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[Feature]Korean Immigrants In America⑤

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작성자 minjok 작성일02-01-18 00:00 조회2,019회 댓글0건

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Chapter Five: THE MARRIAGE BY PICTURE


It is no exaggeration to say that the whole Asian social structure is built upon the basis of the principle of extended family organiza-tion. On the side of the individuals involved, the traditional family teaches them the necessity of cooperation, courtesy, patience, and self-control in family relationship, placing in their minds the supreme importance of working for the honor and glorification of the family name.

sunwoohakwon.jpg As an institution the traditional Asian family serves a wide range of functions. Economically it serves as a unit of production by the peasants and for the gentry. In the case of the latter, family wealth will be managed by one person, and be put into the service of his family. In either case, peasantry or gentry, there will be a large degree of isolation of the family in the economic realm; the farmer tills the soil of his farm, and is limited in contacts to neighbors and villagers usually of the same surname, while the latter remains as isolated from the marketplace as is possible. In the scale of Asian values commercial activities ran relatively low; the Asian gentry in most cases delegated those which are unavoidable to one family manager.

Administratively the household plays an important role serving as the basic unit in the machine of the state. The individuals within are responsible to the family head who in turn reports necessary information to the central government. It should be remembered that most administrative and governmental matters are handled by such extra-legal groups as the clan and the local self-help organizations.

As an educational institution the traditional family serves to indoctrinate the incoming generation rather thoroughly into the values and norms of the society. Within the family most of the indoctrination is carried on as part of the socialization process. Formal education outside the family provides no release from disciple. The tutor assumes the parental role and plays it spiritually. Family solidarity and individual security are the end products of a social system which gives each member at any age and generation a well-defined set of role expectations and an identity.

Although the Asians place a high value on composure and much expression is formalized, as in lavish funerals and weddings, romantic love, considered a threat to family order, crops up again and again in their literature. The married couples have their own rooms, suites, or household and have intimate association; it, however, should be noted that while overt expressions of affection between husband and wife receive disapproval there is also the expectation that those who wed as virtual strangers will develop personal bonds in the course of married life. When such bonds do not develop, the husband has recourse to concubines for love and affection. The wife, whose relations with the mother-in-law would already have made her existence in the family a trying one, has little by way of affective gratification except that which could be developed between herself and her children.

Asian women have suffered, according to existing literature, under clan power, husband power as well as traditional feudalistic political power and religious power. It is no wonder then that great novelist like Lushan criticized vigorously the Chinese family system in his The Story of Hair, Medicine, Wine Castle, and Blessing.

We have no data to prove that the marriage of early Korean immigrants by means of photography was successful or not. Our impression is that they got along together, some are more beautifully than others, although there were few divorces among them. There were, of course, some obvious reasons for such phenomena.

First of all, it was an expensive business for a man to bring a bride-to-be from Korea; secondly, their cultural and traditional orientations had discouraged them from looking for other than Korean women for their spouses; thirdly, even though some of them were willing to settle with non-Korean women, they had difficulty in communication; lastly, not only lack of social contact with non-Korean groups, there were virtually no women available for the Korean men at that time. Therefore, the only possible road opened for the Korean men to get married was to bring a bride-to-be from Korea.

We will discuss marriage by matchmakers. The tradition is still strong and practiced even by those who have received a college education. We have witnessed such a case recently among our own friends who had received a doctorate degree in social science in America. The marriage by picture is, however, rather rare.

Those picture brides whom we have interviewed are progressive, adventurous, and courageous without any exception. Most of these women, more than their counterparts, have contributed to the unity of their families, solidarity of their community, and continuity of their churches. It is our conviction that if there were any successes among the Korean families, communities, and churches, it was due to these women"s sufferings and hardships and vision.
We would like to introduce Mrs. Shinn Kang-Aie, Sonia"s mother, at this time. She left Korea as a "picture bride" at the age of 19, arriving in San Francisco where her groom-to-be was nervously waiting.

Q. What was your first impression of him?
A. Oh, he was average. I had never seen him before.
Q. You didn"t think he was handsome, mother?
A. No. I never saw him before.

She avoided answering the question. At the age of 80, she was still shy about the subject of her marriage. The father was always dressed up with his tie and hat. On this special occasion, he wore his best suit and a hat to meet his bride-to-be at the dock. She remembers that she hadn"t eaten all day and she was hungry. It didn"t matter to her whether it was a meal time or not, she had to eat. She told her future husband that she was hungry. He took her to a Chinese restaurant and also invited his friends including Rev. Lee Dae-wie who came out to welcome her. It was an occasion for celebration. The young bride-to-be had a healthy appetite, and the young bride-to-be was, indeed, pleased. The mother was smiling as she was revealing her stories.
The waiter brought us rice in little bowls and as I was about to finish he bowl, your father ordered another--so I ate the half of the second bowl. So thereafter, your father always teases me about my having eaten three bowls of rice when I first came to America.

Q. Weren"t you bashful?

A. I felt he was going to be my husband so I really wasn"t too shy. I didn"t know about love and all that and he"s average I thought.

Q. You didn"t fear him?

A. No. I wasn"t afraid of him. After dinner, he said we were going home. He took us to house that he had tall ceiling at Pierce and Rush Streets. The store part was huge. He said we were going into cleaning business. There was an ironing board, and a gas iron with an adjusting gadget on the outside... that"s hand iron. A few things began to come in as the days went by. I had be scared if he went out to the bank or something. 3 or 4 months later, someone threw a stone into the store window and awakened us. It was an incident of racial prejudice. It really frightened me. The store was in a white neighbourhood. Imagine someone breaking the large front window.

Q. What did father do? Did he call police?

A. No, he said this is prejudice against Orientals, and he boarded up the window. After awhile we had to quit the business.

Thus her life in America started with the unpleasant life of racial prejudice but she made up her mind to make it good as she had promised her parents before she left Korea. She was sent to school by her husband to learn the new language. He brought her a skirt and middy blouse to wear to school... he said to her that that"s what young school girls wore to school. She attended about 4 months. She barely learned her ABC"s and she didn"t feel good. Pretty soon she bore a daughter--Sonia. They named her in Korean--Sungry or Shining Star as he dreamed about the coming baby she had borne. A little later, a son, Daye, then, Dave, and Daniel were born. She explained her situation in following manner:
Things began to happen. I"d be tired, or a child got sick so no more school for me. Min Chan-ho had put out a book on learning English without a teacher. That was a very good book... Your father sent that book to me to study before I came to America. At that time, I didn"t have time to study because I was too busy preparing to come to the USA. I learnt a lot from that book although I went to school for a while.

After short experiences in working as a cook in Stockton, father decided to have his own business. He studied about 6 months as an apprentice, and became a master barber. He borrowed money and opened his barber shop with 3 chairs on Stockton Street in San Francisco. Business was slow. He wanted to move into a better location in Chinatown where there were more Asians who were his potential customers. His new shop on Jackson Street had 5 chairs. He stayed there 18 years. At this location, he raised all his four children and sent them to college. After 18 years, father"s health began to fail. High blood pressure began. Meantime, mother did factory sewing. Her younger sister, Pilyun, came to study in America. There were now five children, not four, who needed parental support.

Father"s high blood pressure became worse. He sold the shop and bought a hotel on Kearny Street for $400. Mother had saved about $2,000 from sewing. Then there was Pearl Harbor and all the boys left to serve in the Army, Navy, etc. She had to work harder than ever to support the family since father wasn"t healthy. Business was good and she saved some money. But father was physically getting weaker and he now wanted to get rid of the business and go to their daughter"s place in Seattle where she was teaching at the university with her husband also at the university. Father"s physical condition was no better even after he retired from his hard work.

Father didn"t want to die in Seattle where there is not even a Korean community and where there were no Korean friends to attend his funeral service. Our parents had to return to San Francisco where they had spent most of their adult life together. Mother had to buy another hotel at Bush and Kearny paying $3,000 because there was no place they could stay and they needed some income to live on. Father passed away but mother kept the hotel. However, the business went from bad to worse.

Q. Didn"t the Korean Consul give you trouble?
A. The Koreans, many of them were servicemen, kept coming to my hotel and when they visited the Korean Consulate and were asked "where are you staying?" they"d say, "Kearney Hotel" and Mr. Chu forbade them to go there saying it was "communist" hotel. He deserves to become a beggar. The Koreans were so happy because she served them rice and Korean foods. After two days, the soldiers said they had orders to check out by the Consul. Syngman Rhee was president, and he accused all KNA members of being "Communists".

Some of these soldiers came by boat and they had been so seasick they looked dead. Made them rice gruel and kimchi, and they all claimed, "Now I"ve been revived." Later she met some of them in Korea and although she couldn"t remember them, they remembered her. She finally had to give up the hotel because the lease expired, and the landlord would not renew it.

Her children asked her to stay with them, but the 80-year-old pioneer refused their invitation claiming that she would stay alone as long as she could take care of herself. As of this writing she is doing very well. When one of her grandchildren asked, do you like living in America? She would not hesitate to stay that: "Yes, I like it. Where can I go? It"s comfortable and I don"t have ay worries of being afraid or dying. I"ve got my doctor, medicare, good neighborhood--no worry. I only wished that somebody lived closer to me so they could drop by easily and often." Grandchildren live close to her apartment and drop in often, but to her that is not enough. Then she reflects that: "I understand, young folks are always busy... I"m lucky I can go around here. If I can"t move around I better die. ...I have canned soups and canned drink. Nothing to worry... One worry is if I should be sick for a long time. I hope this won"t happen before I die."

She is 84 years old, and she still volunteers to make kimchee whenever her church has special occasions to entertain the people. Her pioneering spirit has not faded. She is still very independent, refuses to rely on her children, and keeps herself busy. She sews her great grandchildren"s clothes occasionally while she complains about her eyesight. But she is alert mentally and is physically healthy.

One of the common characteristics of the Korean picture-brides was their enthusiasm about coming to America although they had very little knowledge about either their future husbands or the land they were to live the rest of their lives. Among them, there were a few who were unhappy about their men from the beginning for various reasons. Mrs. Kang Sung-hak was one of those unhappy picture-brides. A friend arranged the matrimony while she was visiting in Japan. She went to Japan following her brothers there to study.

Mr. Kang Chi-won, her husband-to-be, came to America in 1903. He was from a good home and an adventurous person. His father was a scholar but he was not. Mrs. Kang said, "My intention was just to borrow his name. I didn"t want to get marry." But Mr. Kang had spent a great deal of money on her account due to the immigration problem because of her eyes. "I had been deported twice to Japan because of my eyes." She recalled. Not only that, she was detained at the immigration station for three months once she came to Hawaii. That was expensive. Mr. Kang asked her about their future relationship: "If I wanted to marry or study." So she replied that it was up to him and he said to her he wished marriage; so they were married. She said: "It was not a blessed marriage."

After their marriage they lived in Kauaii for three years. She had no idea of the hardship of life since she had never worked at home. She ran away from home to Japan to study like her brothers; now a married woman in a strange land. She explained her first experience in Kauaii life.

I didn"t know the meaning of work when I first came to Hawaii, my stove consisted of a large tin can with a hole for the pot and we burnt wood for fuel, no bath tubs, homes of slate of wood bathing was done in the day because at night, the lights would show us between the slate, there was a public water pipe where we all got water, the soap was yellow army soap or lye water.

The men were working ten to twelve hours a day for 77 cents and they couldn"t make more than $22 for a month. She remembered that the price for a sack of rice was $10, soy-sauce was $2 a gallon, garlic was $2 a pound. In those days the Korean dish--Kimchi and rice were about all they could afford. Meat was rationed at 30 cents a pound by butchers on the farm and Japanese vegetable men used to peddle cabbages in his wagon. With $22 a month, after paying out for rice and soy-sauce, there wasn"t much left for garlic, and garlic is an essential ingredient in making Kimchi.

Mrs. Kang also recalled that there were times when the men were ill and if they were ill more than 20 days, they"d get fired. She recalled: "The German foreman would crack whips at those who were slow or to those who were unable to work. They would gallop around on horseback and I could hear the awful cracking of whips and they would shout and threaten those who weren"t working to their liking."

She sewed to support the family income while her husband worked a 30-day month so he could support them. She said: "We had no idea to go out and neither were we permitted to." She didn"t have a happy marriage and she said: "I didn"t have the courage to leave with five children. We all suffered a lot."

Q. Did you think of going back to Korea?
A. Even if I wanted to, I couldn"t return with five children.
Remember that I left home. My father wouldn"t have me back.
He was very conservative, "old fashion."

After 23 years of unhappy marriage, Mrs. Kang left Hawaii for the mainland after divorcing her husband. Her children were all grown up and two sons were merchant marines. She lived in San Francisco about ten years and then moved to Oregon with her three sons and two daughters. She raised them working as a dressmaker and now these grown up children are happy to support their aged mother. The reason she moved to Oregon was that: "This was the most wonderful place to rear children... so we moved." It wasn"t easy to start farming at first. She said, "We didn"t know what expenses were involved in farming. I thought that all we needed was some land." But soon they learned the hard way, and they bought their own land on the installment plan. They planted berries, cabbage, broccoli, etc. They farmed as much as a 100 acres with the help of hired farm laborers. It was the best time of er life even though the work was hard and tiring. Now she enjoys her life with her grandchildren at the wonderful country of Oregon. In spite of her disappoint with her husband, Mrs. Kang remained in the Korean traditional pattern, particularly in rearing her children dutifully as a caring and loving mother. This is also true with all other picture brides whom we have interviewed including Mrs. Kim, our next story of a picture bride.
Mrs. Kim Suk-eun was another unhappy picture bride whom we interviewed. Her intention was to study in America but the only way to get to America was to become a picture bride. Mrs. Kim said: "I want to come to America. That"s why I became picture bride." She had a friend who was in America and who introduced her to a man. She received a letter from him. That"s the way it began. She received money from her future husband while she was in Shanghai planning to attend a college.

Q. Did your parents know about it?
A. Yes, parents knew. They didn"t approve of it. My mother oppose such plan. We had no correspondence for ten years between us because of that.

She wanted to come to America so much that she had to go against her parents" wishes and took entire matter to herself. Her parents said to her, "You go marry over there, and something go wrong, do not tell family. You go drown in the ocean." In other words, if the marriage was not happy, do not tell the family and do not return to the family; better to disappear than to disgrace the family. She left from Shanghai in 1913 for America with that understanding.

She had been in China because her grandfather was living there doing business.

What did she expect in America? She wanted to go to school. Her only desire was to come over to America as a picture bride, but not to marry Mr. Kim. She wanted to pay back the money to Mr. Kim and go to school with the money she expected from her parents. But that didn"t happen. Her parents did not cooperate with her. Her parents advised her that she went as picture bride and they didn"t want to know about her problems. She had no choice but to stay with her husband and forget about schooling. She explained it this way:

We have married for about 19 years and divorced. I married Mr. Kim, take care of him and children, and house-keeping. That"s my story
--that"s my secret nobody knows. Even my children. Just I am a picture-bride, married and that"s all. This is the first time I am telling my story to you.

Like other picture brides of her time, she didn"t wait too long to get married to Mr. Kim. She arrived on August 2nd and on the 24th she was married. Then they went to Sacramento where Mr. Kim lived. He had been there nearly 20 years farming. They moved to San Francisco after 14 years in Sacramento because she didn"t enjoy living on a farm. But Mr. Kim still had to keep his job on the farm even after they moved back to the city.

Q. Did you have a hard time finding housing in San Francisco?

A. Yes, at that time, all Orientals did. ... They called us dirty Japs, dirty Japs... as long you are Orientals with black hair, yellow skin, they call dirty Japs.

Q. How did you feel? Did you want to leave America and go back to Korea? What did you want to do?

A. Sometime I feel, "why did I leave my country?" And all those things mixed up. I could not do anything.

Q. When did they say "dirty Japs, dirty Japs?" When you were walking down the street?

A. When I walk down the street. Sometimes in the store, they ignore. Than I walk out.
Sacramento was one of the worse places for Orientals. They threw rocks at us.

Q. Were you ever ashamed of being a Korean?
A. No.

Q. You are proud?

A. Yes. I am Korean and always Korean.

Mrs. Kim has raised five children and one of them is now a college professor in the Bay area. She became an American citizen in 1975 and enjoys her life in San Francisco.

Mrs. Yoon Do-yun was another picture bride who had a dream when she came to America in 1916. Mr. Yoon had been in America since 1904. Her purpose in coming to America was not to get married, but to study. But there was no way a young girl could come to America to study at that time. She wished to be a missionary and return to the poor people in Korea after studying nursing. She said, "I was raised in the country and witnessed so many sick and the ailing that needed help--those whose skins had open raw sores, kids whose with open sores that flies infested, oh I saw so many such pitiful cases."

Mrs. Yoon was a native of Kangwon Province, and made up her mind to be a nurse when she was in high school; she thought she would do church work just as an American missionary did in her home town. She watched the American medical missionary apply medication and cleanse areas of skin oozing blood and pus. At first she didn"t understand, but soon learned about the wonders of modern medicine. She wanted to study nursing and work among the poor. Her heart ached for them and she had always wanted to be able to help them. But how? Then, she found out about the picture bride.

Mrs. Yoon"s dream of becoming a nursing missionary was shattered once she married and tried to support her husband and her ever increasing family. Indeed, a great disappointment for her, however, she dedicated herself to her children and made sure that her children had all the educational opportunities that had not been available to her.

Believing her children"s education to be the most important thing in her life, the Yoon"s moved to the city from their farm.
But how could they support themselves in city? With the advice of their friends, they decided to run a restaurant in Oakland, California. Mr. Yoon had worked in a restaurant in Monteca, but had had no experience in cooking and Mrs. Yoon didn"t know much about American cooking. They decided to ask Kim Ke-sun who was a good cook to help in their venture and agreed to join the Yoon"s plan in the restaurant business. Trusting Kim"s cooking ability, the Yoon family invested their entire savings in a restaurant. Unfortunately, Kim had changed his mind about the undertaking with the Yoon"s. The business must go on with or without Kim"s help, so it started.

With the business it wasn"t only the matter of cooking that caused them problems, but there were other family problems. First of all, what to do with the children who were too young to go to school. The house they rented six blocks from the restaurant had no electricity. For light, they used gas. In order to catch early customers, they had to leave home at crack of dawn and leave the children home alone. The children were left in the dark since they were never to turn on the gas. When Mr. and Mrs. Yoon returned from the restaurant at night, the children were in the dark again. Mrs. Yoon was thrown into something she had never done before. For instance, she had to write the menu each day. Her English was no more than the 4th reader level at that time. Her friends helped in the beginning. Her copies of menu had to be made on a hectograph--a machine using a selection-like surface--poured dye stuff and made copies, she recalled. The business was open until eleven at night. By the time they closed, cleaned up, and wrote out the next day"s menu and returned home, it was always past midnight. Then Mrs. Yoon had to get back to the restaurant by 4:30 the next morning to get the coffee on.

How about the children? They walked down to the restaurant to eat. The youngest child was carried by Mrs. Yoon to work at 4:30 in the morning. She had fixed a bed for the child in the basement. The basement had very poor ventilation and no sunshine.

That wasn"t all of her problem. Mr. Yoon complained that she took care of the children when they came to eat while customers would be sitting and waiting. But her priority was with the children, not business. She said: "As far as I was concerned, my first thought was for my hungry children, I fed them first. My husband complained and I retorted--"I think first of my children not the customers." I believed that those children must be fed and raised, if those children"s health is sacrificed what kind of happiness can come to us? So she told him, "I will think first of my children so don"t you yell at me in front of the customers."

After three months, they quit the business. They tried to sell but there were no buyers, so they just closed up. At this time, Rev. Yim Jung-gu volunteered to sell the business for them. It took about a month to sell the place. They had invested $600.00 and sold it for $200.00.

It was depression time and jobs were scarce. Her husband went daily to the employment office--only to find the room filled with jobless people. Those who arrived first got the jobs and his turn wouldn"t come. "There weren"t any jobs today" was his daily report to her. They didn"t have money to pay the rent. They moved to a single room where all seven of them lived. Oh how frustrating! Finally, after 5 jobless months, they moved to Los Angeles to look for work.

In those days the people travelled to Los Angeles by boat from San Francisco. The Yoon family went to Los Angeles by boat during the night. They found a small fruit stand business in a grocery store. There was also a small space in the store where they could stay until they found a place to live. With his old Model-T he went to market early in the morning--about 2:30 and 3:00. There was lots of work involved with fresh vegetables and fruits but they gradually built up their business. After 4 years of experience in the produce business, they went in the produce business on a larger scale with several partners of the Hungsa-dan group in Alhambra. The company, however, was not successful because they had to hire too many employees. The Yoon"s left the company and moved to another family-size store. Their grown sons helped them at the store after school and they got along very well. But Mr. Yoon always wanted to return to the farm. They went out in the area near Dinuba and Delano and began growing melons, peas, beets, beans, onion, as well as cotton. They lived there for about 25 years before they retired in Los Angeles. They live now near their children and enjoy their quiet yet busy life.

We asked them why they moved into Los Angeles? She replied: "Because we were the only Korean family left in that farming area and in Los Angeles there are Korean churches, the Korean National Association, the Hungsa-dan... so in 1965 we moved here."
Q. Why don"t you want to stay with your children?
A. I wouldn"t feel free. .. they wouldn"t feel free...

We can get up as early as 6 and get our coffee; as for the young people who"ve been to work, they wouldn"t be ready to get up so it wouldn"t do for us to bustle about. In the evenings we enjoy different TV programs, and if we"re with our children, we have to watch whatever they"re watching.

Q. Why don"t you want a separate house right next to them?

A. It"s unnecessary bother. They would then take around the old folks. They would feel equally bad to leave the old folks behind and slip away if they felt like going out. Why be troublesome to our children? If we"re able to live independently, it"s unnecessary to be bothersome to our children.


Q. If your children could hear of your experiences, they would realize how much sacrifices you have made.

A. Oh, that was our duty. If a parent has born children, it becomes her duty to raise the children. Once they"ve grown up, the duties end. That"s all. My duties are over.

Q. You are very americanized. You"ve cast aside the Korean tradition.

A. That"s very bad tradition. Don"t you envy those in the old tradition. Some recent oldsters from Korea say, "The youngsters are so busy rearing their young ones, and here we oldsters wanted to be waited on."

Q. Some have asked, "Why is it in America that the older parents are left on their own?

A. It"s an indication of their ignorance. They do not understand the different needs of the young and the older. Why, even the foods the young eat are different. The olders have poor teeth and prefer softer foods. The young ones like crunchy. If they cooked to suit the olders, they"d be eating tastelessly.

It seems clear that such independent mind, adventurous attitude, and pioneering spirit brought success to their life even though she, too, experienced many frustrations and disappointments like the rest of the early immigrants-picture brides. The marriage by picture is a unique experience in immigrant history.
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