Please Don't Die

I continued to devote myself to prayer, and I came to feel intuitively that the time had come for me to marry. Because I had decided to follow God's path, everything about my life had to be done in accordance with God's will. Once I came to know something through prayer, I had no choice but to follow. So I went to one of my aunts who had much experience in arranging marriages, and asked her to introduce me to a suitable wife. This is how I met Seon Gil Choi, the daughter of a prominent Christian family in Jungju.

She was a frugal woman born Into and raised in an upright family. She had only attended elementary school, but she had a character that disliked having to cause even the slightest trouble to others. Her character was so strong and her Christian faith so deep that she had been imprisoned at age 16 for refusing to comply with a Japanese colonial requirement that all Koreans worship at Shinto shrines. I was told that I was the twenty-fourth man to be considered as her groom, so it seems she was very selective about whom she would marry. Yet, once I returned to Seoul, I completely forgot that I had ever met the woman.

My plan after completing my studies in Japan had been to travel to Hailar, China, a city on the border between China, Russia and

Mongolia. My school in Tokyo had arranged a job for me with the Manchuria Electric Company, and my plant was to work in Hailar for about three years and learn Russian, Chinese and Mongolian. Just as I had earlier sought out a school that would teach me Japanese so that I could overcome the Japanese, I wanted to go this border city and learn a number of foreign languages as a way of preparing myself for the future. It was becoming increasingly clear, however, that Japan was heading for defeat in the war. I decided that it would be better for me not to go to Manchuria. So I stopped by a branch office of the Manchuria Electric Company in Andung (present day Dandong) and submitted paperwork to cancel my job. Then I headed for my hometown. When I arrived, I found the aunt whom I had asked to arrange my marriage was in great distress. Apparently, the woman I had met was refusing to consider anyone other me as her partner, and causing great trouble for her family. As soon as I arrived, my aunt took me by the arm and led me to the Choi family home.

I explained to Seon Gil Choi clearly about the kind of life I intended to lead.

"Even if we marry now, you should be prepared to live without me for at least seven years" I said.

"Why should I do that?" she said.

"I have a task that is more important than marriage. In fact, my reason for getting married has to do with my ability to carry out Gods providence. Our marriage needs to develop beyond the family to the point where we can love the nation and all humanity. Now that you know that this is my intention, do you truly want to marry me?"

She responded with a firm voice: "It doesn't matter to me. After I met you, I dreamed of a field of flowers in the moonlight I am certain that you are my spouse sent from Heaven. I can endure any difficulty."

I was still concerned, and I pressed her several times. Each time, she sought to set my mind at ease, saying, "I am willing to do anything, as long as I am able to marry you. Don't worry about anything."

Unfortunately, my future father-in-law passed away a week before our scheduled wedding date. Our wedding was delayed, and we were finally able to hold our ceremony on May 4,1944. Normally, May is a time for beautiful spring days, but on our wedding day it rained heavily. Rev. Ho Bin Lee of the Jesus Church officiated. Later, after liberation from Japan, Rev. Lee would go to South Korea and establish an ecumenical seminary called the Jung-ang Seminary. My wife and I began our married life in my boarding room in Heuksok Dong. I truly loved her and took such good care of her that the mistress of the boarding house would say, "Oh my, you must really love her that you would treat her as if you were handling an egg."

I got a job at the Kyongsong branch of the Kashima Gumi Construction Co. in Yongsan in order to support our family while I also carried out church work. Then, one day in October, the Japanese police suddenly stormed into our home.

"Do you know so-and-so of Waseda University?" they demanded. Without even giving me a chance to reply, they pulled me out of the house and took me to the Kyounggi Province Police Station. I had been detained, because one of my friends had been arrested for being a Communist and had mentioned my name to his interrogators.

Once inside the police station, I was immediately subjected to torture. "You're a member of the Communist Party, aren't you? Weren't you working with that rascal while you were studying in Japan? Don't even bother trying to deny it All we have to do is put in a call to Tokyo Police Headquarters, and they will tell us everything. Don't die like a dog. Give us the list of Party members!"

They beat me with a table and broke all four of its legs against my body, but I refused to give them the names of the people who had worked with me in Japan.

So the Japanese police went to where I was living with my wife, turned it upside down, and discovered my diaries. They brought the diaries to me and went through them page by page, demanding I tell them about the names they found. I denied everything, even though I knew they might kill me for my silence. The police stomped on me mercilessly with their spiked military boots until my body was limp as though I were dead. Then they hung me from the ceiling and swung me back and forth. Like a slab of meat hanging in a butcher shop, I swung this way and that as they pushed me with a stick. Soon, blood tilled my mouth and it began dripping onto the cement floor below me. Each time I lost consciousness, they would pour a bucket of water over me. When I regained consciousness, the torture would begin again. They held my nose and stuck the spout of a tea kettle into my mouth, forcing me to swallow water. When my stomach became bloated with water, they lay me face up on the floor, looking like a frog, and began stomping on my abdomen with their military boots. The water would be forced up my esophagus, and I would vomit until everything turned black. On the days after I had been tortured this way, my esophagus felt as though it was on

fire inside me. The pain was so great I could not bear to swallow a single mouthful of soup. I had no energy, and I would just lie face down on the floor, completely unable to move.

The war was coming to an end, and the Japanese police were desperate. They tortured me in ways words cannot describe. I endured, though, and never gave them the names of any of my friends. Even as I was going in and out of consciousness, I made sure not give them what they wanted, even if it cost me my life. Finally tiring of torturing me, the Japanese police sent for my mother. When she arrived, my legs were so swollen that I couldn't stand on my own. Two policemen each had to put one of my arms over their shoulder and help me walk to the visiting room. My mother had tears in her eyes even before she set eyes on me.

"Endure just a little longer," she said. "Mother will somehow get you a lawyer. Please endure and don't die before then."

My mother saw how my face was covered in blood, and she pleaded with me.

"It doesn't matter how much good you are trying to do," she said. "It's more important that you keep yourself alive. No matter what happens, don't die."

I felt sorry for her. I would have liked to have cried out, "Mother," embraced her and cried out loud with her. I couldn't do that, though, because I knew perfectly well why the Japanese police had brought her there. My mother kept pleading with me not to die, but all I could do in return was blink my badly swollen and bloodied eyes.

During the time I was held in the Kyounggi Province Police Station, it was Mrs. Gi Bong Lee, the mistress of the boarding house, who kept me supplied with food and clothing. She wept every time she visited me.

I would comfort her, saying, "Endure a little longer. This era is coming to an end. Japan will be defeated soon. You don't need to cry." These were not empty words. God had given me this belief. As soon as the police released me in February of the following year, I took all my diaries that had been stacked in the boarding house to the shore of the Han River. There, I burned them all, so that they would not cause any further trouble to my friends. If I had not done this, I knew the diaries could cause trouble every time I might be held by the police. My body did not recover easily from the torture. I had blood in my feces for quite a while. Mrs. Lee, the boarding house mistress, and her sister helped me with great sincerity and dedication to nurse by body back to health.

Finally, on August 15,1945, Korea was liberated from Japan. This was

the day every Korean had been waiting for. It was a day of tremendous emotion. Shouts of "Manseil* and waves of the Taeguk Flag covered the entire peninsula. I could not join in the festivities, however. My heart was deadly serious, because I could foresee the terrible calamity that was about to befall the Korean peninsula. I went alone into a small anteroom and immersed myself in prayer. Soon after that, my fears were realized. Although liberated from Japanese rule, our homeland was cut in two at the 38th parallel. In the North, a Communist regime that denied the existence of God came to power.