When I was at home over Christmas my mom mentioned a book she'd read as a kid titled "I Married A Korean," so when I was at my grandparents I looked through the bookcase and found it. It proved to be a fascinating read. Agnes Davis Kim met her future husband David Kim (we never learn his Korean name [Update - Chuhwang Kim - 김주황]) when he was studying in the U.S.. After a 6 year engagement, (during two years of which her fiance was in Korea), she sailed to Korea with several crates of belongings in 1934 , staying there until 1940. They luckily left before the Pacific War began, and in the U.S. her husband's language skills proved useful to the government, so he eventually joined the O.S.S. and served in China. As he was sent to Korea to serve in the U.S. occupation forces there, she eventually returned to Korea with their son, staying there between 1946 and 1948.
There are a number of interesting things to be found in the book, such as a discussion of attitudes towards interracial marriage, or the ways in which she copes living in a farmhouse in the countryside (we never learn where, exactly, but it was likely within the modern boundaries of Seoul, perhaps northwest of Sinchon). She also describes how Korean food is made (an appendix includes recipes) as well as describing traditional ways of doing laundry and ironing (often deciding that the final product of such work was superior to the results of western methods - but that the effort involved was too much work for her). She also includes a number of her sketches:
The description of ironing which accompanies this sketch is interesting:
While the process takes a long time, two women often share in the pounding, chat on all kinds of topics which interest them, or work out intricate rhythms that make the ironing fun. Certain rhythms have come to have special meanings.Fascinating. Also worth noting is the fact that, without she and her husband's efforts to operate a school and medical clinic, the farming families around them would have had no access to education or modern medicine. Considering that they lived very close to Seoul, it certainly makes me wonder just how much the Japanese did to improve education and health care in areas outside of the cities.
This book was originally published in 1953, but a 1979 reprint by the Royal Asiatic Society is described here. Also worth noting is that on her voyage to Korea she describes her conversations with John Patric, who would later go on to write a book about his adventures traveling in the Japanese empire called "A Yankee Hobo in the Orient." I managed to find a little information about this book and its author before realizing it was first published under the title "Why Japan Was Strong," which can be read in part at Google books. Pages 28-32 tell part of the story of the time he spent with her on the ship, and page 31 is well worth reading for a laugh. What's also interesting is that she told him only that she was marrying a missionary, though he would learn more about their marriage when he later traveled to Seoul.
This book may prompt a few posts; for now I'll start with her chapter on the American occupation of Korea in the 1940s.