When I was a little boy, our family had to wander from one place to another because we were not rich enough to settle. I was born in Seoul, then moved to Busan when I was 3, then to Gumi, Daegu, Je-Cheon, and finally came back to Seoul when I was 7. All day I saw my mom doing all the chores, but dad would go out somewhere in the morning and always come back late, drunk. Seeing my father yelling and throwing something at my poor weeping mother every other day, I didn’t like him – yelling voice, breath reeking of liquor – at all. As a youth, traveling was not that pleasant memory, and I haven’t really enjoyed traveling that much ever since. However, about a decade later, my high school had a field trip program, and everyone had to participate in the trip. I decided to go to Tae-baek, as I hadn’t been there yet. And three days before the trip when dad said, “Why were you stupid enough to choose that place?”, I replied, “Because that was what money I had. I wanted Jeju Island. Did you give me some pocket money for your son’s field trip? Or were you even aware that I was going on a trip? You’re good for nothing, and I have no respect for you at all. Don’t you dare tell me what to do.” The furious old man flew at his ill-mannered son right away, but was too old to catch a fleeing youngster.
On the way to Tae-Baek by bus, I felt a kind of knot or something building up in my stomach. I wanted to go home and take a rest. However, about an hour later when the bus entered Gang-Won province, I completely changed my mind. Seeing red and yellow mountains of autumn, I was completely overwhelmed by its gorgeous scenery. Climbing up the tae-baek mountain, teachers and students could not stop gaping at the beautiful masterpiece of nature. A range of precipitous mountains were all around us like a wall. I couldn’t believe that this marvelous scenery could be on the Korean peninsula. On the summit, I deeply inhaled the fresh air. I felt vital force surrounding my body. And I felt, without any reason, something really good might happen to me pretty soon, or maybe in this trip.
On the second, and last day of our field trip, we went to the mining station of Tae-Baek city. After learning about the history of Korea Coal Corporation, we all wore helmets to visit the mine gallery. Miners whose faces were black with coal dust were there. A man who seemed like a leader of the team came forward and started to tell us about the mining process and some cautions. At that very moment, I caught a glimpse of someone pretty familiar. I approached to figure out who it was. Soon, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Never in my dream, did I imagine meeting my father there. But it happened. It was a very short moment, but obviously the toughest and the most important part of this trip. Among four miners in the elevator was my father – sturdy, swarthy man with glaring eyes. I felt sad and upset at myself. Looking at the face of an old miner going down to the depths of the mine, I wanted to tell him that his son was here, but lost my voice.
It was like a reality dictionary showing what the word ‘father’ is. My father is a man who would die trying to feed his family. He’s living a tough life, not for himself, but for his family. But family never see his struggle, they only see his trouble and continue to hurt his pride, which makes him sad and upset. So he again and again yells at his lovely family, and drinks liquor to handle his stressful life. But still, he gets up early in the morning to work for his family. On my way back to Seoul, I once again got absorbed in the beautiful mother nature of Gang-Won Province, and thought this place means something special for me. After I got back home, I had a hearty conversation with my father with several bottles of Soju. I told him that now I totally understand him, and that I’m so sorry of being so rude to this day. And he, drunk, repeatedly said, “I understand, boy. I trust you, I trust you, my son…Sure, I do. Sure.”
I do too, sir.