Ten Years of Tears Melt a Father-in-Law's Heart

Not long ago, the Korean media carried a story about a Japanese woman living in Mil-ryang, Korea, who received an award for her filial service to her family. The article said that the woman had come to Korea as the wife of a Korean man who had met her through an introduction by a certain religious group, and married her despite opposition from his family. The Japanese wife had cared for her Korean mother-in-law, who had difficulty moving around, and her aged father-in-law with great devotion. The people in the community then recommended her to be recognized for her filial actions, the article said.

The mother-in-law was paralyzed from the waist down, and classified by the Korean public health authorities as being in the second highest level of physical handicap. From the first day of her marriage, the daughter-in-law carried her mother-in-law on her back to different hospitals so that she could be treated. Because she spent so much time devoting herself to her parents in law, she rarely had time to visit her own family in Japan. When she heard that she was going to be awarded for her actions, she protested, saying that she was merely doing what was right.

This Japanese daughter-in-law in the news was Kazuko Yashima, who came to Korea through the international and intercultural marriage of our church. These are marriages, where men and women are matched across religious, national or racial differences. There are many young men in Korea's rural areas who cannot find brides. The brides who come to Korea in these international and intercultural marriages who are married to young Korean men in rural areas do so unconditionally.

They care for their aged parents in law, inspire their husbands to have strength and hope, and bear and raise children. They go to live in the rural communities that Koreans have left behind because it is so difficult to live there. What a wonderful and precious thing they are doing. This program has been going on for more than 30 years.

Thousands of women from other countries have settled in Korea through this program of international and intercultural marriage. In rural Korean communities where all the young people have left for the cities and the sound of a baby's cry has not been heard for a long time, the old people are overjoyed to see the birth of babies to these couples, and treat the babies as if they were their own grandchildren. I n one elementary school in Choong-cheong Province, more than half the 80 students attending this school are children of the international and intercultural marriages arranged by our church. The schools principal has said the school will have to close if its student body declines any further, and so he prays daily that our church members will not move away from the community. In Korea today, some 20,000 children of international and intercultural marriages are enrolled in elementary schools around the country.

Every year around the anniversary of Koreas independence from Japan, television news programs carry stories about some very special Japanese who stand before the camera and apologize for the actions of their country in Korea during the period of occupation. They themselves did not commit those crimes, but they apologize for the actions of their ancestors. Most of these people are members of our church who have torn down the walls separating nations by means of international and intercultural marriages. Because their actions, the walls in our hearts that have us thinking of the Japanese as our enemies have come down to a significant degree.

There was one intelligent young man who followed me. In 1988, he wanted to get married and sought to be matched, and it turned out that he was matched with a Japanese woman. The father of this young man reacted very negatively to the match.

"Of all the women in the world, you have to marry a Japanese?" he said.

During the Japanese occupation, he had been one of the Koreans conscripted into forced labor and taken to a coal mine in Iwate Prefecture in northwestern Japan. He risked his life to escape the mine and walked well over a month to Shimonoseki, where he was able to board a ship back to Korea. So he harbored tremendous hatred for Japan. On hearing the news of his son's match to a Japanese woman, he threatened to disown him.

"You betray the family," he said. "I will have your name taken out of the family tree. No woman from that enemy country will ever set foot in this house, so take her and go away. She is not right for you, so I don't care whether you go or die."

The father was adamant. The young man, however, went ahead and did what he felt was right He married the Japanese woman, and took his bride to his hometown in Na-gan, Korea. The father would not even open the front gate for them. Sometime later, he reluctantly accepted their marriage, but even then his persecution of his daughter-in-law continued.

Every time she seemed to have difficulty with something, he would say: "That's nothing compared to what your people did to me. You should have expected this much when you decided to marry into our family."

Every time the relatives would gather for a major holiday, the father-in-law would have her sit near him and tell her all the things that were done to him in the Iwate coal mine. Each time, the daughter-in-law would respond by saying, "Father, I apologize to you on behalf of Japan. I am sorry." She would shed tears and ask for his forgiveness. For as long as he would vent his anger at her, she would listen to him tell the same stories over and over until he was finished, and she would continue to apologize.

This went on for about ten years, and then it stopped. Relatives noticed that his cold attitude toward the daughter-in-law had become much warmer, and that he even seemed to like her. So they asked him.

"Why are you behaving so kindly toward your daughter-in-law?" they said. "She's a Japanese woman. Don't you hate her?"

"I don't hate her anymore," he said. "All the hatred that had accumulated in my heart has gone away.

"I never hated her," he said. "I was just venting on her all the hatred that was in me for having been conscripted to work in the mine. Because of her, the hatred has all disappeared. From now, I'm going to be kind to her, because she's my daughter-in-law."

The daughter-in-law had paid for the sins of the Japanese. This is an example of the path of redemption that will lead humankind into a world of peace.