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Date 17.06.26 Hit 399
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UnYong KIM's Memoir 66(Graphys)


              


   66 My Youth days in School

 


 


 
 After I graduated Sakurai Elementary School among Japanese students, I entered Asahigaoka Middle School. In the beginning, I considered entering Kyungsung Normal School because teachers recommended it. There would be no tuition and it was a school that all the elite students went to, and the teachers recommended it.

Although the students were entitled to education through national funds, after graduating, I was obligated to work at an elementary school for 2 years. Also, my mother and relatives wanted me to enroll in a Middle School for Koreans.

I made efforts to enter prestigious schools like Gyeonggi or Gyeongbok Middle School. However, because I went to a school for Japanese, I wasn’t allowed. I didn’t want to enter Keijo or Ryuzan, because they were both Japanese schools. I chose  Asahigaoka School, where half the students were Japanese, and the other half was Korean.

In those days, public schools were rated above private schools. Only 500 Korean students were allowed to enter public schools: 200 in Gyeonggi, 200 in Gyeongbok, and 100 in Asahigaoka from entire Capital City of Seoul.

The year I entered middle school was 1943. I enjoyed Sumo from elementary school, so I always took down Japanese students in wrestling.

I learned boxing, judo, skating, track, Karate and may other sports, and I also passionately practiced piano. Since I was a student these days, my mother would have probably told me to study, but I think my mother was proud that I didn’t want to lose to Japanese students. Before Korea became independent, Japan was knocked down in the Pacific War. When summer came, studies were put aside, and all students were forced into labor, under the student labor order.

욱구중학교 1학년 때.jpg
▲ Freshman in Asahigaoka middle school

Some students applied to become fighter pilots, and some Japanese students were drafted, so there was a farewell rally at Seoul Station every week. At first I thought it was a fantastic event, but later when I looked back, I realized that it was a ceremony for taking the students to the battlefield, and preparing them to sacrifice their lives for Japan.

Many Korean students were drafted as well, but I was exempt from the draft because of my young age. However, I collected pine resin for airplane fuel, and participated in building Japanese ammunition storage warehouses.
August 15th 1945. On this day, I was called to help build Japanese ammunition storage depot in valley near Anyang, when I heard that the Korean became independent from Japanese rule. The news touched my heart like never before as my long search for light had ended. At the time, all students had no education and mobilized to labor work enforced by the Japanese military.

The news of Korea’s liberation relit the lost hopes and dreams in the Korean people. I waved the Korean flag, and started to search for my dreams in the joy and celebrations of fellow Koreans. “What has my country given to me, and what can I give to my country?” As I continued High School education, I started to shape my dreams.

I was always in the top group of my school in grades. In English, I was second to none. Ever since I became a middle school student, I started to study English. English was my favorite subject, and I thought I would be happy and proud to talk to foreigners with different skin colors and cultures.
After the independence, the Japanese troops withdrew and the U.S troops came. At the time, the U.S troops were not only stationed in military bases, but they were also stationed at universities and schools and stood guard. The American soldiers who stood guard liked the time spent with Koreans, and they were kind to us.

I frequently went to Seoul University, which was located in Dongsoongdong, to talk to the American soldiers. I only memorized a couple of words, but the soldiers found it amusing that a small kid was talking in English, and treated me with kindness. The English that I had learned was “What’s your name?” “What time is it now,?” and “I am afraid I must go.” These were just sentences that could be found in the English dictionary.

Even late at night, I went to meet American soldiers and spent time with them. I sat by the campfire and heard the soldiers talk to each other. I was only the one that was listening, and in the beginning, I had no idea what they were talking about, but I felt my ears opening up as I continued to listen. Thanks to their talks, I was able to excel in my English classes, and I was complimented by the teachers.




 



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