Mother of Peace: Episode 07
Mother of Peace: And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears from Their Eyes
A Memoir by Hak Ja Han Moon
Chapter 2: I Came Into This World As The Only Begotten Daughter, pg 23-28
Came Into This World As The Only Begotten Daughter
A tree with deep roots
When I gently closed my eyes and listened to the harsh winds blowing through the cornfield, it sounded like thousands of horses running in the wilderness. It captured the dynamic spirit of Goguryo knights galloping powerfully across the continent. At other times, if I listened quietly, I would hear another kind of sound, the affectionate “Hwoo! Hwoo!” of scops owls in the high branches of trees deep in the mountains.
I remember those summer nights when I fell asleep holding my mother’s hand, with the sound of hooting owls echoing in my ears. More than 70 years have passed, but the beautiful scenery and soothing sounds of Anju remain in my heart. My hometown holds many beautiful memories for me, and I want to go back there. One day I will certainly return home.
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When I was born, my father, Han Seung-un, had a dreamlike vision. He saw bright sunlight beaming into a thick grove of pine trees. The light fell on two cranes that were dancing together in harmonious affection. He decided to name me “Hak Ja,” which means “crane child.”
I am a member of the Han clan of Cheongju in North Chungcheong Province, the clan’s historical birthplace. “Chungcheong” means “center of the heart that is pure and clear,” and Cheongju means “clear village.” When the water in a river or the sea is clear, one can see the fish swimming all the way to the bottom. Likewise, the hearts of my ancestors that lived in the town of Cheongju were pure and humble, through and through.
The Chinese character for my family name, “Han” (韓), has various meanings. It can mean “one,” symbolizing God. It also can mean “big,” as in large enough to embrace all created things in the universe, and “full,” meaning overflowing abundance. The founding father of the Han clan, Han Lan, was honored as a loyal patriot of the Kingdom of Goryeo. The king of Korea would recognize persons of civic virtue, and reward them with land and a perennial stipend. The court recorded their names in a book of honor, and there is an entry for Han Lan.
Han Lan’s story is this: He built a bureau for agricultural administration in a district of Cheongju called Bangseo-dong and turned a large expanse of land into productive farmland. When a war between Korean rulers broke out, Wang Geon—a nobleman and military general—passed through Cheongju on his way to do battle with Gyeon Hweon, the king of Hu-baekje. Han Lan greeted Wang Geon, fed his army of 100,000 soldiers, and joined him on the battlefield. Once Wang Geon became king, he declared Han Lan a loyal patriot. Han Lan’s reputation as a “founding contributor” to the kingdom has endured through the ages.
Thirty-three generations after Han Lan, I was born of his lineage. The numbers 3 and 33 are significant. Jesus asked three disciples to pray with him in Gethsemane. He prophesied that Peter would betray him three times before the cock crowed. Rejected of men, Jesus was crucified at the age of 33—yet he promised to return. He was one of three who were crucified on that day, to one of whom he said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” On the third day, Jesus rose from the grave. The number three signifies Heaven, Earth, and humankind. It signifies the perfect fulfillment of both heavenly law and natural law.
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The Korean people are descended from the Dong-yi race, a wise people who studied the stars and were able to ascertain heavenly fortune. They developed a prosperous agriculture-based culture, worshiped God and loved peace from the time before Christ. The Dong-yi people established kingdoms based on the name “Han.” Some people, including my husband, cite records that show that the Han people pre-date the Gojoseon era, which is considered to be the first Korean kingdom. Korea’s founding legend, called the Dangun legend, says we were chosen as the descendants of Heaven according to the deep will of God.
Our people are also called the Baedal race. The Chinese characters for bae and dal signify brightness and brilliance. That attribution recognizes our reverence for God and love of peace and serenity. To this day, Korea is known as “the land of the morning calm.”
Still, the Korean people’s 5,000-year history is filled with deep sorrow. Foreign powers constantly marched through Korea, trampling us like wild grass and leaving us stripped like the bare branches of a tree in the coldest of winters. But we never lost our roots. We overcame foreign invasions with wisdom and patience and survived as a nation, and of this we are proud.
One cannot help but wonder why God allowed this people to suffer such great hardships. I believe it was to prepare a people to whom He could entrust a great mission. We learn from the Bible that God’s chosen people always endure great adversity. On the foundation of Noah, Abraham, and other providential figures, God prepared the people of Israel as the ones to whom He could send the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Facing rejection, God had to allow Jesus to suffer great trials and hardship, and to finally offer his life on the cross.
Two thousand years later, God chose the Korean people and entrusted to them His only begotten Son and only begotten Daughter, the ones who can receive God’s first love. God needed a man and a woman who could endure suffering and rejection while continuing to forgive and love all people, thus revealing God’s heart of parental love. So too, God needed a nation capable of enduring suffering for the sake of all nations. God prepared the Korean people for this. Many peoples have suffered and disappeared from history, but the Koreans endured. Thus God entrusted this people with a noble mission.
As a hen embraces her brood
When I was born, Earth was groaning with anguish as a battleground in which people shed each other’s blood. People dwelled in extreme confusion and darkness and heartlessly exploited each other. As part of this wretched mosaic, the Korean Peninsula suffered indescribable torment under a Japanese occupation that lasted 40 years, from the 1905 Eul Sa Neung Yak, a protectorate treaty between Korea and Japan, until our liberation in 1945. I was born during that period of oppression.
I was born in 1943 in Anju, South Pyong-an Province of what is now North Korea, at 4:30 am on February 10 of the solar calendar and the sixth day of the first lunar month of that year. I remember clearly the address of my home, 26, Sineui-ri Anju-eup, which has been renamed Chilseong-dong, in what is now the city of Anju. My home was not far from the center of the village, and the surrounding neighborhood had a very warm and cozy feeling, as if we were chicks cuddled under a mother hen.
Unlike the thatched-roof houses nearby, my house had a tile roof and a big front porch. Behind it rose a small, verdant hill covered with chestnut and pine trees. Beautiful flowers bloomed and colorful leaves fell with the rhythm of the seasons, and I heard every kind of bird singing and chirping together. When spring warmed the earth, yellow forsythias smiled brightly between the fences, and azaleas bloomed red on the hill. A small stream flowed through our village, and, except when it froze solid in midwinter, I could always hear the laughing sound of the water. I grew up enjoying the happy sounds of the birds and the stream, as if they were a choir of nature. Even now, thinking of life in my hometown is like snuggling into a cozy and heartwarming mother’s embrace. This memory brings tears to my eyes.
Between our house and the hill, we had a small cornfield. When the corn was ripe, the husks would crack and yellow kernels of corn would appear through the long, silky hair. My mother would boil the ripened corn, put a generous number of cobs in a bamboo basket and call our neighbors to come and eat. They would come into our house through the gate built from sticks, sit in a circle on our porch and eat cobs of corn with us. I remember wondering why their faces did not look very bright, even though they were gratefully eating a delicious meal. Thinking about it years later, I realized these people were impoverished due to the severe exploitation of the occupying government.
I would squeeze in between the grown-ups and try to eat the kernels off a small cob of corn, but, as a small child, I was never successful. Noticing me, my mother would smile gently, break off some yellow kernels from her cob and put them into my mouth. I remember the sweet corn kernels rolling around in my mouth as if it were yesterday.