North Korea through a nongovernment program and met my family members.
First seeing them, I was filled with joy and happiness. After leaving, I constantly wrote letters to them. I had learned that two of my family members had passed away. It was a bittersweet feeling to know that I was unable to say goodbye to my father or pay my respects to him when he died. I felt like I was robbed of knowing what had happened to my own family.
Once, my family told me in a letter that they were in need of money. So, I began sending money, but after I found out that the government did not directly pass on the money to family members, I felt so devastated and discouraged that I stopped sending letters altogether.
I wish there were more programs for Korean Americans to meet their divided family members without all the risks of robbers or corruption. I remember thinking that I would be able to go back anytime and visit my family after the war. But it’s been such a long time since I’ve kept contact with them that I wouldn’t be able to confirm who my family members are.
It’s sad that I don’t even know who’s still alive and who’s not. It’s an unfair and tricky situation. There is a very minute, slim chance that you’ll meet your family member. And if you do, you’ll go back home and miss them and lament over how you can’t hug them or see them whenever you want to. Sometimes, I wish that I had not gone in the first place knowing that I have to live with this near hopeless yearning in my heart every day. I don’t know what the solution is; maybe it’s reunification. But this is my struggle along with thousands of others.
My name is Kim Tae Young, and I was born on November 3, 1933 in Ham Gyung Namdo, North Korea.
Around the start of the Korean War, South Korean soldiers were looking for recruits as they were losing major battles against North Korea. Looking back at it now, I don’t know if I fully understood the consequences of my actions, but I signed up to be a student soldier in my second year of high school and got enlisted into the South Korean army. I never knew I would be leaving behind my family of my mother, father, older brother, younger brother, and two younger sisters.
In desperate need of money, I made the choice to join the army, and I found myself traveling to South Korea through an American warship. Although I trained for only a month, I was dispatched to fight in one of the most dangerous battlefields. I fought against my own people as I stood with the South Korean army. It was a strange, chilling feeling to be in the face of my own people only to pull the trigger and fight them. Too much blood was spilled, and I saw too many people die before me.
When the war ended, it was natural for me to go to South Korea to live. After a while, I felt so alone with no one to call family and no one to go to. The war was over, but I still felt so alienated and sad. I found my spouse in South Korea, got married, and decided to move to America.
Living in America, I was determined to meet my family again. The last time I saw them was after I had left to join the war effort. Fifteen years ago, there was a program that allowed me to meet them, so I took the offer, traveled to