I desperately searched for something to focus my Memorial Day thoughts on and no matter how I thought, my focus continued to drop back to none other than Bethany’s birth mother. Bethany had a rough day and for some reason, the country of Korea kept taking an emotional center stage.
If you study the history of Korea over the last three generations, you see a country that has been traded, fought over, ravaged, and literally - offered as a sacrificial lamb to the empire of Japan. That last offering resulted in what can only be known as the rape of Korea and that’s perhaps why historically and metaphorically, Bethany’s mom captured my heart on this day.
I’ve often wondered what ever became of her. She was a thirteen-year-old rape victim in a small South Korean village. This, made worse in a culture that struggles to balance the horror of such an act with the importance of honor. In our Western culture we can’t even begin to wrap our head around such a construct, but there – maintaining honor, it’s a real issue. As for the city, well, I had a waiter in a Korean restaurant explain, “the village was very small and was two hours by train and by horse from Kwangju City”. I can’t help but wonder how much of which?
She was young, violated, ashamed, and ignorant. A sixty-year-old man takes a sacred trust and abuses it, suddenly a young girl is in trouble and she doesn’t even know it. It wasn’t until three months later that the girl’s mother notices something unthinkable. The girl still has no idea. The mother is single, works in a restaurant, has other children in the home and now has to pit the word of a young girl against the word of an elder neighbor; a neighbor who denies any involvement.
Anywhere else in the world, either undeveloped or developed – the infant would likely have been terminated. In the developed world it’s known as abortion – in the rest of the world it’s not known as anything; it just quietly happens. Two go out, one comes back. Who could lay blame for the decision? Who would deny a bit of justice to a situation where the color black turns blacker with every decision – with any decision?
For a reason known only to God, the decision was made so send the girl, “two hours by train and by horse” to Kwangju City. Again, two went out, one came back - but this time one went to America. One was the answer to prayer, the other; continually held up in prayer. On this Memorial Day weekend, I memorialize a young girl who had her world turned gut-wrenchingly, upside down. I memorialize her bravery, her selflessness, and her decision to “do right” at the end of a long road of being wronged.
On days like today when Bethany’s having a rough go of it and her bruises, painful moan and broken, bleeding fists are all I can see; I recall the tragedy that gave birth to the tragedy. I recall that in her memory, her little girl is living in America with a family who loves her. My Memorial Day thought had suddenly taken a turn on me and I was the one being memorialized.