National convention, october 2-5, 2005, in bossier - Korean War ...

National convention, october 2-5, 2005, in bossier - Korean War ...

When a Rooster Crows at Night

Park, Therese

iUniverse, Lincoln, NE, 2004. 183pp. ISBN:

0-595-30876-7. $14.95 U.S.

The problem with war is that no one

understands fully its causes, who it

affects, how it affects them, and the

plight of the combatants and non-combatants

in the “theater.” That is one of

the lessons inherent in When a Rooster

Crows at Night.

For example, how many Korean War

veterans know that while they were

actively engaged in attempting to push

the communists out of South Korea,

folks in Pusan were staging demonstrations

outside the 8th Army base in favor

of reunification, as Park reveals in

Chapter 19? Probably not many. Most of

them were too occupied with the ferocious

combat in which they were unwitting

participants to worry about what the

people whose independence they were

fighting for were doing—or why they

were there in the first place.

Park explains that on p.75, as she

recounts a conversation with a Catholic

priest driven into hiding in her family’s

home by the approach of the communists.

“We can’t wear our religious garb

because of the communists,” he said.

“So many of our bothers have been

killed and so many more taken North

since last June [1950].” He added that,

“The communists only believe in their

own power. They don’t love anyone and

don’t trust anyone, not even their friends

and families. That’s why it’s dangerous

if the communists take over the country,

and that’s why so many foreign soldiers

are fighting for us, so that some day, the

world is a safe place to live for everyone.”

As Park suggests, not everyone in

South Korea was convinced.

“Confused?” one of her teachers

who, ironically, had fought with the

Japanese in WWII, said to her one day.

“Who isn’t confused here in Korea

today?” (p. 146) And why shouldn’t the

South Koreans rally for reunification for

their “brothers” and “sisters,” some of

whom at the time were massacring their

brethren in South Korea? After all, as

psychologists would say, the Koreans

were “conflicted.” The UN troops, on

the other hand, were simply participants

in a conflict—aka the Korean War.

Okay, so there was an oxymoronically

named “civil war” going on in Korea,

which drew in combatants from 21 UN

countries, Russia, and China. While

they waged war, civilians tried to make

sense of what was going on—and survive

in the midst of it. That is where

Therese Park’s book comes in.

Park, who was nine years old when

the North Koreans invaded South

Korea, provides a vivid insight into

what life was like for civilians who were

caught in the resulting war. She uses a

combination of humor and pathos that

depicts the ups and downs experienced

by rich and poor people alike. Park

describes in detail how the impact of

deaths on individual families, shortages

of food and household goods, cruelty of

the North Koreans, mysterious disappearances

of military-aged young men,

etc., affect society overall. She addresses

the uncertainty the South Koreans felt

as the war dragged on, their feelings pro

and con about the Americans, the sadness

surrounding the large numbers of

newly created orphans…in short, just

about every aspect of the deleterious

effects of war on civilians.

As a resident of Pusan, Park knew

firsthand about the effects. In one chapter,

she writes about her separation from

her family as they moved from Pusan to

Cheju Island (the “Island of Three

Manys…many winds, many women,

and many rocks) to escape the North

Koreans. She ended up in an orphanage—albeit

temporarily—and experienced

what it was like for many of her

peers whose parents were killed by the

North Koreans or who simply abandoned

their children in the hopes that

kindly Americans would rescue them.

She mentioned more than once that

warm-hearted Americans did just that.

In one part, she writes about the

increasing number of orphanages, eight

of them in one town on Cheju, where

suddenly orphaned children lived lives

of loneliness, boredom, and deprivation—where

simple things like roasted

sweet potatoes and chestnuts became for

them coveted treasures, even though

they were as elusive as peace between

the two Koreas. A room mother at the

one in which Park was lodged until her

family found her explained:

I also want you to know something

about the orphanages here on the

island. We are the newest. A generous

American pilot single-handedly rescued

lost children from Pyongyang,

Shinuiju, and other North Korean

towns and brought them to Seoul. But

since Seoul was evacuated last

January, he moved them here to Cheju

City. Thanks to him and his pilot

friends, we have about two thousand

children scattered in the city. (pp.


Those 2,000 children certainly did

not have it easy during the war—nor did

anyone else, as Park reveals in her book.

Park’s insights show readers that war

in not the best solution to problems. It

does, however, have a positive side, as

she noted in an essay she wrote in class.

War brings people closer, too. The

Americans in our country are our

friends, because they believe that

destroying civilization and human

lives is wrong. They are fighting for

us, risking their own lives. Because of

their sacrifices in our country, someday

South Korea will be a stronger

nation, and the Americans will be

remembered by all Koreans, as well

as people all over the world. (p. 139)

Well, maybe that someday hasn’t

arrived yet, but at least we can get a better

appreciation through Park’s book of

what the people of South Korea went

through over fifty years ago as United

Nations troops poured into their country

to help preserve their independence.

When a Rooster Crows at Night provides

that appreciation, as people who

take the time to read the book will learn.

In fact, people who start reading the

book at night might become so

immersed that they will find themselves

still absorbed in it when the rooster

crows at dawn—and more appreciative

of the disrupted and uncertain lives that

so many South Koreans led in the middle

of a war that technically hasn’t

ended yet.

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