A Definite Compass for My Life
The Moon clan originated in Nampyung, Cholla Province, a town about 320 miles south of Seoul in the southwest region of the country. My great great grandfather Sung Hak Moon had three sons. The youngest of these was my great grandfather Jung Heul Moon, who himself had three sons: Chi Guk, Shin Guk, and Yun Guk. My grandfather Chi Guk was the oldest
Grandfather Chi Guk Moon was illiterate, as he did not attend either a modern elementary school or the traditional village school. His power of concentration was so great, however, that he was able to recite the full text of the Korean translation of the classical Chinese text San Guo Zhi just by having listened to others read it to him. It wasn't just San Guo Zhi. When he heard someone tell an interesting story, he could memorize it and retell it in exactly the same words. He could memorize anything, after just hearing it once. My father took after him in this way. He could sing from memory the entire Christian hymnal, consisting of more than 400 pages.
Grandfather followed the last words of his father to live his life with a spirit of giving, but he was not able to maintain the family fortune. This was because his youngest brother, my Grand Uncle Yun Guk, borrowed money against all the family's property and lost it all. Following this incident, members of the family went through some very hard times, but my grandfather and father never spoke ill of Grand Uncle Yun Guk. This was because they knew that he had not lost the money gambling or anything of that nature. Instead, he had sent the money to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea based in Shanghai, China. In those days, 70,000 won was a large sum, and this was the amount that Grand Uncle Yun Guk donated to the independence movement.
Grand Uncle Yun Guk, a graduate of the Pyongyang Seminary and a minister, was an intellectual who was fluent in English and well versed in Chinese studies. He served as the responsible pastor for three churches, including Deok Heung Church in Deok Eon Myeon. He participated in the drafting of the 1919 Declaration of Independence, together with Nam-seon Choe. When it was found, however, that three of the 16 Christian leaders among the signatories were associated with Deok Heung Church, Grand Uncle Yun Guk had his name removed from the list. Seung Heun Lee, one of the remaining signatories who worked with my grand uncle in established the Osan School, asked Grand Uncle Yun Guk to take care of all his affairs in the event that the independence movement might result in his death at the hands of the Japanese colonial authorities.
On returning to our hometown, Grand Uncle Yun Guk printed tens of thousands of Korean flags and handed them out to the people who poured into the streets to shout their support for Korean independence. He was arrested on March 8, as he led a demonstration on the hill behind the Aipo Myeon administrative office. The demonstration in support of independence was attended by the principal, faculty and some 2,000 students of the Osan School, some 3,000 Christians and some 4,000 other residents of the area. He was given a two-year prison sentence, and was Imprisoned in the Eui-ju prison. The following year, he was released as a part of a special pardon. Even after his release, severe persecution by the Japanese police meant he could never stay long in one place, and he was always on the run. He carried a large scar where the Japanese police had tortured him by stabbing him with a bamboo spear and carving out a piece of his flesh. He was tortured by being speared in the legs and in the side of his ribs with sharp bamboo spears, but he said that he never gave in. When the Japanese found they couldn't break him, they offered him the position of county chief if he would pledge to stop participating in the independence movement
His response was to rebuke the Japanese in a loud voice: "Do you think I would take on a position and work for you thieves?"
When I was about seven or eight years old, Grand Uncle Yun Guk was staying in our home for a short time, and some members of the Korean independence army came to see him. They were low on funds, and they traveled by night on foot through a heavy snowfall to reach our house. My father covered the heads of us children with a sleeping quilt so that we would not be awoken* I was already wide awake, and I lay there under the quilt, my eyes wide open, listening as best I could to the sounds of the adults talking. Though it was late, my mother slaughtered a chicken and boiled some noodles to serve to the independence fighters.
To this day, I cannot forget the words that I heard Grand Uncle Yun Guk speak as I lay there under the quilt, holding my breath in excitement.
"Even if you die," he said, "if you die for the sake of our country, you will be blessed."
He continued, "Right now, we can see only darkness before us, but the bright morning is sure to come."
Because of the effects of torture by the Japanese police, he did not have full use of his body, but his voice resonated with strength.
I also remember thinking to myself then: "Why did such a wonderful person as Grand Uncle have to go to prison? If only we were stronger than Japan, that wouldn't have happened."
Grand Uncle Yun Guk continued to roam about the country, avoiding persecution by the Japanese police, and it was not until 1966 while I was in Seoul that I received news of him again. Grand Uncle appeared in a dream to one of my younger cousins, and told him: "I am buried in Jeong-seon, Kangwon Province." We went to the address he gave in the dream, and found that he had already passed away nine years before that. We found only a grave mound covered with weeds. I had his remains reburied in Paju, Kyounggi Province.
In the years following Korea's liberation from Japan in 1945, Communists in North Korea hunted down and killed Christian ministers and independence fighters. Grand Uncle Yun Guk, fearing his presence might cause harm to the family, escaped the Communists by crossing over the 38th parallel and settling in Jeong-seon. No one in our family was aware of this. He supported himself in that remote mountain valley by selling calligraphy brushes. Later, we were told, he set up a traditional village school, where he taught Chinese classics. According to some of his former students, he often enjoyed spontaneously compose poems in Chinese characters. His students have transcribed and preserved some 130 of these.
South North Peace
Ten years since I left home to come South
The river of time urges my hair to turn white
I would return North, but how can ?
What was to be a short visit to a foreign land
has become lengthy
Wearing the long-sleeved ko-hemp clothing from
home let's me know summer has come
As I wave a silk fan, I worry what to do
when autumn comes
Peace between South and North draws near
Children waiting under the eaves,
You have no need to worry.
Though separated from his family and living in Jeong-seon, a land unfamiliar to him in every way, Grand Uncle Yun Guk's heart was filled with concerns for his country. Grand Uncle also left this poetic verse: "When setting your goal in the beginning, pledge yourself to a high standard; don't allow yourself even the least bit of private desire. Grand Uncle Yun Guk's contributions to the
independence movement were belatedly recognized by the Republic of Korea government, and in 1977 and 1990 he was posthumously awarded a presidential award and The Order of Merit for National Foundation. Even now, I will sometimes recite his poetic verses. They are infused with his steadfast love for his country even in the face of adversity.
Recently, as I grow older, I think about Grand Uncle Yun Guk more
often. Each phrase of his poetry expressing his heart of concern for his country penetrates into my heart. I have taught our members the song Daehan Jiri'Ga (Song of Korean Geography), whose words were written by Grand Uncle Yun Guk himself. I enjoy singing this song with our members. When I sing this song from Mt. Baektu to Mt. Halla, I feel relieved of my burdens.
Song of Korean Geography
The peninsula of Korea in the East Positioned among three countries.
North, the wide plains of Manchuria East, the deep and blue East Sea,
South, a sea of many islands, West, the deep Yellow Sea
Food in the seas on three sides, Our treasure of all species offish.
Mighty Mt. Paektu stands on the North, Rivers Amrok and Tuman giving water.
Flowing in to seas east and west, Marking a clear border with Soviets
Mr. Kumgang shines bright in center, A park for the world, pride of Korea.
ML Halla rises above blue South Sea A landmark forfishermen at sea.
Four plains ofDaedong, Hangang, Geumgang and Jeonju give our people food and clothing.
Four mines ofWoonsan, Soonan, Gaecheon and ]aeryunggive us the treasures of the Earth.
Four cities of Kyungsung, Pyungyang, Daegu and Kaesung on the land.
Four ports ofBusan, Wonsan, Mokpo and Incheon receive foreign ships.
Railroads spread out from Kyungsung, Connecting the two main lines, Kyung-Eui and Kyung-Bu
Branch lines Kyung-Won and Honam run north and south, Covering the entire peninsula.
Historical sites tell us of our history
Two thousand year city of Dangun, Pyongyang.
Kaesung, capital ofKoryo, Kyungsung, 500yearcapital ofChosun,
Kyungju has Shillas 2,000 year culture, and Origin of Pak Hyuk-ki-sai
Chungchong has Buyo, the histori capital of Paekche. Future can be pioneered on the three seas.