My Middle School
1947, I finished
and applied to
but failed. I as a country boy didn¡¯t know which middle schools are in Seoul
and I guess it was the idea of my father or one of my elder brothers to
apply to Kyungkee which was known as the best but toughest to get in. As a
second chance, my only choice was to apply to the middle school attached to Seoul
where I was admitted. My family moved from Chungsan to Sungbookdong near to Samsun
Bridge. We bought a house facing Seong-Koo¡¯s maternal grandfather¡¯s house. It
was probably recommended by him to my father to buy a house there.
we moved to Seoul, my sister Dong-Sun stayed with my uncle (my father¡¯s
younger brother) to attend a high school, while my sister Dong-Hyun attended
a middle school in Chungjoo at my sister Dong-Soon¡¯s house. When we all
, my elder brother Dong-Han returned to
College, my sister Dong-Hyun was transferred to Dongduck Girl's High School in Seoul. Seong-Koo¡¯s mother taught at the Namsan
and Seong-Koo attended an elementary school close to our home. My father
opened a Chinese medicine clinic at home. It was not necessary then to
acquire a license to open a Chinese medicine clinic. I guess all he did to
open the business was to read several Chinese medical books such as famous
was located in Chungpadong, just south of Seoul
Railroad Station. To attend the school in Chungpadong from Sungbookdong, I
had to take a street car to Jongro 4th Street, switch to another
street car to Noryangjin via Seoul Railroad Station and get off at
Namyoungdong, just next of Seoul Station. From there I had to walk up a very
steep hill. It was the time of the
Military Government after the liberation from the Japanese occupation only 2
years ago, the population of
was less than 1 million perhaps and the transportation system was terrible.
The street cars were the only means of public transportation but there were
only 14 cars in operation in whole city of Seoul. Other than that, there were one-horse-carriages, which could carry few
more than ten people, operating at a few major streets only. However, the
fare was too expensive for middle school boys like me.
by one way or another, I mostly took a long walk to school. I remember it
took me one-and-a-half to two hours to walk. Because no schoolboy could
afford to have a watch back then, I just walked to school without knowing
what time it was. The best way to bear the long walk, I figured was to find
a fast walking adult and chase him, just like it is fastest way to drive in
freeway today, chasing a fast driving car with enough distance, so you
won¡¯t get speeding ticket but drive fast.
was not a problem to walk long every day in spring or autumn with good
weather but the bitter cold in winter or the sizzling heat of summer gave me
a very hard time. It was so cold that the
froze into thick ice at that time, so that even a truck could drive over the
ice. However, I don¡¯t think I was neither too late nor absent for school
for most of the days. The stiff hilly street at Chungpadong during winter
was so slippery, especially with rain in the night, that I slipped down
often back to the bottom as I barely made it to the top. Sometimes, this
happened three four times on a really bad day. I am still proud that I have
somehow managed to attend the school without absences or tardiness too much
for school under this kind of really hard situation.
to the lack of public transportation services, many students tried
hitchhiking on trucks at that time, especially in the morning on the way to
school. Even if we didn¡¯t know where it was going, as long as it was
heading in the same direction, we just jumped into the truck running. We
threw our school bag into the car first and crawled in after it while the
truck was still moving. When the truck changed its direction, we had to jump
off the truck, which was more dangerous than crawling in. This is illegal
today but most students did it back then and no police existed at that time
to stop this dangerous maneuvering. I think it was possible because trucks
used to be much slower then. One rainy day, at the Hyehwadong rotary about a
mile away from home, I slipped off the truck and messed up my uniform
because the street was so wet after the rain in the night. I had to come
back home and could not go to school on the day. Fortunately, I did not get
injured seriously. This was how we commuted at that time.
I was a 7th grader, I commuted to the school in Chungpadong for
the first one year. At the end of the school year, Seoul
moved to Wangshipree and my family moved to a bigger house in Donamadong.
When we lived in a house at Sungbookdong for about a year, there were only
three bedrooms. Our new house had 6 bedrooms, so we could enjoy more space.
When we moved to Donamdong, my father quit the Chinese medicine clinic and
did not work any more. I believe we have lived selling his land in Chungsan.
The new house in Donamdong was in an alley close to the last stop of the
street car and our next door neighbor was Dr. Byung-Ok Cho who was the chief
of the National Police for the newly founded Republic
government. We had a small shop in the house where we could sell all kinds
of goods, such as 7-11 in U. S. A.
today, and it was my job to take care of the store after the school.
became an 8th grader. However, after we moved to Donamdong, I got
sick and dropped out of school for a year. Maybe, I pretended to be ill so
that I could leave the school. Today¡¯s parents wouldn¡¯t allow their
children to leave school without a serious illness. But parents at that time
weren¡¯t so concerned about the education of their children and my parents
never scolded me for not studying hard enough. So I loafed around at home
for a year helping at the store and came back to the school next year.
the distance became little shorter from Donamdong to Wangshipree, it was
still more than an hour¡¯s walk to school. There was a transportation
called Keedongcha (small electrical train) running a route from East Gate to
Kwangjangree but I still had to walk over a mountain to Shinsuldong and walk
to East Gate to ride this train. Therefore, I preferred to walk along the
route of the Keedongcha rail road most of the days. Fortunately, since there
was no hill on the way to the school, there was no more slippery climbing
during the winter.
my school was to educate future elementary school teachers, they put a lot
of stress on arts and physical fitness classes which I hated the most. There
were more music, art, and physical fitness classes than other schools. Our
art class teacher was Mr. Kyung-Chae Yoo, who was a very famous artist in
later and became a juror of the national art contest. He allowed us to use
only big painting paper on a canvas as professional artists use, not small
paper for the students. One day during a class, he beat a student in his
face so hard he turned batty for a moment. The student surprised the
principal by bringing some pieces of straw to the principal office, and said
¡°Mr. Principal, can you see a ghost in my hand?¡± Since his parents were
members of the parent-teacher-association of the school, it was a big fuss.
But everything turned out OK as it was only a temporary problem fortunately.
remember one day I drew a Venus statue in an art class and tried my best on
it. When Mr. Yoo saw my painting, he reproved me saying ¡°This is not a
Venus. This is a lousy billboard of Kwan-Soon Yoo.¡± (A movie of Miss
Kwan-Soon Yoo, a patriotic girl who fought against Japanese occupation, was
just introduced at the time at the theater and was very popular.) Then he
tore my painting into pieces and told me to try again. I was so humiliated.
I tried again but I believe the result was same, as that was the limit of my
ability of painting.
I became a 9th grader, the Korean War broke out and we evacuated
to Pusan. I had to attend the school at
in a tent class room to complete middle school education of
Seoul Normal School, temporarily moved to Pusan
campus. This way, I finished 3 years of the same middle school in 3
different campus at different locations every year.