My name is Paik Seung-Bae (Joseph), and I am a retired 72 year-old pastor from Los Angeles, California. I was originally born in Hwang-hae Do, a village located in North Korea. I left my home on the 25th of June with my grandparents, parents, and four of my five sisters to escape from the unforeseen Korean War. We rented a boat and immediately left to Incheon. We were able to go back and forth over the borders because the 38th parallel did not exist during the war.
Because of the war, many of us starved since there was a lack of food and water in the area; my family and I were also one of the many victims. But one day we heard that the war was coming to an end, so we decided to pack up and move back to our hometown because we would be able to farm for our own food. However, it did not go as we planned. Because my father was a leader in a town of South Korea, my family separated forever; my mother and my younger siblings were able to make it through North Korea, while my father, my older sister and I were stuck in South Korea forever.
When the war was at a lull, we were all sent back to school and I graduated in a small elementary school located in Incheon.
Growing up as a child, I was jealous of other kids because when they got home, they had warm food prepared on the table for them. But in my case, I had to make my own food because my sister had married and my dad worked long hours. On rainy days, I saw my peers going back home with their mothers bringing umbrella, while I had to walk back home in the heavy rain. By the time I got home, I was drenched by the rain and the next day, I caught a severe cold.
When I became a senior in high school, my father passed away in an accident and my world crumbled. I had no one left by my side.
In North Korea, my family farmed. I remember these memories to be happy. When the war started, everything changed. After the war, we moved to South Korea.
Although I had wanted to become a pastor since childhood, I changed my mind to become the leader of harvesting groups in Korea after my father had passed away. My father was very bold. He was very concise and pithy. Long ago, I used to look at the moon to remember my mother; I always pledged to see her again. Now, however, I am losing hope.
I tried to look for my divided family when I came to the United States. I found out that I can send letters to my family in North Korea. Through a phone call, I found out that my mother passed away; they said my name was her last word. However, I got to meet my sisters except one. Although I was unwilling to let my siblings go away, I was relieved that I found out they were well. My dream is not over yet. I am waiting for day when I can freely move across the borders to visit my hometown and my siblings.
For my last words, I want to let the second generation know that North and South Korea are one. We should not forget our heritage. We should know that we are in debt living in a foreign country for a better future. We should maintain our humble mindset and work hard to not only represent Korea but the United States as well.