The Fragile Ship of Destiny Sets Sail

Hwang Jang Yop's Memoirs - 13
 |  2010-01-31 21:31
“What’s up?” I asked Song.
“I don’t know what to do regarding volunteering as a student soldier,” he explained.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?”
“My father sent me a letter. He said the police were bullying him badly, so he agreed to send me as a student soldier.”
“No! The Japanese will soon be ruined. Still joining the army? There’s nothing more ridiculous than that.”

I was shouting now.

“What if I join the army and then escape to the allied forces?”

I looked him in the eyes for quite a long time, “Have you ever seen an ant coming out of an ant tunnel after it fell in there? If you’re brave enough to escape to the allied forces, why aren’t you brave enough to wait in jail until Japan collapses? You’re a nice fellow and everything, but you’re too soft.”

After listening to what I told him, he agreed with me.

But sadly he volunteered to join the Japanese army anyway. I thought he was ten times more talented than me. But the way he thought seemed to be far behind, maybe because he went to a rural school.

In January of 1944, a detective came to my rented room. He informed me of my impending deportation to Korea and told me to pack my things immediately. I knew I would have to face it someday anyway, so I did not protest seriously. It wouldn’t do me any good to protest to a detective. I packed my bags, feeling that Japan was making a frantic last-ditch effort.

There were about a hundred Koreans in the police station. We were all crammed into a room so small that all of us remained standing up. At night the police told us to sleep standing up. I shivered in a room so small and cold, without even a coat. I can still remember it so clearly; I was the only one without a coat. And I was the youngest.

Someone finally complained about it after a while, but the only response we got was grudging yells.

“How can you complain about anything when you are a non-citizen who didn’t even serve in the army? Want to go to jail?”
“Why should we be forced to sleep standing up just because we didn’t join the army? You’re the one who ought to be put in jail!”

Some of us got angry and started shouting.

“Stop it. We will assign the rooms again.”

A high police official from Tokyo stopped the fighting, and told us to go to a bigger room with a Japanese mat on the floor. It was the martial hall of the police station and many of the windows were broken, which made the whole room very cold.

Unable to sleep at all, we were finally put on a ship. After three years of paying my own ways through school, I came to the unwanted end of it all. Thinking about it really made me sad. Looking out from the deck, the ocean looked wider and deeper than ever. I felt as if our destiny was just like that: a little ship on a wide ocean.
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