OH Questions by Alexis Pae
Topic: The Korean War
Interview Subject: Chung Ja Cho (my grandmother)



My Grandma was at the age of eight when the Korean war occurred.


What was your life like before the Korean war? Typical day? What did you parents do? What was the general economics of your town?
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"I had my grandma, grandpa, my mom, my daddy, my older brother, older sister, and I'm the third one, and under me I had one brother and one sister. My daddy was a banker and then later a businessman. My mom was a housewife but she had a silk business with my grandma. It was very successful. We had two girls as house servants that we called sisters, and we had three homes. My parents were wealthy, very very rich people. But my dad still made my sister and me clean one room each. But not the boys, boys were different... My parents trained us to be organized and to be responsible. They were why why my brother, my sister, and me were able to survive the Korean war. I had very good parents, and I was very happy. "

What do you remember about the start of the Korean war? What was your initial reaction?


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Dining knives, and forks were not common in Korea, instead they just used chopsticks. Here is my grandmother's recount of the North Korean soliders reaction to their silverware, "Since, we were rich, my family had dining knives and forks. This was the first time the North Korean army had seen silverware, so they didn't know what it was. They told everybody that this knife is very shiny and sharp and that my family was bad and that we were going to kill many people with that dining knife. I tried to explain that it was for food but they swore and they quieted me. They thought the fork was a torture device and again I tried to say it was for food but they swore and quieted me again. They wouldn't let us say anything at all..."

-"For awhile, every morning my grandmother would have to wake me up early so we can go to the fields and pretend we were farmers. At any time the North Koreans could come and take us to jail. We hid in the farming fields. We would bring our lunch and stay their all-day then late, late at night we would go home to sleep. "
That was my grandmothers routine until, "One day they caught my dad and mom. They came to my house and asked each of us how old we were. They took my mother, my father, my sister and me (because we were older) to jail, but there were too many people there. So, they put us in a warehouse."


What was the immediate impact of the Korean War? (How did the Korean War change the country and the lives of the people?)
-"At that time, many many children were poor, and could only eat one meal or less a day. America gave us a lot of dried milk, cheese, and old clothes...I remember still. I didn't get as many handouts because I was lucky and I wasn't that poor. I think I ate two meals a day instead of just one.


What happened to your family during the Korean War? How did your life change? How did you survive?
-"We (my brother, sister, and me) were lcuky because my parents raised us to be independent and we didn't go to the orphanage. We lived at home by ourself untill my grandmother on my mother's side came to take care of us. She was 75 years old, but she still helped us. We had three houses, but two of the houses were burned, so we lived at the house that was still okay. But, we were kinda lucky, because even though we were orphans, we had my grandma, and she tried to give us a normal life with school and friends."

-My Grandmother recounts all of her family members that died which includes her grandma, mother, father, younger brother, younger sister, her housemaids, butler, uncle...15 family members in all, just because they were wealthy and affluent the North Koreans attacked them.

-"My sister and me survived because some people told us to runaway. My sister was ten and I was eight and we had to run away. For eight hours we runnaway, oh my, and we don't eat. We had summer clothes on, but at that time it was chilly (fall/winter). We had no shower, nothing, but we ran, and that's wht we're alive."

-"Even though my parents died, my brother told us we still need to get a good education, be a good person, and not do bad things. So we grew up with good values and as a good person."

Did you ever go to a refugee camp? Were there organizations that helped you or were available to the Korean People?

-"I don't think many people immigrated to America because it was so far away. The refugee camp asked each one of us do you want a Democratic society (South Korea) or a Communistic Society (North Korea)? They gave us a choice. Two-thirds of us wanted a Democratic society so they let us come to the camp for free. The other one-third wanted North Korea so they sent them to North Korea.

What was your view about America at the time? Did you think of Americans as helping you and saving you or did you think of them as interfering in your country? What do people think of America today?
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"We thought America was very good. We asked the UN and America please, please help us, we don't want to be a communist! They helped our poor country and our struggle in the war. We are very very grateful!"

-Today: "Still, Korean people over 60, are still very very grateful to the Americans and their sacrafice. We are very very thankful to the armed forces who fought in the war. My people, my time are still very thank ful to the U.S.A. and are all the time grateful. But, the young generation forgot how hard the Korean War was and how much U.S.A. helped us. Some of them think that 'oh, the U.S.A helped too much.' Sometimes the young generation doesn't like the U.S.A. too. But us (older generation) say you don't know how much the U.S.A, helped our country!



-Note: My grandmother could not stop saying thank you to the U.S. throughout the ENTIRE interview. What you see above is just a tidbit of her many "Thank you U.S.A." comments.


What do you remember about the North Korean Solider?

-"Still, I remember, sometimes when the North Korean Army caught some of the American and UN army soliders. They handcuffed the American and UN soliders and brought them to the street. The North Koreans threatened us (and our lives) and forced me and my town to step on the American and UN soliders. Many, many people were forced to step on them. If we tried to escape, they would push us and say 'Go back, go back!' We had to step on 11 UN and US army soliders. And they died, because 50 people were forced to step on them. I don't like that. It was so sad. I was eight years old when I had to see that."

-"In my town 60% of the people died because of communism. "


(In your mind how did the Korean War affect you?) How did the Korean War impact you? How did it change you?
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"After the Korean War, my feelings were: First, I don't like war, any war! Second, money is nothing. Because my daddy had lots of money, lots of land, and lots of buisnessess, but everyone still died and only my 14 year old brother, my 10 year old sister, and me (8 years old) were alive. Money is nothing, we were very rich but the war destroyed anything. But, it's still good to work hard. Thirdly, I don't like communism. I HATE communism, but I don't hate the personalities or people who believe in communism, no...But morals and living a respectful life is important.

"Today, I'm living well and living happy. I'm always thankful. Ever since then, I say thank you. That's why every year I donate 10% of my money to poor people or poor country, because I remember how America helped us, a poor country. I do it every year, and untill the end of my life, I'm going to do that. U.S.A. is a good country


At the end of the war how did people feel about America? What type of cultural, economical, and religious changes occurred because of the Korean War and Americas involvement?

-"For ten years after, Korea was very very poor. U.S.A. helped us a lot. South Korea is doing well because of the U.S. They gave us business and millions and millions of jobs. Slowly, we saved money, and made our own buisnesses. So right now, Korea is a well- to-do country because the U.S. gave many of the Korean people jobs and many people remeber.

-"Religion changed a lot. America influenced us to be Christian and Catholic. Many people were saved and born again because America introfueced Christianity. Before the Korean War .02% were Christians, but now many people are Christians because of America. U.S.A. influence made everyone good people and Christians.



*Note: some of the quotes may be slightly altered. Since my Grandma grew up sepaking the Korean language and immigrated to America when my mom (the youngest of 4 kids) was six her english is not perfect.***