Ahn, Hwak Shil
My name is Ahn Hwak Shil and I am 86 years old. I have a son and daughter who currently reside in America and two daughters who live in South Korea. I live by myself in a senior apartment in Los Angeles, California.
I’m originally from Pyung Namdo, Gangso and I first came to Seoul, South Korea at age thirteen with my cousins to visit my extended family. However, when I tried to go back to my hometown, the 38th parallel was established, so I couldn’t return. It was a shame that I couldn’t even set foot in North Korea even though I lived right next to the border. Many of my cousins, aunts, uncles and immediate family were still in North Korea.
As another attempt, I tried to cross the Dong-Hee River but I was unable to do so. I haven’t been able to meet my family since then. There was nothing I could do but pray to God, asking Him to reunite North and South Korea so all the divided family members would finally be able to be with one another once again. When I first left my hometown, I didn’t know that this would be the last time I would ever get to see my family and country again.
Although I am not aware of what happened to my family, I believe that my parents and older sister have all passed away because of old age; fortunately, I have hope that my younger brother is still alive.
I did have a chance to visit North Korea through an organization, but I turned down the offer because I was told that it was a very emotional experience and I didn’t want to go through that hardship.
My husband was also from North Korea. Like many others, he was separated from his family. During Chu-Seok and other holidays, there was a place where you could see North Korea and my husband used to always go there and stare out into the distance.
We came to America when I was 70 years old, because my eldest daughter had married and needed someone to look after her child. My husband passed away 6 months later after our arrival and because we couldn’t bury his body in North Korea, he was buried here in America. If I had the chance to tell my family one thing, I would tell them never to forget and pray for South Korea because it’s my country and the United States because that’s where I’m currently living. Till this very day, I pray for their health and to live the rest of their lives happily.