Leaving Korea, she enjoyed living country life here

January 07, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Ae Rok Hwang, who died Dec. 30 at the age of 87. Her obituary appeared in the Jan. 1 edition of The Herald-Mail.

During World War II, while her husband was serving in the military, Ae Rok Hwang supported herself and her young family by teaching the children of miners living in her town in what then was a unified Korea.

"Korea had been under Japanese rule for 30 years then," said Ae Rok's youngest daughter, Susan Young White, who lives in Clear Spring. "The Japanese watched her every move."

Susan, the ninth child of Ae Rok and Byung Hoon Hwang, said the Japanese forced all Koreans to learn to speak Japanese and take Japanese names in those difficult days.


On Jan. 3, Susan and her siblings buried their mother next to her husband at Little Rose Hill Cemetery in Clear Spring. Ae Rok died Dec. 30 at the age of 87; Byung Hoon Hwang died in 2004.

"Our mother grew up in a rich family," Susan said. "Her father was a dentist."

As a child of privilege, Ae Rok was able to attain as much education as a girl could get in those days, Susan said.

Ae Rok's husband was a college graduate who later became an accountant at a bank.

Susan remembers her mother teaching all subjects and how her mother put a lot of effort into her teaching.

With her husband off to fight in World War II and no guarantee he would be coming home, Ae Rok dedicated herself to her teaching and her family.

Older daughter Hae Young Lee of Quantico, Va., also praised her mother for her devotion to her children.

"No matter what the circumstances, she raised nine kids and did the best she could do," she said through her sister, Susan. "She worked hard like a horse."

Some family members and friends gathered Jan. 3 at Thompson Funeral Home near Clear Spring for visitation, then the funeral service.

A son and daughter who live in Pusan, South Korea, were unable to return for the funeral, Susan said. They recently visited their mother, then returned to South Korea.

Other brothers and sisters and family members journeyed from points in the United States for the services.

Ae Rok had lived with one of her children near Clear Spring before becoming a resident of Julia Manor Health Care Center, where she lived at the time of her death.

Susan said her mother had been talking about her early years in what now is North Korea in recent years.

"She said that when our father came home from World War II, he got into politics," Susan said.

In fact, there were assassination attempts on his life, Susan said.

The Hwang family later moved south and endured hardships such as living in the mountains, sometimes in tents.

"I would sleep in a basket," Susan said.

Susan's parents had to learn farming, which all was done by hand. Susan said it was her job to put rocks in a can to scare the raccoons away from the garden.

In 1948, Korea was split into North and South Korea. The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953.

The family relocated to Pusan in 1976, Susan said. Eight years later, Ae Rok, her ailing husband and some of their children immigrated to the United States.

"I came in 1986 to Baltimore, where my parents lived," Susan said. A year later, she married, and in 1991, Susan moved to the Clear Spring area, where she and her family enjoy country living.

Susan said her mother worked hard all of her life, and finally got to again live in a country setting as she had in her early days.

While her mother and father were living in Baltimore, Ae Rok got involved with a cleanup/planting program around a housing project known as Hollander Ridge, putting her skills to work again.

In 1987, she received the Harry Weiss Citizenship Award from then-Baltimore Mayor Clarence Burns, Susan said.

Among those attending the Jan. 3 funeral was Tae Hwan Lee, one of Ae Rok's 23 grandchildren.

"She was always so sweet to me," Tae Hwan said. He called her "Halmoni," which is Korean for grandmother.

During a stint in the U.S. Army, Tae Hwan spent four years stationed in Korea.

"I got to see some of the places where she lived," he said.

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