casualties. He was hit by a shrapnel from a mortar into his chest. There was nothing they could do. My great-grandfather was bleeding. He was dying. My grandfather asked to follow his prayer and said, "Oh Lord, please accept my soul in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen." My great-grandfather barely finished his last prayer.
My Dad loved his grandfather very much and often told me about him. My dad grieved over his loss. He really considered him to be his best friend, and the Lord took him away. My father told me that Yongsun would always give him a ride on his back like a horse when dad was three or four. Yongsun loved my dad very much because my dad was the eldest son of the Lee family. Not only my father was very sad, but he also was very hungry. He did not eat for a whole month and he suffered a great deal. As they walked more than a hundred miles during the war, my dad told me that he stepped on dead human flesh on the ground without any shoes. He smelled death everywhere around him at the age of 13. During the war, there were many wounded and dead. Wha-soon, my aunt, was shot by an American bullet through her leg. Their house was lost by bombs. The whole city was on fire. Eun-man would have been my uncle. He was sick and crying. Dad saw his younger brother's flesh touching his own bones. At the age of nine months, Eun-man no longer weeped. Grandmother could not believe that Eun-man was not old enough to hear the gospel and started to weep for Eun-man. The American pilots did not know that they were bombing a South Korean position during the war. In a desperate attempt, Young-Shin, my grandmother, waved a white flag telling them that they were hitting the wrong target. An American pilot saw the flag and actually stopped bombing them.
Wongil was also suffering, and yet he felt really blessed by God. Despite all the hardship, Grandpa thanked God. Somehow, he stared up in the sky, and said, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you for choosing me the same way you have chosen Job. When I go through my trials, I know that I am saved." Wongil never complained to God. He was always faithful to the Lord although he had faced many trials.
After the Korean War, my grandfather owned small pulpit gown business, which pales in comparison to his previous business. Sung-Eui-Sa (The Robe) became the largest gown company in Korea. It served many pastors, church chairs, judges, and scholars in Korea. They were still very poor. When they finally owned a shack after the Korean War, Wongil, my grandfather, bought a portrait of Jesus Christ while they were all hungry. He stared at the portrait and smiled, but my father never understood why my grandfather bought that portrait. Even though God allowed everything that my grandfather had owned to be taken during the war, my grandfather did not complain to the Lord.
My dad got married to Minja Chung, my mother, on October 24, 1968. He was captain of the Republic of Korean Army, and he later got accepted to Stanford as a graduate student in the materials science and engineering department. On January 1, 1970, I was born and they named me Yosuk. My dad probably told all of his friends at Stanford that he had a son. Young-Shin, my grandmother, was so excited when I was born. Her grief disappeared when I was born. She probably thought that my birth replaced her lost son, Eun-man, during the Korean War. Although I do not know Eun-man's fate, I hope that Grandmother got to see Eun-man in her arms once again in heaven. She realized that her family has a chance to continue the Lee family for an immortality, and she died six days after I was born.
As my grandfather grieved over the loss of his wife to cancer, he did not complain to God. He felt the Lord had given him a more Godly wife than Job's when Job's wife said, "... Curse God and die." [Job 2:9] He really felt that he was more blessed than Job.
When I was four years old, I saw my grandfather pale and weak. He was really old, and he needed a wheelchair to move around the apartment at Stanford. I did not realize that he was about to die. My dad took care of my grandfather. My dad told me that he always feared my grandfather, and he rarely admits that he loved him. My dad was getting a Ph.D. at Stanford and he noticed that Wongil's health was deteriorating. My dad helped Wongil take a bath and use the toilet, and yet Wongil did not curse his Jesus. A few months later, he returned to Korea and ascended into heaven.
.... for dust you are and to dust you will return. Genesis 3:19
*The opinions expressed in this testimonial are those of the author, who is solely responsible for content.* Editor, THE EDIFIER