The Words of the Park Family
Richard, whose name was then Jin Yong Park, as a toddler, with two of his older brothers, around 1969
The writer's mother is Keum Soon Park. She was blessed among the thirty-six-couple blessing group in 1961 to Chong-goo Park (1939-1982) also known as "Tiger Park," who is remembered beyond Korea for his dynamic leadership of CARP in the United States and Europe 1977-1982.
I was a deeply offended -- my mommy was gone. True Father had issued marching orders for all blessed wives to go out witnessing for three years, 1970-1972. A corps of blessed wives had assembled and gone to various cities throughout Korea. No provisions were made available to them -- just enough money for a one-way bus fare to each person's destination; but I am sure that grim concerns for their safety and health plagued our True Parents' minds and hearts each day.
The mothers among them had taken leave of their young children, some still infants, and joined their colleagues in traveling to remote villages. This must have been a tumultuous year for my mommy, who had just delivered her fifth son (I assure you, I had little say in how many children my parents had). Tiger was one of those husbands who loved his family but was a poor financial planner; he believed in the riches of the promised kingdom and he cared less for his children's welfare than for that of his pupils and fellow teachers.
Tiger looked after us five boys, the youngest being a year old, all in the vocational school he had built for indigent children whose parents could not afford the small administrative fees required at the time. Only two decades removed from the war, Korea was a still a poor country that had experienced decades of colonial rule before becoming a divided nation.
Tiger accomplished it by running a gang of shoe-shiners, consisting of volunteer teachers and young children. He built the school from scratch, by creating his own mold for bricks, with the support of volunteers only, laying the foundation by hand, and brick by brick, the walls were erected without windows, finally resulting in a building that appeared more like a factory than a school.
Those were hard times, when most people made do with what little they had. Mommy recalled an incident during the monsoon season when the roof caved in while all of us were sleeping beneath it. We were terrified when that happened, but Tiger was possessed of the spirit. He took the main beam that held the structure in place and lifted it back up, saving the lives of his mortified children. Those were hard times. The winter months were too hard to bear. We were sleeping on concrete floors with no heat. When mommy took a short leave and visited us during the witnessing campaign, she found us five boys outside, standing in front of a wall, trying to soak up the sun rays, because our bodies had been frozen during the night.
Mommy was determined then to send us boys away, removed from Tiger, where we could at least sleep on a warm floor. I am sure it tore her apart having to separate us boys -- some were delivered to our uncles, some to our paternal grandmother. I was one of the lucky ones going to my grandmother's house. My two younger brothers joined me.
Jin Yong and his mother, near the primary school he was attending
As a young boy, five years old, I remember being brought to my grandmother's home in the hills, where there was no running water, electricity only at night, and a dreadful outhouse I was afraid to go to. My recurring dream was of my mommy returning to bring us back home.
I came to love my grandmother and the stench left on her hand from constant smoking. I remember distinctly how she used to stroke my head, soothing me to sleep. Actually, the cigarette smell was comforting, because I knew she was there, watching over me. Her coarse hands were a reminder that however hard the times, most certainly grandmother would not leave me.
But I was deeply offended.
To this day, I abhor taking naps -- and I rarely commit to shutting my eyes for even a short duration during the day. You see, I had been fooled into taking a nap. My mommy left me without saying goodbye. I knew instinctively that the adults were talking about something they did not want us to hear, plotting how she would leave us at grandmother's without our noticing her departure. Nevertheless, the long distance we'd traveled and mommy's encouragement were sedatives that induced me to sleep. The watchful eyes of young boys are like that of young chicks, awaiting the comforting brush of their mother hen's warm, soft feathers. This I would not accept; yet, I foolishly trusted my mommy and fell asleep.
I cried and cried for hours. My younger brothers also cried and cried. We did not know our grandmother; she was very much a foreigner to us then.
The second year into the witnessing campaign, our mother felt a strong premonition; she needed to hurry back to see her little children. The pangs of conscience, if you will, or a God-derived instinct forced her to leave her mission for a day and return to Seoul to see us. I could feel her intense emotions and hear a tremor in her voice as she recounted this event to me very recently.
Once in Seoul, she was running -- running frantically -- at times without direction, as if entangled by a strange spirit. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw from afar a glimpse of her toddler, Jin Hwan, who was then three or four years old, lying in the street, in a fetal position. By miracle, or pure chance, she had found her boy, covered in dirt, having collapsed from exhaustion and gone to sleep in the road. You see, my brother was lost. Grandmother was at work as a seamstress, and no one was at home to take care of us boys.
God had kept her child safe. She carried her toddler, Jin Hwan, back to grandmother's home.
I don't remember the event clearly. I recall being happy to see my mommy and happy to see my brother too. Grandmother said that we didn't recognize our mommy and sought shelter in grandmother's bosom. I am sure that deeply pained our mommy -- but we boys quickly forgave Mommy for leaving us; that is, after she offered us sweet buns.
Unificationists wonder sometimes, with stubbornness of heart, whether the sacrifices we make are futile, leaving us with only painful emotional scars. I say that the kingdom is built with sincerity of heart, or at times with blood, sweat and tears -- all of which are the true measures of ones who might be accorded eternal happiness.