Mother of Peace: Episode 02
Mother of Peace: And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears from Their Eyes
A Memoir by Hak Ja Han Moon
Chapter 1: My Cherished Lifelong Wish, pg 1-05
My Cherished Lifelong Wish
A woman shouts “Mansei!” for independence
It was the first day of March 1919, the beginning of spring by the lunar calendar’s marking of seasons. The temperature remained below freezing, and the people of Anju, a village in Pyong-an Province of what is now North Korea, were experiencing biting frost. A woman braved the cold to cook her family’s morning meal. She lit the wood fire and set rice on the stove, and then her attention shifted from the morning routine. She lifted her arms and, from the back of a cupboard, carefully took out an item wrapped in a plain cotton cloth.
By the light of the fire and a ray of sunshine shining through a crack under the door, the woman untied the cloth to reveal another, larger and more substantial cloth, one with a red and blue yin-yang symbol on a white background. As she laid it out on the table, the design on the larger cloth came into full view. It was a Korean flag. This emblem of her people was always in this woman’s mind, even in her dreams. Feelings of sadness and deep emotion rushed into her heart. Hearing the soft cries of her daughter who was awakening, she rolled up the flag, wrapped it again, and returned it to the back of the cupboard.
With their 5-year-old daughter on her lap, this village woman shared breakfast with her husband, who had returned from his early morning work in the fields. She then busied herself cleaning the kitchen, living room, porch and yard. A little after noon, trying to appear nonchalant, she left the house with an expectant heart, her daughter on her back and the flag in her bosom.
* * *
A narrow gravel path to the Anju market meandered through her village. It joined a larger road, on which she met others making their way—a farmer leading a cow, a young man carrying a heavy load on an A-frame carrier, a mother with a bundle on her head…. Some were walking at a leisurely pace, others quickly, all heading for the market.
Arriving at her destination, the woman stopped in front of a vegetable stand centrally located in one of the most crowded areas of the market. Her child awoke from her afternoon nap taken on her mother’s back. Turning her head, the mother quietly looked at her beloved daughter and smiled. To this daughter, her mother’s smile was the most beautiful sight in the world.
Suddenly, a loud shout burst through the quiet of the market: “Korean independence! Mansei!” As if she were a runner hearing the sound of the starting gun, the woman quickly pulled the Korean flag from her bosom. Waving it vigorously, she joined the crowd, shouting “Mansei, victory for ten thousand years!” With all her strength, she shouted, “Korean independence! Mansei!”
The first shout had been a signal, and all at once, people in the market were taking out Korean flags and vigorously waving them high above their heads. From every corner of the open market, cries of “Korean independence! Mansei!” reverberated. This woman’s voice was the loudest of all. Shocked by the sudden melee and scores of Korean flags bursting into view, market-goers unprepared for the uprising had to decide what to do. Some fled in fear of possible consequences. Others, the ones who believed in their nation’s independence, joined the ranks of the demonstrators.
The woman had been eagerly awaiting this day. She had stayed up many nights with her daughter, sewing her nation’s flag, her hands shaking. Sitting under a kerosene lamp, she spoke to her daughter about Korea, its people, its faith, its ageless traditions, and the meaning of the Mansei Independence Movement. Listening to her mother, the little girl nodded her head, taking in everything. Now, clinging to her mother’s back, she heard the shouts of mansei. She felt the innocence and righteousness of her countrymen and women, dressed in white, ready to lay down their lives for the sake of their nation’s right to exist.
The March First Independence demonstrations took place not only in Anju; they occurred simultaneously in Seoul and across the nation. At most sites, they included a public reading of the Korean Declaration of Independence. This public outcry was not futile symbolism; it was an act of peaceful, non-violent protest, an acclamation that the Korean people will cherish for eternity.
* * *
Within moments, the demonstrators’ ears were assaulted by the sound of whistles and boots. With batons and rifles, dozens of policemen converged upon the market. They mercilessly struck everyone in their path. Right and left, people were beaten to the ground, bloodied. The policemen did not distinguish between man or woman, young or old. Desperate to protect her daughter, this mother had no choice but to hold back her tears and retreat. Although she was filled with the resolve to stand to the last, she knew that God’s wish is for human fellowship, and that bloodshed would only increase the burden of pain in God’s heart.
And there was something else. Something told this mother that it was not yet time for her nation to rise. It told her that in the future of Korea, a woman would be born with an unprecedented destiny, a woman who would break the mold of this fallen world. With this light of hope in her heart, she endured the humiliation of that afternoon.
In accordance with God’s providence and the absolute faith and love of Christian believers since biblical times, what that woman conceived in faith entered the world 24 years later. To her lineage, the only begotten Daughter of God was born, as the one called to fulfill that woman’s dreams.
* * *
Anju was my birthplace. It was an epicenter of Korean patriotism, and it is no coincidence that it was an area in which Christianity was first introduced to Korea. That woman was my grandmother, Jo Won-mo, and she continued her support of the independence movement, and she engaged her daughter—my mother—and me in her activities.
I was just two years old when my nation's history took its next turn, liberation from Japanese occupation. On that day, August 15, 1945, my grandmother Jo Won-mo again had a child on her back while she shouted, "Mansei!" But this time, the child was me. And this time my grandmother was shouting and waving our national flag with joy and delight for our nation’s newfound freedom.
God chose our family, a family of three generations of only daughters. Jo Won-mo, my grandmother, a woman who committed her heart to the Independence Movement, was an only daughter. Hong Soon-ae, my mother, a woman who single-mindedly committed her flesh and blood to fulfill her faith that she would meet Christ at his Second Advent, was her only daughter. I was her only child, the only daughter of the third generation. Among the oppressed people of the Korean Peninsula, God’s only begotten Daughter was born.
As I write these words in 2019, the centennial of the March First Independence Movement, I am pursuing my forebears’ dream, the dream of the ages, the completion of God’s providence of salvation throughout the Earth.