Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Sosa, and "half-castes"


Below I asked for suggestions as to how the title of the book “My Forsaken Star” might be translated. Commenter notlearningcantonese went one step further and gave me a link with lots of information. Thanks for that!

내별은어느하늘에 : 白人混血兒洋公主의手記 [백인 혼혈아 양공주의 수기]/
Nae pyŏl ŭn ŏnŭ hanŭl e : Paegin honhyŏra yanggongju ŭi sugi
Author: 朴玉順. 에니朴(朴玉順)著. ; Ok-sun Pak, Annie Park
Publisher: 王子出版社, Sŏul : Wangja Chʻulpʻansa, 1965.
Description: 258 p. : illus., port. ; 19 cm.

Therefore, “My Forsaken Star” comes from "My star in which sky: Notes of a young white mixed-blood prostitute [yanggongju]."

[Original Post]

Over at the Marmot's Hole, Robert linked to this Chosun Ilbo editorial which looks at Bucheon’s dispute with the Pearl S. Buck Foundation. That foundation was established in 1965 in what was then the town of Sosa (pictures of it in those days can be found here). Here's a rather interesting December 10, 1965 Time Magazine article from that time which mentions not only the foundation of the Foundation, but interest in Korean Society about "the problem of illegitimate half-castes," four decades before Hines Ward.
At six, she followed her Korean mother to a ramshackle bar and discovered that her mother was for sale to U.S. servicemen. On the way home, alone, the little girl had an even more traumatic experience: a man lured her into an alley and assaulted her. At eight, she learned why classmates jeered "half-caste!" at her: her father had been a white G.I. At 16, she was a full-fledged prostitute working among American soldiers who liked her slim Occidental legs and ample breasts.

Now, at 19, after six abortions and uncounted liaisons with every variety of G.I., Annie Park is the most-talked-about girl in South Korea. With the help of a ghostwriter, she has published a bestselling autobiography that at last forces Koreans to think about something they would rather forget—the problem of illegitimate half-castes.

There are an estimated 20,000 half-caste children in Korea; 500 to 600 more are born each year. Sadly, even in their homeland, they are displaced persons from birth. Under the Confucian concept of tightly knit families, Korea's half-castes are considered outcasts. And the mixed-blood children remind many Koreans of the shame of widespread prostitution and of the subservient role Koreans have often had to play to the bigger and richer G.I.'s.

My Forsaken Star has been serialized in newspapers. Work began last week on a movie based on the book, and a television series is planned. But Koreans seem to savor the book more for its lurid details of commercial love than for the insights it gives into the plight of half-castes.

Some U.S. welfare groups have actually come to grips with the half-caste problem. In the past ten years, 5,670 mixed-blood children have been adopted by families in the U.S. through such groups as the Holt Adoption Program, the National Catholic Welfare Conference and the Child Placement Service. But the vast majority of these children are the offspring of white G.I.s. Finding foster parents for Negro-fathered children is much harder. With that in mind, the Pearl S. Buck Foundation began operating in Korea just last month. Its initial hopes are modest: to provide funds directly to mothers of Negro-Korean children so that the little lost half-castes will have at least some chance of growing up with enough food to eat in homes of their own.
Does anyone care to suggest a translation of “My Forsaken Star”? If it could be tracked down, it might make for interesting reading. It's too bad Naver’s newspaper search only goes back to 1970.

Another rather interesting Time article from 1969 looks at the darker side of the Pearl S. Buck foundation. It describes the muckracking activities of Philadelphia Magazine, and its

willingness to take on just about anyone—even so unlikely a figure as Pearl Buck. There she was, some days ago, a silver-haired, 77-year-old Nobel-and Pulitzer-prize winning author, meeting the press to try to cover up for a colleague. He had been accused, in Philadelphia's pages, of mishandling charitable funds and making homosexual advances to the Korean boys he was supposed to be helping. "A bunch of downright lies," said Miss Buck gamely, but Theodore Findley Harris, 38, had already resigned as president and executive director of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation.

The foundation was set up in 1964 to help Amerasian children in Korea, where youngsters fathered by U.S. soldiers are spat upon for their half-caste status. In April of this year, Philadelphia's Reporter-Writer Greg Walter listened to tapes a local radio station had made (but had never used) in which four Korean boys described unwilling homosexual contact with Harris. He then began digging. He traveled across the U.S., talking to former and current foundation employees, to board members and benefactors, to the young men on the tapes, to Miss Buck herself. Harris repeatedly refused to see him.

As Walter tells it, Harris was a dancing instructor who, in 1963, wanted to be just a gigolo and began ingratiating himself into the comfortable Bucks County life of Pearl Buck. He fawned, she loved it; together they wrote a mawkish book (For Spacious Skies) about finding one another. A year later, she made him president of the new foundation. [...]

But there still was no effective machinery in Korea. Harris eventually got around to appointing an overseer there; he was the first in a long line of "permanent representatives," all of whom, says Walter, have complained about the lack of money and direction from Delancey Place. But there has always been money to spruce things up just before Miss Buck arrives. Once, at the foundation's center at Sosa, Korea, $5,000 went into hurry-up redecorations, although there apparently was not enough to put up a fence around a small pond on the property. One evening during the Statesiders' visit, the body of a four-year-old was found floating in it.

Harris periodically brought Amerasians to the U.S. under various foundation study programs. There was difficulty in getting one, Bob Park, out of Korea because he was of draft age. But Harris found him so attractive that he had Miss Buck pull strings. Park, now a student at the University of Arizona, remembers: "One night on the way to America he asked me about my father and I began to cry; he kissed me on the neck. When I would go to bed he would hold me in his arms. I did not like, but I thought this is the way American father treat his son."

Recently, Park and some of the other boys complained about Harris' conduct, and the foundation responded—by withdrawing its support of Park and two others. [...]

Walter... once attended a writers' workshop run by Miss Buck. For his recent article he interviewed her twice. The first session was easygoing and pleasant, but then Walter began to probe. "She told me I was vile. She said she was ashamed of me, that I had been her favorite pupil, but that now she was terribly disappointed in me."

Younghill Kang (who I've mentioned before), the first Korean American (or, as the title of his second book put it, “Oriental Yankee”) writer, received a lot of praise for his first book The Grass Roof, but, as this article puts it:
He is said to have commented that it was his great misfortune that Pearl Buck’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel about China, The Good Earth, was published in the same year as The Grass Roof.
More articles mentioning the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, or mixed race children, are listed below:

Foundation celebrates memorial hall opening (this has a bit of background)
Beneath the shadow of prejudice (a good article, but the link is broken).
Smile that challenged ‘one blood’
‘Hines mania’ leaves bitter taste in mouths of biracial Koreans (this has lots of statistics)
Ward now proud of his heritage
Heartwarming or cautionary, Ward’s story resonates here


Anonymous said...

"I describes the muckracking" > It describes

What's the dispute by the way?

kushibo said...

I wrote a post on the same Time article four years ago, which I found useful in a lot of ways. First, for those who are cynical, it can suggest that raised awareness about the plight of lower-SES mixed-ethnic Koreans, like what we have seen with Hines Ward, may be short-lived. At least that was the case with Annie Park.

It also highlights part of the source for the deep-seated prejudice toward mixed marriages and mixed-ethnic children. Many people may have looked down on the children of marriages between a Korean woman and a GI, but Annie Park's case gave an air of legitimacy to their fears: even if I don't mind my daughter, sister, cousin, friend marrying a GI (or other non-Korean), look how society will treat her children.

notlearningcantonese said...

I believe this is what you're looking for:

내별은어느하늘에 : 白人混血兒洋公主의手記

matt said...

Corrected. The dispute is described in that link. It seems like the city is trying to assert its authority in a pretty thoughtless manner, though seeing as the Pearl S. Buck Foundation has been there longer than Bucheon has been a city, it might not be surprising that they'd want to show who's boss. This is the regime of Hong Gun-pyo, who decided to go on a personal vendetta and almost destroy PIFAN, which, as a former resident, I can say is about the only reason to visit.

Another instance of a foreign organization of longstanding would be Daecheon Beach (where the Boryeong Mud Festival takes place). The southern portion of the beach was bought by foreign missionaries in 1946, and essentially seized from them in the 1990s.

Hopefully the Hines Ward effect in 2006 has more staying power - his visit came about the same time that the government was realizing what effect increasing mixed race marriages would have. Besides, Korea in 1965 is not the same as in 2009, to be sure.

You rock. Hopefully it'll turn up in a university library in Seoul.

ZenKimchi said...

I appreciate the insight into the foundation. The Pearl Buck novel on Korea was required reading in one of my Korean history classes, and investigating into Ms. Buck herself, she was not squeaky clean. More Bismarckian pragmatic as was must have been necessary in post-war east Asia.

Phil said...

I married Annie Pak in 1969 and she ended up in America. She is truly a beautiful person despite her difficult background. She last lived in Illinois near a large Motorola Plant Northwest of Chicago

Phil said...

I married Annie Pak in 1969. She lived in Paju ri, Paju gun, Chunae Myon, Kyonggi do. I was at JSA at Panmunjom. Contact me if you wish.

matt said...

This is a very late reply, but I would be very curious to learn more. As I don't know how to contact you, I would be happy to hear more from you should you contact me at mattvanv @ yahoo.com.