For this JET, I’ve decided to show you a little bit about what I’m writing for my second novel. Mind you this is still a fiction book and not everything actually happened although many of the events did occur that hopefully you will buy and read when it is finished. I’m calling it Jagged Korean Lines for obvious reasons and will be published later next year. I believe it will be the story that will resonate the most among readers because it will be the most personal story I ever write. This is my prologue and first chapter of my second novel. Forgive me for being too tired to fix the margins and paragraphs. Enjoy.
Prologue In South Korea, parents take pride in their children. Father and mothers raise them well, sometimes even hoping they grow to be a better version of themselves. These are the parents who are regarded as worthy. On a different level, much further down, are the parents whose best was the worst. Their parenting style is tantamount to a kind of captivity, where discipline is used often for any kind of infraction. You might even call it a different culture from the one you are familiar with, where their societal norms are strange, but when the children grow into adults, the end result is clear. There is no escaping this kind of cruelty. Not when a father whose main way of parenting is operating with hostility instead of love. This was the reality Hae Won learned at an early age about her father. She knew the lengths he would go to make a point. Her father’s cruelty never left her side, keeping her alert even when she was behind a locked door, and long after her younger sister was no longer with them. Soon after she married, the sting of her younger sister’s absence dwindled ever so slightly as she had children of her own. When Hae Won’s children were old enough to attend school, the pain she felt every year on the anniversary of the separation with her younger sister came back to haunt her. She believed her guilt came back as it was the punishment God gave her for abandoning her younger sister. Her actions had brought such pain to her that she feared her husband would leave if he found out about the horrible thing she had done. She had purposely lied about her childhood and that her father had died. In order to survive her father’s abuse while it occurred, she had learned to swallow her misery and push away anything that might improve her situation. This survival mechanism followed her into adulthood and the memories of her past were just that. They were memories she ignored whenever they surfaced. If she felt emotions relating to her past within her, she stuffed them back down. Every night she prayed they would vanish forever. She never got her wish because they always resurfaced. Because Hae Won still feared her father’s power, and men of his nature operated the same way as if no time had passed, it took her a month to make her decision of whether to purposely re-open this part of her life again. The one person she tried desperately to keep under lock and key every month of every year was returning more and more. The answer she never imagined acting upon became clear to her. Even if this person who had contacted her was not her younger sister, maybe it would allow her to sooth her fears. Connecting with another Korean woman who was living in another country could give her insight into what her younger sister had experienced if adopted. Yet, on the other hand, maybe it was better to let things remain a mystery. Sometimes, the lie is better than the truth. Chapter 1 In the 1940s where Kang Dae was born and raised, the city he called home was given the Pusan. He knew from an early age he was less than the other children in his poverty-stricken neighborhood. His face glistened with sweat in any kind of heat, mild or severe, and ran into his eyes when he was forced to work alongside his family to help support his elders. The irritation of this reality, in order for his parents to keep their stomachs full, grew deeper with each passing year. He tried to keep these feelings hidden, but the more he kept it to himself, the more it prevented him from getting a good night’s sleep. The anger over his parent’s financial situation consumed him and became unbearable to hide. Kang Dae had to hide his clenched fists in order not to punch the floor while eating dinner many times. As he grew from a child into a teenager, Kang Dae first learned of his ancestry. He had been born from a line of liars, thieves, prostitutes, and alcoholics. Although his parents worked every day and rarely drank, they did not provide him a childhood he should have received. They lied constantly to him. They saw him as a means to an end. He was another body to be used in any way they saw fit. From the embellished stories from his uncles and parents, he was convinced his path had been chosen before he was even born. This was the excuse he would later use when those brave enough questioned the methods he used to keep his children in line although it did not happen often. Very few dared take issue of how he spoke to his wife or children after learning what usually happened when challenging him. Those closest to Kang Dae were aware he lived a harder life than need be, much to his own actions, and he brought fear to those closest to him as well as strangers. His belief that there was no one better to serve his interests than himself allowed him to become further immersed in his ego mania. He eventually saw the city he was born into no longer as his birthplace. Pusan had always had the identity of a city where lies were commonplace, children were merely pawns, and family meant nothing when what you owned belonged to someone else. For this reason, he made sure not to follow in his family’s footsteps, and yet the most influential adults were his own parents. Despite the verbal rants and the occasional physical slaps, it was the severe neglect Kang Dae would remember. He had to fend for himself as a child and was often left in the care of his uncle. He learned quickly that his uncle was too busy supplying his addictions that he often forgot to feed his nephew. This meant Kang Dae had to find his own meals. It meant he ate one meal a day and sometimes spoiled food because it had sat in the heat all day. On more than one occasion, he was woken up with a terrible stomach pains and had to go outside to vomit. The worst part was when it came on suddenly during school because it resulted in the worst bouts of diarrhea he had ever experienced. It not only crippled him but made him feel inferior. While never expressing his feelings to his parents, his only wish every year on his birthday changed from wanting to spend time with his father to wishing his father would die a humiliating death. Long gone were those birthday celebrations where his father, his abeoji, rewarded another year of his son’s life with gifts. Long gone was his desire to be told the story of how his grandfather had served heroically in the Korean War. The bravery of his grandfather had made Kang Dae proud. He wanted to be just like his harabeoji, the fighter in the family, who purposefully chose a life most men who serve in war do because they cannot resist. Their patriotic duty is their life mission. These men are left with battle scars and still they live productive lives. When the time came for Kang Dae’s grandfather to leave the living world, his life as he knew it was shattered. He believed his father would bring him reassurance. Instead, his father took time to tell his son a story. This time it had nothing to do with his grandfather’s bravery. The truth was of his father’s blatant lie. He had made his grandfather seem more heroic than he really was during the war. Kang Dae flew into a rage and lunged at his abeoji. His father had taught him a lesson for showing such hostility when he was younger, but now he was taller and stronger. The switch inside of him had been flipped. It no longer mattered that his grandfather was a lousy soldier that amounted to nothing. What disturbed him now was his own father’s failure at being a human being. For the first time in his life, he felt hatred and embarrassment for his surname. He vowed never to become what his father could not see of himself and that was he would always be a nothing. When Kang Dae asked why his father had embellished and fabricated his stories, his father’s response was said without emotion. “Because that that is what fathers do who have nothing in common with their sons. You will understand when you have children of your own. It’s pointless to find common ground when there isn’t any to be had.” There was no response given by Kang Dae. “Did hearing me speaking the truth take your tongue away from you?” his father said. This question brought a twinkle to Kang Dae’s father’s eyes. He had never noticed this before. His own father was relishing in his grief. His grandfather probably never fought alongside what his father called real men. He never fought his way through enemy territory. Instead, he was probably mixed in with the weak men that served meals to the real men. His harabeoji may not have ever been a soldier in the first place. His ancestral line was not only full of the most undesirables, but they were weak in body and mind. The following year on his 17th birthday, Kang Dae was resolved to make his family line strong again. He no longer missed his parents, but he realized if it was not for his father’s long-winded stories about his grandfather, he would not have been able to lie so easily to persuade others to join him. If his uncle had not spoken to him so brutally as a child, he would not have been able to find his true voice to get others to comply with his demands. If it were not for his mother who never was there to comfort him when he was afraid as a child, he would not have been able to readily take what he declared as his right without fear. A lifestyle of criminal activity was how he proved his worth to himself. This status gave him the right to call himself a leader. He increased his gang membership by swallowing up smaller struggling gangs with no clear-cut leadership. With these additional men as enforcers, he increased his capital by taking a chance on new profit-making adventures. He became successful in the small territory he ran by the time he was 21. His members not only took an oath of allegiance to him but worshiped his dominance and his stance on rules. There were hardly any rules he enforced besides the obvious: loyalty, loyalty, and more loyalty. He encouraged lethal use of weapons especially when it set a good example. Kang Dae cheered on his fellow brothers when they destroyed their enemy. His mission in life was to be better than the day before. If he was not able to give himself the luxuries the rich Koreans enjoyed in the neighborhoods he only dreamed of living in as a child, there was only one person to blame and that was himself as an adult. He had no regrets about anything he had done so far. The neglected child he had been was long forgotten and he never spoke about it. No one in his family had recognized it or thought it was wrong. Because of this, there was never a right time in Kang Dae’s life to process what he had experienced. He had knowingly turned into an obscure version of his past. All the Pan boys grew to be willing participants, extensions of their own fathers, whether they believed it or not. Their sole purpose was to do whatever was asked of them as children and as adults they were not to be questioned. His uncle taught him about submission and how fear was your friend. Every time his uncle hit him, he made it a point to taunt him. On his 18th birthday, Kang Dae committed to never being hit again and went looking for a fight. He repeated the words he had heard many times as a child by his uncle. This time it was Kang Dae who had his uncle under his control. “If you can’t defend yourself, then you don’t deserve to live. If you can’t get away, it means you never should’ve been born. Now, give me something to be proud of before I kill you.” As Kang Dae looked into his uncle’s eyes, he knew there was no going back. His family would discard him like a piece of garbage. He fully understood the consequences and was okay with the repercussions. His parents were not worthy of his presence anymore than his uncle’s blood was not worthy of his forgiveness. Anyone who was watching their struggle from afar knew better than to intervene. One thing was clear to everyone who knew the Pan family: don’t get involved and forget what you saw. These neighbors gladly went back to drinking their maekju and soju from the comforts of their poorly constructed homes. They realized one thing that Mi Cha never did until it was too late. Every male born in the Pan family had an emptiness in their eyes and Kang Dae was no different. The surface never gets dull as long as there is something to collide with it. The intensity never wanes when the source behind it is nothing short of a monster. The older Kang Dae became, the bigger his shadow dwarfed his image. There was nowhere to seek refuge especially for him. In those desperate moments of wanting to be loved, he was greeted with a callousness no child should ever experience.