The Words of the Pak Family
Chung Hwa Pak first met Father when they were both prisoners in Hungnam labor camp in North Korea. After their liberation, Mr. Pak travelled to South Korea with Father and Rev. Won Pil Kim.
In 1957 he left the Church but recently returned. The following testimony covers the period in Hungnam and his release and ends with the departure from Pyongyang.
I was born on December 7, 1913 (by lunar calendar). I had one older and two younger sisters. We lived in a village in the South... just outside Pyongyang. I went to Pyongyang Sungshil Junior High School, a Christian school, and later studied at Shinkyung Junior Industrial College in Manchuria.
My father was a wealthy landowner. I was married when I was 14 (Korean age). My wife was 19. I was the only son and it was customary then for the son to marry young so that the grandparents could see their grandson's children before they died. My first child was born when I was 18. I had one daughter and four sons.
When I left college I got a job in an electrical company. Later I was drafted into the Japanese Army as a second lieutenant.
In August 1945 when Korea was liberated from the Japanese the country was in confusion. At that time I was a special policeman at Pyongyang train station, checking weapons coming from Manchuria. In January 1947 my group came under the control of the North Korean Home Affairs Ministry. In December I was appointed as a military police captain at Haeju, in Hwanghae Province. Shortly afterwards I was promoted to lieutenant colonel and made commander at a place called Sariwon.
At that time the communists were checking high-ranking army officers. I think I was listed as a Christian (because of my school) and as the son of a rich man. In January 1948 the captain of military police at the town of Sinmag, a Captain Ho Chung, was arrested for helping South Korean merchants take their merchandise to the South (the border wasn't sealed yet). I was also arrested because the Sinmag MPs came under my command. Captain Ho got 10 years and I got three.
I was sentenced not only for failing to control my command, but also for disobeying orders (I engaged my men in skirmishes near the 38th parallel without waiting for orders from above) and for not doing my job "satisfactorily."
When Kim Il-Sung became president of the newly-formed Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea in 1948, all prison sentences were halved. So my sentence was reduced to 18 months. (Father's term was reduced from five to three years under the amnesty).
Hungnam Special Prison Camp was hell. There were about 1500 prisoners. I was 37 years old (Korean reckoning) and in good health when I was sent there. After one week I became weak, after two weeks I was feeble. My hands bled with the work of bagging fertilizer and my feet bled because I had no shoes.
There were 40 prisoners to a room. Each room was about three pyong in size (36 sq. meters). We slept toe to toe.
There were different kinds of work: bagging fertilizer, carrying the bags, metalworking. The easiest job was in the canteen. For food we had chapgok (boiled grain) and miyok (brown seaweed) soup. The miyok was uncooked.
Every morning there was a line-up to check the prisoners.
Then we walked to the site where we worked eight hours a day.
When we returned the four kilometers to the camp after work. I was so hungry I couldn't sleep. Because of our history, in Korea we have a saying that when our parents die, it is sad, and when our children and spouse die, it is sad; but the worst thing is to be hungry.
Once a month we were allowed outside visitors. Usually they brought us misukaru (rice powder), because it would last a while. When one of the prisoners in our crowded but got some, I couldn't sleep, knowing it was there. Many times I thought of stealing other people's misukaru. Then I thought, "I am a leader in society, how can I think of such a thing?"
At lunchtime, the prisoners lined up and were given one radish. The food was the same but the size of the radishes varied. When I saw someone else had a bigger one than mine, I felt such pain because I was so hungry. All day I couldn't get the thought of it out of my mind.
Each work group had to do between 1200 and 1500 bags fertilizer a day. For ten days I worked under a group leader, a Mr. Nam Su Kim. I'd never done manual labor like that before, so Mr. Kim gave me the job of holding open the sacks while two others shoveled in the fertilizer. I couldn't even do that properly so he put me on tying up the sacks. I couldn't do that either.
One day one young man watched me and then began to help me. He did his own work and then helped me finish mine. In ten days I learned how to tie bags. At that time we didn't talk so much, but with the young man I felt we understood each other without having to talk. That was how I met Father.
The 1500 prisoners were divided into groups of ten. Each group had a leader whose job it was to keep the nine working. Ten groups made up a larger unit with a leader. This unit leader didn't work. He just watched the others. Of the 15 unit leaders there was one overall leader.
The leader at that time finished his sentence and was released. One day the camp director summoned me, prisoner number 919.
The director asked me to take the position of the released leader. I hesitated to accept, thinking of that young man (Father) who had helped me, and asked the director to give me two days to make a decision. The next day I talked to the young man and asked him whether I should accept the position or not. He replied, "There is a special meaning behind this, so please accept it."
The next day I told the director, "I accept." I was introduced to all the prisoners at the morning line-up. The director ordered them to obey me as they obeyed him.
That night I couldn't sleep. An old man in white traditional Korean costume appeared to me. He shook me, "Chung Hwa, Chung Hwa. Do you know who that man is who helped you for those few days?" I said I didn't know. Then the old man clearly told me, "That young man is the one you've been looking for since your childhood. He is the Messiah." (I was baptized as a child and had been a deacon in Somunbak Church in Pyongyang.)
"Jesus said why do you look at me? I'll come back as you saw me go. That man is the one," the old man said.
I couldn't sleep for two days. "If he's the Second Advent why is he here in this camp?" I wondered. I couldn't understand.
Two days after becoming the leader of all the prisoners, I started working with them again. The reason was because I wanted to be together with that young man and watch him. My whole attention was focused on him, watching him, listening when he said anything.
When the camp director was addressing all the prisoners at the morning assembly, I sat behind the young man. He turned around and said to me, "Chung Hwa, you had a dream two nights ago, didn't you?" I was shocked. I remember that moment so well. So much has happened since that time, but then, I clearly said to him, "You are the Messiah."
As the leader I had the privilege of assigning jobs. Also I had to make sure people didn't escape. I no longer had to do manual work and I wanted to give easy work to Father so I could be near him; but he refused, telling me, "I didn't come here because of my sin, but I must fulfill my mission."
I continuously asked him to take easy work so that I would have time to talk with him. Finally he accepted. He finished work in the morning so we could talk in the afternoon.
First he taught me about John the Baptist's failure, but I disagreed with him. What he said made me angry. "Why did he fail?" I protested. "In the Bible it says when he baptized Jesus that the dove descended and he testified." That night I couldn't sleep. I had pain in my body. Also, that old man appeared again and said, "The reason you're in pain is because you're not following him."
The next day I told Father, "I'll surrender everything to you." He smiled and said, "Of course, you must in order to have much happiness in the future."
One day I protested again when he told me about the private life of Jesus and his cross. I dearly remember that moment. Father told me about Mary and Jesus at the wedding party when Jesus said, "What do you have to do with me?" He tried to make me understand. But I had a fixed idea of Christianity. I got angry and said, "What are you talking about?" and I walked away from him.
That night I couldn't sleep at all. I had such a pain, both in my spirit and my body. The next day I apologized to him and swore, "I'll never run away from you. I'll listen and follow whatever you teach me." That night the old man appeared and said, "From now on you follow him. Don't doubt him anymore." Then I felt better.
I was 7 years older than Father, but after that I called him sungsaengnim (sir, teacher) and he called me Chung Hwa-ya just like he would call his own son.
Many people had visions and dreams and followed Father in the prison camp. I asked the 15 group leaders to work together to follow Father.
One disciple was Won Dok Kim. He had graduated from Japanese Military Academy and was a major in the North Korean Army. He was one of the country's intelligentsia. He worked as a special secretary for a high-ranking officer called General Mu Jong.
It was when General Mu Jong was on a trip to China that North Korean intelligence officials discovered that Major Kim, who was not a communist, had connections with South Korean officials. He was sentenced to death and was in Hungnam awaiting his sentence.
One night an old man appeared in his dream and led him to a huge stairway. They climbed up to the top where a man was seated on a throne. The light was so bright that he couldn't look up at the man's face. He felt so low compared to the man on the throne.
When he woke up he wondered what it all meant. The next day his deceased father appeared and the same thing happened. This time he could see the man's face. His father said, "If you follow this man and stay with him you will not die."
After his father said that he woke up. He was more curious about the man at the top of the stairway.
After a few days he was moved to another cell. Among the 40 prisoners he recognized one young man as the person in his dreams. He was surprised and curious, but for a few days he kept his distance and just watched the young man.
Finally he communicated with Father and he became his follower.
Father told Won Dok Kim that he would not be executed. "So don't worry about it," Father said.
Later General My Jong returned from Red China and guaranteed to take responsibility for his secretary. He petitioned on his behalf and Mr. Kim's sentence was reduced to five years.
After a while Mr. Kim was to be moved to a prison camp at nearby Bongung. Father said, "If it's possible to avoid it, don't go there." However, Mr. Kim was moved to the other camp. By that time war had broken out. The guards started killing all the prisoners. Just before it was his turn to get on the truck to be taken out and shot, the camp was bombed.
Won Dok Kim eventually escaped and reached Pusan, where he worked at the police headquarters as an inspector. His house was our church. Father stayed there for a while. Later, Mr. Kim moved to Seoul because the government moved back there after the armistice. Our church was really persecuted but he helped as a government official. He left the Church in 1959. He is still alive.
Another of the disciples was Rev. Jin Soo Kim. He had a Ph.D. from an American university and was the chairman of North Korea's Five Providence Christian Association. Although Father warned them against it, he was sent to Bongung camp with Won Dok Kim. He was executed.
Another disciple was Chung Bin Moon. He was released from Hungnam and stayed with Father for 40 days in Pyongyang. But he didn't escape from North Korea. We don't know what happened to him.
There were 12 or 13 of us altogether who were Father's disciples in Hungnam. The others whose names I remember were Choon Shik Jong, who was killed; Nam Son Kim, one of the team leaders who was probably killed; Yon Ok Kim; and Myong Hwan Pak. I don't know what happened to them.
In the photo*, Father carries Mr. Chung Hwa Pak, who had a broken leg, through the bitter cold waters of the Yellow Sea at low tide between the mainland and Yong Mae Island. Father's hair is still closely shaven from the prison camp. Mr. Pak weighed about as much as Father. Mr. Pak's family had left him behind in Pyongyang; they were afraid his broken leg would jeopardize and delay their flight. Father had found him and decided to take him along -- on a bicycle. Mr. Pak begged Father to leave him behind, but Father replied to that: "Once we know God's will, we can do it together. If we die together, we die together; if we live together, we live together." To Father, Mr. Pak was a representative of all mankind and he would never part from him unless instructed by God.
The Chinese and North Korean armies were advancing rapidly from behind, and the journey was very uncertain and frightening. It was early December 1950, and very cold.
One of Father's friends from Seoul had been living on the island a number of years before, and Father wanted to go to the island and try to rent a boat from him. When they arrived, however, the friend was dead and the last boat was reserved for families of soldiers and policemen.
So Father had to walk back the five-kilometer distance through the ice-cold water with his heavy load. Father has said: "If I could not have made it, carrying Mr. Pak across the island, I could not be responsible for the restoration of the universe."
The picture was recently discovered in the "Chung Ang" Daily Newspaper, a major paper in Seoul, Korea, which is publishing in a series the Korean War memoirs of Mrs. Francesca Rhee, the wife of the former President of Korea, Syngman Rhee. A photographer with the United Nations Command caught this moment of history.
*It was later discovered that the photo is probably a fake made with a program like Photoshop.