Chungju High School

After about an half year of refugee life in Pusan, whole family moved to Chungju, located in the central part of South Korea, in September 1951 and I joined Chungju High School. I attended Chungju High School for two and half years until I graduated the Chungju High School and our family moved back to Seoul in February 1954. (The school year began in March while I attended elementary school during the Japanese occupation, but was changed to September as U. S. A. when U. S. Army controlled Korea after the liberation. Then, it was switched again back to March during my high school. That¡¯s why it took me only two and half years to finish high school.)

As my father was employed for the first time of his life as an English teacher of Chungju Commercial High School, we lived in a two bedrooms adobe house which was one of the school houses in the back yard of the school at Naedukdong at the north end of Chungju. My father, Seong-Koo and I stayed in one room and my mother, my sister Dong-Sun and my grand mother (my mother¡¯s mother) in another room.

My sister, Dong-Sun, was working at the chinaware factory located in front of the Chungju Commercial High School . Sung-Koo attended the Chungju Middle School which was practically same school as Chungju High School as both schools were in same campus. Sister Dong-Hyun attended Yonsei University in Seoul returning home during summer and winter vacations. My grandmother used to live with her son but she came to stay with us when her son died. Because she had a stroke and couldn¡¯t move, my mother had a very hard time for two years taking care of her mother until she died.

My uncle (my father¡¯s younger brother) was a dean of the Chungju Agricultural College , living with my grandmother in Moonhwadong at the downtown of Chungju near to the provincial government. One of my cousins, who came to Chungju during the Korean War, was teaching in the Chungju Commercial College also, living at the middle point between our house and uncle¡¯s house.

Our yard was so tiny but my father brought 50 American chickens from the provincial government one day. Since He really loved animals, he kept the chickens in our room until they grew up too big and we had to built a chicken coop in the back yard. My father seemed to love the chickens more than his own children. He fed them with expensive dried anchovies and these chickens started laying eggs so we could eat them at every meal. They were a very good source of nutrition for us at the time.

Another day, he brought a couple of turkeys from the provincial government again, (To encourage stockbreeding, U. S. gave livestock as an aid to Korea and distributed them to agricultural districts.) So we had fifty chickens and two turkeys. In fact, I think we were one of the first family to breed turkeys in Korea . Later, he brought two sheep that made our house similar to the life of Chungsan, though it was in much smaller scale. The chickens and turkeys were kept in the yard but the two sheep had to be bounded at the little far a way from home for better grass field in the morning and brought back home in the evening everyday by Sung-Koo or me. When it rained, we had to run to the field and brought the sheep back so they wouldn¡¯t get soaked. The milk of the sheep was also a good source of nutrition for us at the time.

In addition to father¡¯s stock, I personally raised rabbits in the front of the house, which was a kind of fun but also gave me a lot of work to do, such as collecting fresh grass from the field and changing water for the rabbits. It was a good opportunity for me to study about rabbits and chickens. We ate chicken or rabbit often and It was my job of butchery every time.

My uncle Hyun-Ha had a car assigned to the dean of the Agricultural College , which was a modified army jeep. One day, my uncle came to visit us and I convinced the chauffer to let me try driving the car. It was the first time in my life to drive. As the chauffer explained me the basics of how to control the car, I started the engine, released the clutch pedal slowly, stepped on the accelerator softly, started the car and drove round and round in the playground of the Chungju Commercial High School. Suddenly, I found myself driving on the street out of the school playground but I hadn't learn how to stop the car yet. Turning pale from astonishment, the chauffer chased me. I was baffled but I thought it should stop if I turned the engine off and stepped on the break pedal firmly. The car stopped. It was really a dangerous driving and a close call.

I used to be a normal high school boy and there were nothing special to talk about. It was just a usual high school life in Korea without any special excitement but normal school classes. The students had a choice of majoring liberal arts and science. For each grade, there were four classes and two of them were science majors that stressed more on math, physics, and chemistry. The other two were liberal arts major classes that stressed more on the arts. I belonged to a science major class and had a good grade but was never close to 1st or 2nd rank in my class. Since I was the tallest boy in class, I was always in charge of standing basis in PE lesson or military training. Whenever I just turned right, all the short guys at the end of the line had to run to line up.

I remember an English teacher in Chungju High School , who taught so well as an English teacher. However, when he was promoted to a principal of the school, he was such a poor principal. I have learned from him that everyone having a great talent on one subject doesn¡¯t mean he is talented everything. You have to recognize the limit of yourself and stick to the limited area where you are really talented. It was a great regret that he would have been remembered as a respectable English teacher if he kept teaching English rather than promoted.

I was an atheist at that time too, same as now. However, I was interested in the religion and went to church from time to time with friend going to church. One day, I followed him to his church and heard a pastor preaching; ¡°Scientists advocating the theory of evolution keep saying that men evolved from apes. But I never heard of any ape in Changgyongwon Zoo that became a man and registered for citizenship.¡± I thought that the pastor was either a very stupid guy who had no idea of the theory of evolution or a cunning man trying to deceive the congregation. Since that time on, I never went to church. Probably, pastors like him might have created so many religious fanatics in Korea .


Another remarkable thing is that Chungju High School played match maker role for me and my wife. Koo-Hyuk Im, one of my best friends in my class is Jane¡¯s elder brother and that was how we met. However, when I saw her visiting Koo-Hyuk¡¯s house at that time, I didn¡¯t recognize her as a girl since I was a high school boy and she was a too small elementary school girl. However, any way, the destiny that drove us to marry was by having her family hide as refugees from Seoul during the Korean War at the same time I did. It was many years later in Seoul I started finally to be attracted to her when she was an Ehwa Girl¡¯s High School senior.

Thanks to my uncle, my father got a job in Chungju Agricultural College too ( Choongbook University now) as a part-time professor. He taught economic geography and political geography, which were somewhat related to the geology he majored at Oberlin College in Columbus , Ohio . One day, one of his students came to my house carrying a heavy sack of rice on his back to bribe my father not to give him a flunk grade on the final exam. My father was so angry and let him carry back such a heavy rice sack after scolding him so severely that I felt sorry for him. Since we needed rice so much, I can recall my mother was unhappy about her husband¡¯s uncompromising uprightness, which must be the typical noble character of the Cho families.