My father was a young MP during the mid-1950’s assigned to Yongsan when he met my mother. Toward the end of his tour, he finally got his command’s approval for their marriage. However, my mother decided she didn’t want to marry and leave her family. After he PCSed to Germany, she discovered that she was pregnant. She contacted him and let him know. He promised he would return and take me back to the United States. She corresponded with him and his family about my birth and sent pictures over many years to let them know how I was doing. He returned after 8 years. I came to the United States in 1965.
I was born in Yongsan to an unwed Korean mother and an American GI. I realized that unlike many other Amerasian children, mine was atypical story. I was brought up in a Korean family home, unlike so many like myself who were either abandoned or placed for adoption. For this, I will be forever grateful to my halmeoni, since I know my birth brought great shame to our family. Also unlike many of the others, I have always known who my father was and what he looked like from pictures. He, too, did not abandon me either.
As a Korean-American child, Yongsan Garrison was place that was forever behind some gate that I was not allowed to go past. One day, I decided that I was going to find my father. From the outhouse window from my home you could see the road and the gate leading to the garrison across the gully between the two. One time, my mother held me up to the window and told me that my father had worked at the gate.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see myself as a little girl walking down the main road I lived by, crossing a bridge over the gully, and coming around the corner to the short road that led to its entrance. When I arrived and tried to get thru the gate, the Korean MP stopped me. I told him I needed to find my dad so I could go to the United States. Of course, he informed me that he was not there and not to come back. It became my daily ritual for awhile to walk to the gate, but not to get too close and have a staring contest with the Korean MPs on gate duty. I finally got thru a gate to the Yongsan Garrison after my dad returned. He took me to the PX to buy a new winter coat and scarf the night before we flew to the United States, leaving my Korean family behind and losing all contact with them.
I remembered when someone turned 60 in Korean years; it was a special hallmark and time of celebration. I promised myself that I would follow the Korean tradition and return to Yongsan when I turned 60, if I had not returned by then. I will be returning this September, a year later than I anticipated. I am elated that I can finally stay on Yongsan Garrison at Dragon Hill Lodge and go in and out any gate as much as I please. After 53 years, I am finally coming home to Yongsan!
WHAT AN AMAZING story!!!!!! Thank you very much for sharing it.
Do you have your trip planned to come this coming September?
If you allow us we really want to meet with you.
Such stories add an immense value to this peace of land!
Yes, I would love to meet you and the rest of the group, too. The trip is already booked and the flight arrangements made. My husband is a retired US Army soldier. Currently, he is a DA civilian at the Signal School at Ft Gordon, GA. We live in Evans, GA. We have reservations for the Tokyo-Seoul Package. I will be arriving from Tokyo to Dragon Hill Lodge on Sept. 16 for the 10 day stay in Seoul. Our flight itinerary has already been approved by Dragon Hill Lodge. We will be departing Seoul on Sept. 20. Thank you so much for your reply. Marsha Jean Altvater
Note From: Sangso Nam
Subject: Skakji, Yongsan
Re: A lady who was born near Yongsan Garrison
Judging from her old memories of the areas around U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, I think it was Gate #1 (now Gate #16 I think), facing the main boulevard where tram was running ringing. The area was and is called Samkakji (which means triangular place).
The open gully she remembers still exists in parallel with the main garrison road inside the North Post (Main Post). The stream photo attached here shows the upstream of the same gully. The trench usually runs a small amount of water but water fills full of the stream after storm or heavy rains as it originates from the slope of Mt. Nam on the northeast of the Garrison.
As the pink allow I placed on the maps points, I believe she had spent her childhood years in that small island of town facing the Samkakji junction where cluster of small houses aggregated (now behind the wedding hall at the War Museum).
While she was there as a child in 1957~1965, I went through the Gate 1, showing Yongsan Pass to the guard, and walked on the sidewalk along the gully to the design office of Trans-Asia Engineers on the hill of the then North Post. I got off the street tram at Samkakji station. And after the work, I with friends took the tram southward to Han River for swimming and sun bathing on the riverside sand.
By the way, she might remember the flooding of the Samkakji and Yongsan areas about a foot by heavy rains in a summer (I forgot the year).
An episode: The old gate #1 is still there on the same location and looks about the same. One morning I showed my wallet that contained my Garrison Pass in a transparent film to American soldier guarding at the gate #1. He took it and turned around inside the guard house and a few minutes later returned the walled, closed, to me. I put it in my pocket and walked for a minute and got suspicious about him and pulled out and opened my walled. A note of W1,000 (equivalent to W10,000 or $10 now) was missing. It was my lunch money for the day. I stopped, turned around to protest him (a tall African-American), but immediately I realized it won’t work. Turned around again, and I walked to my office.
(Kim Chun-su, Jacco Zwetsloot and Mr. Kim of Dragon Hill Lodge hotel loved this story and they kept laughing when we were near the same gate house on our survey of the historical monuments in the Garrison a few years ago)