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 a while 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!