I recently had the wonderful opportunity to read the book “0 Hour”, an autobiography written in Korean by Mr. Ki-Chang Kim (b. 1917). The book retells a captivating story of his experiences through much of the dominant events of 20th century Korea and later immigration to the U.S. The following is a summary introduction and translation of three portions of the book.
The immigration story of Mr. Kim and his family is itself remarkable, though in certain aspects perhaps familiar. But it is his entire life story that is absolutely compelling and, it seemed to me, too important not to be told. Among other things, his story made me reflect how many immigrants to the U.S. must have had such extraordinary experiences and how those personal backgrounds must have played a role in shaping the American experience not only for themselves and their families but the communities around them.
The story begins in 1945 in the area of Mokdan River (Mandarin: Mudanjiang), a city in Northeast China where a Korean diaspora community had formed during the Japanese occupation. Following the end of the Japanese occupation, Mr. Kim helps to organize a police force of the Korean community. When the Chinese People’s Army takes over the area, the police force is reorganized as a unit of the Chinese army and Mr. Kim becomes the leader of that battalion. As persecution of Christians increase in the area, he puts in action an incredible plan to relocate to Korea with several families in the church. I don’t want to give away the entire story (since I hope one day someone will translate the entire book), but with movement across the Korea-China border restricted, he is able to transport their savings in the form of hundreds of bushels of grain and beans to northern Korea. There he trades the goods, keeps a promise with Chinese army officials by sending military supplies back to China (with a note that he will follow later), then journeys on to southern Korea with his family and 700 sacks of fertilizer.
Chapters 7 and 35 of the book, which I have translated below, are toward the beginning and end of this first portion of Mr. Kim’s story.
The later part of the book recounts his experiences in South Korea--the Korean War and his escape from almost certain death after interrogation by North Korean command, his printing business and fortuitous experience with dry cleaning. The final three chapters, roughly half of which is translated below, describe his immigration to the U.S.
Expressions of Mr. Kim’s Christian faith are interspersed throughout the book. Fellow believers may see how God worked in his life through his faith. I think others will still see a man whose faith moved him and allowed him to carry on through seemingly impossible situations. - Hoon Lee