A belated reunion; Hawaii’s ‘picture brides’

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A belated reunion; Hawaii’s ‘picture brides’

Nov. 25, 1991
Yeo Un-hyeong was an uncompromising political leader whose principal hope was to see Korea stand on its own two feet. In addition to fighting Japanese colonial rule, Mr. Yeo played a key role in post-colonial politics, which divided the country into socialist and democratic camps. No wonder he was a hero to his daughter, Yeo Yeon-gu, who in the late 1940s went with her sister to study in Russia, not guessing that she’d never see her father again. Mr. Yeo was assassinated in Daehangno, northern Seoul, in 1947. After the Korean War (1950 to 1953) broke out, the Yeo sisters, who returned from Russia to North Korea, didn’t get the chance to pay their respects at their father’s grave.
The long-overdue father-daughter reunion took place decades later, on this date. Ms. Yeo, then a high-ranking political leader in the North, paid a brief visit to the South. At her father’s grave, she burst into tears. Surrounded by North Korean reporters, however, Ms. Yeo soon waxed on about how great a leader Kim Il Sung was. Ms. Yeo reportedly died in a traffic accident in North Korea in 1996.

Nov. 28, 1910
Choosing your life partner by looking at a snapshot might not sound like the ideal method. For many poor young women in early-20th-century Korea, however, a strange man in a photo was a ticket to an unknown paradise: Hawaii. This “marriage by photograph” arrangement first took place on this date.
Korean immigration to the United States began in 1903, with hordes going to work on Hawaiian sugar cane plantations. With few women heading to Hawaii, the proportion of Korean men to women in the 14-to-40 age bracket reportedly hit 13 to 1 there. Men without spouses became troublemakers, gambling and drinking. Ministers and farm owners came up with an idea: fix these bachelors up with marriageable women back home by sending the women their pictures.
Peasants’ daughters in Gyeongsang province accounted for most of the brides, who bore high expectations of life in the “land of milk and honey.” But there was a catch: Most of the men’s photos had been taken years earlier. Upon landing at Honolulu, many brides were jarred to see their grooms-to-be were far older than the snapshots indicated. Many brides-to-be refused to tie the knot, but most had little choice but to accept their partner. Such “picture brides” are thought of as the backbone of Korean immigration to America. Without them, many scholars say, Korean immigration might have stopped at the first generation.

Nov. 30, 1980
After taking power in 1979 in a coup d’etat, Chun Doo Hwan sought to bring the country under his control. Restructuring the media by force was one of his methods; Mr. Chun justified the idea by saying that it was to “purify” the media industry. Victims included Tongyang Broadcasting Co. and Dong-A Broadcasting System. TBC and DBS were among Korea’s first commercial TV and radio networks. Founded by Lee Byung-chull, the founder of Samsung Group and the Joong-Ang Ilbo, TBC aired its final signal on this date, along with DBS, a branch of Dong-A Ilbo. Many other newspapers and broadcasting companies became scapegoats.

by Chun Su-jin

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