By Jonghwan Lee
Seoul, May 6(World Korean News)= It was when I visited Dallas in mid-March that I saw the article, ‘The name of my father I calls on Liberation Day’.
Oh Won-Seong, former chairman of the Dallas Korean Association, who met at the Dallas Korean Culture Center, brought up an article contributed to a local News Korea magazine.
“I found my father, I found him!, I felt my heart stop when I got a call from my sister. I have been searching for places, such as the National Archives, the military, and the Myeon office, in order to find my father's footsteps. But I couldn't find my father's name anywhere. My father was taken to compulsory labor by Japan. The list of the Korean miner at the Kyushu Kaijima mine contained my father's name.”
Oh Won-Seong is a writer. He writes essays and contributes to newspapers and magazines. Perhaps because of that training, his article about his father was well-read and intriguing.
His father is Oh Jung-ho. In Moonyi-myeon, Cheongwon-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do, his hometown, he was forcibly drafted by the Japanese. However, while working in a coal mine, he was paralyzed and after he came home, passed away early due to the aftereffects of being beaten by a Japanese coal mine director. Since his father died early, the family had no idea where he was forced to work. they couldn't find any data about him either.
However, unexpected, good news came. Professor Lee Hyang-chul of Kwangwoon University found a list of 2,400 Korean coal miners in the 6th and 7th mines of Kaijima, while he was traveling to Kyushu during his study abroad. Professor Lee's list was released in February 2005. When Roh Moo-Hyun government made a policy to report victims of forced mobilization,
The KBS 2TV Morning Madang program manager visited the office of Moonyi-myeon in Cheongwon-gun and checked the descendants of forced laborers, announced its existence.
In this way, Oh Won-Seong was also connected with Professor Lee and finally confirmed his father’s name from the list. It really was a fluke.
“The list says my father 'fled' the coal mine. There were a lot of people on the list of the Korean miners who have been recorded as ‘runaways’.”
Oh said this and showed me a copy of the miner's list. The names of 77 conscripts were recorded in Cheongwon-gun alone in the list of Koreans who worked in the 6th and 7th mines in Kaijima. And 13 of them were from Moonyi-myeon. Most of them were recorded as fleeing.
“My father was not a fugitive. My father was beaten to death for rebelling, not for escaping. When he fainted after bleeding profusely, he was wrapped and thrown away like garbage. A Korean couple who lived nearby found my father and took him home. After recuperating at their home, he was able to move in a month. Then he could come back home on a smuggling ship.”
Oh's father is said to have taken the lead in teaching Hangeul at the coal mine. Even though he was exhausted from hard labor in the coal mine, he brought teacher in the evening and made people learn Hangul. He and a few students who were studying also paid a certain amount of money from their salary for Korean independence army. It is said that the money was secretly sent to Busan. In the meantime, he was beaten many times by the coal mine director for those activities.
In light of these cases, it seems highly likely that many of the Korean forced laborers who wrote ‘escape’ in the Kaijima coal mine records were lynched and abandoned or killed. This is the same case as Chairman Oh's father.
“I went to the bathhouse with my father when I was young. I still remember vividly that my father had scars all over his body.”
Oh said, “Just eight months after my father married my mother, he was taken by the Japanese to a dark mine in Kyushu, lynched, and suffered many hardships. And “as a young man born in a colony, it's such a heartbreaking personal history,” he continued.
Oh himself wrote the article, ‘The name of my father I calls on Liberation Day’. “In an era when he had no choice but to fall victim to a war of militaristic aggression, my father was so strong that he never gave in despite the hard work and hunger that every day was like hell. But my father's twilight was lonely,” he wrote.
“I was very surprised when I held my hand to help him when he was fighting the disease due to the aftereffects of living in a burrow like a mole for many years. My father's hand, which seemed to break even a rock as the beam of the family, was paralyzed and changed to a very fragile figure.”
Chairman Oh said, “There are 13 households in Moonyi-myeon, Cheongwon-gun alone, who share the same experience as their fathers at Kyushu Kaijima Coal Mine.
“I want to make my home in Moonyi-myeon a museum of forced labor in Kyushu coal mine,” he said.
Chairman Oh came to the U.S. in 1996 as a candidate for overseas training for SPC Group executives. A year later, when he was appointed as the head of a Chinese subsidiary, he left his family in the United States and returned to Korea alone. For the next four years, he lived as a goose father.
Chairman Oh is a writer who printed an essay in ‘Monthly Essay Literature’. He collected his writings from time to time and published five books, including memoirs and collection of essays.
Chairman Oh has also taken the lead in sharing volunteer work. Since 2015, at the end of the year, he has visited homeless shelters in the south of Dallas to provide dinner. In COVID-19, he delivered masks, hand sanitizers, and toilet paper to medical institutions, police departments, fire departments, and prisons in Dallas. This was to raise the status of the Korean community.
He also took the lead in raising funds to build a memorial tower for war heroes built in the city of Carrollton, North Texas and engraving the names of 49 veterans of Korean War and Vietnam War in the memorial park. He also took a leading role in the construction of the JangJin-Ho Battle Monument to be built at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, served as the chairman of the Dallas Korean Association and has been serving as an advisor and vice president for Peaceful Unification Advisory Committee in Dallas.