Here comes the Son... my brother is born!

Back in Seoul with a brand new brother. Korean babies are carried on mother's back,
wrapped with a special blanket with ties just for this purpose. Early baby backpack.
Can you see my little brother's face peeking out from my mother's back?
Me and my sister in front, giant kimchi pots in the background. Notice the beautiful handmade clay chimney on the right. More on the amazing heating system someday...
My mother is probably tending to kimchi, denjang (miso) or ganjang (soy sauce), monitoring the delicate fermentation process. We were always neatly combed and side braided.

Me, camera ready and serious, my sister, free and funny with candies in her hand... toldya.! 
An outing with baby brother, barely one + me, dad and my little sister.
There were lots of fun family outings those days. 
Me, in early Samadhi, my sister counting her fingers, my brother, held too tight! eeeeeeek!
My brother, growing up... loves his mommy! Mom in traditional Korean clothes, air kisses.
Ah! the elegant sleeves... long full skirt, perfect sokchima (underskirt/dress) peeks.

My brother, my parent's only son, was born in Busan during the Korean War. Our family lived in this once sleepy southern coastal city for three years, long enough to add a new baby and for me to start kindergarten. My memory of Busan is a happy one even though we were war refugees from Seoul. Busan is now a beautiful, thriving city by the ocean... tourist destination, I hear. I'd love to go back someday!

Why Busan? The war!
With few precious objects buried in the backyard, our family abandoned our home, fled Seoul in a hurry, on an open train, (you can see the stars!) and rode to Busan with our relatives and tens of thousands of fellow refugees in bitter cold January. The Allied forces had lost ground, or as a strategic move by General Douglas MacArthur, some say, and retreated South, to the end of the Korean peninsula. The move was strongly advised but ultimately it was up to families... and many who stayed North perished tragically. 

2.1.2... two girls, ONE BOY, two more girls... is our sibling mix. When my brother was still just a little baby, the war ended, sort of as you know, we returned to our home in Seoul. We were lucky the bombs missed our house, just barely! Imagine starting over in a house abandoned for three years, while the war waged all around it... much of what we buried, gone with the war time plunder and vandalism... and three little ones.

The celebration of the arrival of my brother began in earnest once we settled back. Endlessly, joyously by the whole clan. War over, new Boy!

Do you have any idea how important a son is in our culture? It's beyond the imagination for modern Westerners. I remember the elaborate fuss; huge parties to mark 100 days old, one year old... rituals, gatherings, food, visits by far flung relatives, deep discussions about his name... I imagine my mother was deeply relieved and proud to have produced a son. He was the most adorable little boy!

He now lives in a beautiful mountain town in Northern California. He is a seasoned outdoorsman and an exceptional telemark skier, enjoying the fruits of his hard work. He is father of two beautiful, accomplished young ladies. My sweet nieces!

I love my family! I miss my father... and his many many many hugs when hugging was rare!... he could because he was his own funnyman. Ok, my eyes are wet.

Mid fifties, Seoul Korea
I just googled Busan - wowza! Looks like Canne. They should hold a film festival there. I will post some photos of us the refugees in Busan soon. Did not look like Canne then... 


  1. Hi Ja Soon,

    Ironically, there is an annual film festival in Busan now.

  2. Ja Soon, this is fascinating. It's interesting - we are both thinking much about our childhoods and our parents these days. The photos are gorgeous - the one of your mother and brother!! Serious you and Sassy sister - like me and mine. PLUS I must say, your father looks like Gregory Peck!