HOUSE 1 #04 Relationship with Death

By in From East to West / MFA on August 1, 2012

My father was the only son in a big family. Being the only son was the sweetest thing that could happen in a traditional Korean family. If you are the oldest son in your clan, you will get all the love and respect, and you will be the sole heir! However, my father’s story was never close to those prince stories. He lost most of his closest family members during the Korean War and was left with a traditional obligation to the deaths that he needed to attend to. In my father’s Korea, the oldest son was responsible for taking care of his parents and grandparents, even the ones who aren’t living in the same world anymore. My father has never missed his commitment to all the ones who died before he turned nine, the year he lost his father. I remember that I spent my childhood around their graves and played hide and seek around tombstones while my father was taking care of more than thirty graves. I was too young to see the burden that my father carried, but it was the most mysterious places and time for a little boy. His commitment to dead family members often compromised his relationships with the living ones he loved the most. My father was a good son, a good grandchild, as well as a good nephew to his childless uncles who died during the Korean War. However, for his living family, he was too busy to get close to us until we grew enough to understand the relationship between him and his dead family.

I built a monument to my relationship with the dead. This memory takes up a big portion of my childhood memories. Graves, tombstone, and these surroundings were my secret playground.

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Frank YJ Cho

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